Typhoon Sendong prompted PBCI to declare a Red Code Status (highest state of alertness; real and immediate danger). We were trying to make busy schedules, scarce resources, overburdened organizations, and equally urgent matters to work together. It was a difficult task of harmonizing everything together to serve the thousands of Sendong survivors.
In the midst of these, there were a lot of individual stories that turned out to be so inspiring. Ordinary people who have a simple desire of helping others were sent our way.
One of the volunteers for the Give Love, Save Lives shared how the experience inspired her and transformed so many aspects of her being.
Erica Liza Binatero, a twenty-five year old self-employed real estate businesswoman, decided to be part of the Relief Team of PBCI. All she wanted was to be part of this activity because ever since she was in high school, she already had a desire to help people even in little ways. While watching news in the television, she always wanted to reach out to victims of calamities and wars in Mindanao. Because she was young then, she did not know how to help others aside from praying for them and donating through the church.
Before college, she even thought about getting a Mass Communication degree so she could do something about the victims of war and calamities. She dreamed of becoming a television reporter. For some reasons, she took a business degree instead. Her desire, however, to be involved in community work did not change. She kept on praying that, someday, she will meet people who are into a certain line of work that could lead her to be part of community service.
In May 2011, she met her high school batch mate, Mei Solocasa. They really did not have a deep personal relationship aside from being Facebook friends. After 7 months, she realized that Mei was the answer to her prayers. Mei posted a call to her Facebook friend on December 19, 2011: “Tabang ta!” (Let’s help!) That call led Erica to the doorstep of PBCI.
“I’ve been desiring to do this for years, and now I’ve done it,” Erica said. “It was such a fulfillment on my part. So, thanks Mei! And thanks to PBCI.”
During the first wave of the relief operations, she never expected anything because it was her first time to join any kind of relief operations. What she did was to prepare herself for the worst cases she could experience. She prepared herself for the heat, and she experienced exactly that. She just prayed that God will give her strength to endure it, and God answered her prayers. She already expected that there might be chaos in the devastated communities when people would want to get ahead of others in the line as she had seen them on TV.
In spite of her seemingly harsh field experiences, and of her expectations that became personal realities, she ended up praising God for having a successful, initial relief distribution exposure. It ended well and their team was able to serve 501 families.
During the second wave, she expected that there will be chaos again, especially that they were to serve more families. When they were in Cagayan de Oro, she was surprised and amazed that the people there were organized even though the area was small. The people lined up to get their relief goods, and the distribution went on smoothly. Within three hours, they were able to serve around 815 families. In Iligan City, though there was miscommunication in the beginning, they were able to run it smoothly and in a span of three hours, they served around 750 families.
Her expectations of the place were accurate, because she has already seen the scenario on TV, and the PBCI advance team already updated them about the community that they will be serving. She was thankful that the relief and medical operations were done orderly and smoothly, and that the teams were all safe during their travels and during their service in the community.
They all went home safe and sound.
This experience motivated her to be more socially aware and more involved in community service, such as helping the needy in whatever way she can.
With her family, she shares that they were all proud of her because they never thought that she had that desire to serve other people. They are happy that she was part of the Relief Operations, and gave her full support.
She is also sharing her experiences to her friends and her own community. She prays that they will also open up their minds and hearts into social awareness and community involvement.
We praise God with Erica because her friends are accepting her advocacy, and they appreciate what she is doing. PBCI is also very blessed to have her as part of the team.
On January 7, 2012, PBCI conducted a Volunteers’ Appreciation Night and Erica was one of the people who actively shared her experiences. We are praying that Erica’s story will serve as an inspiration for people who have a desire to serve.