Yellow boats of hope for Baganga-A A +A
Thursday, April 18, 2013
I FREQUENT Davao Oriental because we have a house in Mati and a farm in San Ignacio, Manay. But beyond our place, the last time I toured the coastal areas of Baganga, Caraga, Cateel and Boston as the last frontier was before the onslaught of Typhoon Pablo/Bopha. Luckily, our farm and ancestral home by the shore in San Ignacio was spared, with just a few coconut trees down.
I was very proud to showcase the natural, unexploited wonders of the province in my articles and blogs. Nothing could come close to the stunning vista of the falls, hidden lakes, islets and white sand shorelines which will astound every first time visitor.
But nothing prepared me for my next visit after the storm. Revisiting Baganga, home to the beautiful mangrove sanctuary, pristine coastlines and lush coconut fields, was difficult as it was one of my favorite places. An altered landscape often seen in the news after the devastation, welcomed me. However, when you see past the uprooted trunks, upright coconut trees without leaves and branches, an atmosphere of hope is seen on the faces of the villagers you meet. People are rebuilding their lives, houses, livelihood, and spirit. It was a busy coastal village on the brink of recovering from heavy wounds.
I was brought along by Ms. Karen Cabonce, Head of Operations for Canon Marketing in Mindanao Region, and we took a long but smooth road trip to Kinablangan, Baganga where the community waits for its turnover of blessings in the form of newly painted yellow boats festively adorned by balloons.
Yellow Boat of Hope Foundation was founded by Dr. Anton Lim, and together with his colleagues and the help of private sectors, they were able to seek support and produce fifty (50) yellow boats for the families of the typhoon victims in Kinablangan. Forty (40) of these boats were provided by Canon Philippines, one of the major stakeholders of the project.
The program started with Mhanny Vallejo as host, welcoming the visitors to the lengthy coastline where the ceremony took place. Boats lined up on the shore was given spiritual blessing by Rev. Fr. Roberto M. Ombon of the St. Nino Parish Priest. Inspirational messages were said by Ms. Lorelie V. Allones, President of the Samahan Para sa Kinablangan Inc.; Dr. Anton Lim, and Atty. Marlisa A. Gallo. After the program came lunch and boat contests among families.
As we left with kilos of crabs and baby lobsters bought from a fisherman’s house by the shore, we were met with smiles by everyone, particularly the little children playing on the beach. Reaching out to these people in need makes a whole lot of difference, much more if you give them the means to fish for their living.
When I rode back with the Canon team, what played over and over my mind was this voice of an angel, a seven-year-old young girl who sang during the program, accompanied by a guitarist. Her words were lilting with emotion, tugging at our hearts, and I translate the dialect as such: “Oh Pablo! Even if you hurt and destroyed my land, you will never take away our hope and dreams, and we will soon get back on our feet again.” It brought tears to my eyes, but they are of hope.
Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on April 19, 2013.