25 December 2011

my most meaningful christmas ever. ♥

the 24th of december 2011, saturday. i finally had a free day from work. jc also had a free day from work and willingly went with me on this trip. we took the 925AM flight out of manila. over an hour after.. touch down: cagayan de oro city.

even from the plane you could already see the areas that were wiped out by the floods..

and as soon as you get on the streets outside the airport, you can already see how much mud covered the city.. you can already see the different buildings by the river that was hit. up until the part of the city on high ground, floods of mud were up to the knees, and up to the waist. this is all one week after typhoon sendong struck the city.

we were extremely lucky to have been in coordination with an uncle of ate pia cayetano, the extremely gracious tito max seno who is based in cdo, and who helped us get around the city.

before we went to cdo, we asked around and researched what might be good to bring, that we can carry on our own. we were told that there is already an abundance of old clothes and water and food supply is sufficient. so we decided to bring rubber slippers, since footwear seems to be lacking. tito max took us to barangay barra in iponan, right by the river. they weren't the ones hit hardest by the floods, but their homes were also affected, and some destroyed. this was the only area we had access to, and we were so, so, so blessed to be given this opportunity.

seeing the smiles on their faces after tragedy unexpectedly struck them a week before christmas.. smiling at them, shaking their hand, hugging them.. the warmth that you can feel.. PRICELESS.

for those of you that are thinking that you can't help, or that you only have a little to give.. please believe me when i say that EVERY LITTLE BIT OF HELP COUNTS. it doesn't have to be big, it can be small, it can be just one item. it all counts. to see them smile, really, is one of the best feelings in the world.

the rest of the day was spent going around the city, hearing stories of survivors and families who lost their loved ones..

i was very, very emotional the whole day. and i think anyone would be.

allow me to share with you a few images i took, and a few of the thousands of stories.

a bridge in CDO where tourists usually stop to take a photo of the beautiful river and sky, is now the place where people stop to look at the washed out riverbanks and pray for the people affected by typhoon sendong. the flood was so huge that it rose up til above this bridge. over three stories high. sounds unbelievable, but its true.

right below the bridge, where there were homes, is now this.

people with homes that were two stories high had to actually break a hole through their roofs just to be able to get out of their houses. everything was submurged not just in water, but in mud.

typhoon sendong struck during early morning on a saturday, december 17. by the next day, the floods subsided, but it left a whole layer of mud all around the city. some areas are covered with mud up to one foot high.

everything below the bridge became one big river, bringing furniture from miles away crashing into other homes also miles away.

this man stands on his roof cleaning the furniture left in their home after the storm.

the stories go like this.. one minute they felt the floods by their feet. before they could even run to grab anything, in a matter of seconds, the floods rose up to their ceilings. only a few seconds.

some homes were totally destroyed.

some strips of land were totally wiped out.

people, furniture, and cars alike were taken by the muddy floods. there was a heartbreaking story about a man who already fled to safety, but realized he wanted to go back to save his brand new car. he made it to the car, but he never made it out. an all too real and literal example that you cannot take any material possession you have to the grave.

this young boy named manuel looks after the things they were able to save from their home. appliances, clothes,  all covered with mud. some families like that of manuel choose to stay in their homes, despite being destroyed by the typhoon, so that when officials come to check on the homes, they are there as proof of being victims, to be able to be eligible for aid from the government.

some houses were totally uprooted, brought by the mud, then dropped miles away. there were stories that people living in areas on higher land could actually hear the screams of people living in the lower lands during that dark morning when the floods hit..

one week after the typhoon struck, this woman is still cleaning out the mud from her home. on the eve of christmas day.

we then moved on to see one of the many evacuation centers. this was west city elementary school where we attempted to bring boxes of bottled water.

upon entering the campus, this is the first thing you see..

i cannot imagine the pain of having to look at this sign and finding the bracelet or t-shirt of someone i know. this is one of the saddest signs anyone can ever see....

