Typhoons in the Philippines is an annual event. Here’s how a rescue group responds to disasters.
Every year, it has been part of the Filipino consciousness calendar to anticipate the coming of roof-blowing typhoons and waist-level floods during the later half of the year.
The Start of My Volunteering
The first major typhoon I remembered was Reming, back when I was in high school. Donation drives then were on fire, and people were volunteering back and forth. In college, my best friend’s mom would rally us girls to the groceries and clear the aisles of canned goods, noodles and bottled water to supply relief operations.
This has since influenced a mindset of volunteering and responding quickly to meet the needs of others in times of need. What’s amazing with all of this was, in the yearly typhoons I witnessed, it’s solidarity that I remember more than the disaster.
Prevent, Not Just Cure
And there are a lot of disasters, so many that I got tired of merely collecting money from friends, buying groceries and repacking them into bags for victims. I’m tired of relying in social media to see the scope of the disaster and only hope from afar for things to get better. And especially when I came to Tacloban months after the devastation, I realized I wanted to be there personally to provide care, and possibly, grieve and hope with the victims.
I can’t say this volunteerism sprung from guilt feelings. I never considered myself particularly selfless (quite the opposite, in fact). But it’s a sense of helplessness that pushes me. Or, more specifically, of wanting so badly to help but being unable to. Of being not equipped enough to.
Rescue 926: We’re Not Helpless Anymore
This year, Josh and I signed up for Rescue 926 team Batch 15-01 — a newcomer in the rescue industry that bagged the champion title during the first Rescue Marathon in the country. R926 is a volunteer group established in response to Typhoon Ondoy. Prior to becoming officially part of the team, we first had to undergo a back-breaking Commitment Phase that tested our physical and mental capacity.
Within four weekends, Batch 15-01 has gotten used to carrying 30-pound bags while running around the uphill and downhill terrain of Antipolo, Rizal, attempting to beat our previous time. We have crawled on the ground carrying the same weight, without using our limbs and emerging muddied and sometimes smelling of poop.
Rigorous Skills Training
We gained valuable skills in rescue such as land navigation, the use of lensatic compasses, shooting azimuths and learning about three norths. We tied all sorts of useful knots for rope rescue and have carried our own weight within those same ropes.
Most difficult of all, we endured week after week of carrying 30 pounds coupled with a person lying on a stretcher, at one time, for more than an hour. No matter if our arms were on the verge of snapping from our shoulder sockets.
Making it to the Team!
The experience really tested our willpower and physical prowess. It tested our commitment too, given that we can always choose not to show up the next week. It helped us get to know our batchmates’ strengths and gain their trust. It made us experience the hardships we might face during actual rescue, when times get unpredictable and rough.
In the end, Batch 15-01 survived and are now officially part of the Rescue 926 Team! We will be undergoing basic life support training within the next few weeks (first aid, CPR, to name a few). In the future, we will also be training for boat rescue, swift water and wilderness rescue, among others.
Even though the Commitment Phase ate up a lot of my time and physical strength, I can honestly say it’s all worth it. We’ve all been in that situation when we were in need and a stranger helped us. I wanted to be that kind of stranger. In Rescue 926’s words, “That Others May Live”.
Want to join or support the rescue team? Find the details below:
9530B Taguig St., Barangay Valenzuela, Makati
Contact No.: 0919 6603333
E-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Photo Credits: Fitz Borlongan, Rescue 926 Facebook Page, Ray Antonio and Denise Pena