While parents get their family relief pack, children get their Food-n-Fun Packettes too! Advanced parties are being sent to work with local leaders so that long line-ups are avoided while the survivors are experiencing fairness and respect during the relief distribution. No speeches before the distribution. No political, religious, or any organizational labels or printed materials coming with the relief pack. We see relief operations as a basic human rights advocacy with disaster survivors.

For 72 hours, volunteers packed relief goods working straight with just a few hours of sleep. On 18 December 2500 families in Compostela and New Bataan received their sacrifice of love. Before that, 1150 families of indigenous peoples in Monkayo who were not reached by relief were also given food packs. The volunteers were all tired but they all had one mind – the smiles on the faces of the people were all worth their effort.

Repacking of goods are continuing with the target of 4,300 family packs to be delivered on 24-25 December. Peacebuilders Community (PBCI) staff and volunteers are prepared to celebrate their Christmas under the open skies of typhoon-ravaged towns. They are all pushed forward by the love of their Creator. Aside from relief distribution, they are praying to bring also medical mission, psycho-social intervention and soup kitchen, together with other volunteers who come from different faiths.

However, as the team presses urgently on relief operations, they also know that there are other needs that will come in the next few days.

PBCI accompanied Assistant Secretary of Political Affairs, Office of the President, Rolando Cucio to towns in Davao Oriental on 20 December. In Cateel alone, there are 54,556 hectares of agricultural land damaged by the typhoon. Even if there is only one farmer that tills one hectare, that is still tens of thousands of jobless people. Cateel is just one of the 49 municipalities and cities of Davao Region hit by Typhoon Pablo. Coconut, which is their main crop takes seven to ten years until harvest.

Even if the farmers do short term crops, it will take six months until they can have gains. Bear in mind that these farmers’ priority as of now is to rebuild their homes that were totally washed out. Also, the El Nino lasts until May 2013. Where then can these people turn for livelihood?

Do we need to care about it when we have done our best in relief? Absolutely! Theologically, we are commanded to love our neighbors and enemies with the love of Jesus Christ. Therefore, we do not choose whom to help. We reach out even to the people that the society has labeled as enemies. We see them as people created in the image of God whom we serve.

Pragmatically, ignoring the basic needs of the people results to higher crime rates. Of the tens of thousands of hungry people who have faced trauma and who feel neglected, there may be some of them who might be desperate enough to turn into banditry or even rebellion. If we pay one security guard at P6,000/month who will secure 100 people, the money that we are going to pay for security is much higher than the money we are going to use in helping the rehabilitation of the people. Security in view of rehabilitation and development, is now a wholistic peace that deals with the “being”, the “doing” and the “having” of the people. Rehabilitation is peacebuilding that is sustainable and more economically viable.

In the next few weeks until it is needed, Peacebuilders Community is committed to help in the rehabilitation and development phases that will deal with temporary shelters, permanent houses, livelihood, and peace and reconciliation. We are calling for partners who have the same vision to work together. Videos of our field assessments and relief operations can be viewed at Youtube (PeacebuildersCom).  We also have a Facebook page. May the peace of God embrace us all.

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