clothes, water, and food are sufficient in the evacuation centers. telecom companies have also set up libreng tawag stations for people who may want to call loved ones. we were told that what are needed are blankets to keep them warm at night, and fresh underwear to change into.

at the end of the trip was when we visited the area that was hit the worst by the storm. we were told that this is where most of the people who died, lived....

an apartment complex all covered in mud.. at the top of the gate, you see garbage.. an indication of how high the water really went..

as they say, tragedy does not choose. rich or poor, young or old, it hits everyone. from tricycle drivers to vendors, from lawyers to doctors, people with all kinds of professions became part of the casualty list. even the family living in this huge two storey house had to break through their roof to get out to safety.

a wake on december 24.. although a sad event, this family was still fortunate enough to have found and identified their departed loved ones to give them a proper burial.. a lot of families are still looking for their loved ones taken away by the floods and are unsure if they will ever find them..

a week ago, this was all covered by water and mud. it was described as raging mud, because it wasn't just water being taken by the strong current, it was also mud, debris, wood, furniture, and cars. there was a story of a promising 20-year old girl who fled to safety, but who chose to go back for her mom and dad in their house. sadly, none of them made it out alive....

the mud with the flood was so thick that now, that is all that is left in some areas. there was a story of a mother holding on to her two kids, battling the flood. she had one child in front of her, and the other child behind. she held on as long as she could. when she couldn't hold on any longer, the flood took away one child first, then the other....

i've seen people and places affected by floods.. but nothing like this.. i was thankful that jc was with me because he kept me strong. so many times i wanted to break down and cry (and some of those times, i really did), but i felt like, who am i to cry when i wasn't the one who experienced what they did.. it is so different. in this area, you could really smell death.... and its a smell like no other. it will move you and it will break your heart.

and just when i thought that all that i would see would be heavy on the heart, i saw these two girls. i smiled at them. and they gave out one of the warmest smiles ever, with their eyes glowing, as if they weren't surrounded by loss and by death. it is the most hopeful thing for anyone to see.

so again i will say, every little bit of help counts. should you want to help, i encourage you to donate what you can in kind to any reputable group that is collecting goods. again, i appeal to you, footwear (slippers or sneakers that are still useable) and fresh underwear are needed most. if you are looking for an organization to donate cash to, unicef has relief efforts on going since the typhoon struck, until the next weeks to come. click on the photo below and it will lead you to the website where you can read more on how you can help.

aside from cagayan de oro, iligan city was also badly hit. my friend gang badoy of rock ed philippines has a cousin who is running rock ed iligan, and they have a soup kitchen for the victims of typhoon sendong in iligan. they are also collecting blankets, underwear, or any other goods in kind if you want to help. please click on the photo below and it will lead you to the website with details on how to help rock ed relief operations.

. . .

it being christmas eve, with heavy and fulfilled-beyond-words hearts, jc and i left for manila in time to reach noche buena with our families.

but i really pray that i never forget. i pray that when i go home, when i'm back to my daily routine, that i never forget the compassion i felt on this day. i pray that i never take for granted things that i usually do. i pray that my heart will not forget the feeling of seeing the cagayanons and the hopeful smiles on their faces.

when i got home, i freshened up, shared stories to my mom (and cried all over again.. then prayed again..) and sat down to join my mom for noche buena. even my nanay (yaya) virgie of over 15 years, her son gerald, and niece majo joined us in the table for a simple but made-with-love meal. my dad also joined us for this evening. it was as complete a family as complete can get. we had salad, tomato and cream based pomodoro pasta, glazed slices of christmas ham, and rosemary and olive oil lamb chops. :)

after noche buena, and after our little gift giving, it was time to celebrate with the rest of the family.. online.

past midnight of the 24th here was the daytime of the 24th in san francisco. my sister aissa who lives in london flew to be with my brother jc and family for christmas. when we called them on skype, roco had just woken up and was in quite the jolly mood. he even sang "santa claus is coming to town" for us. we shared stories on how we spent christmas, and what their christmas plans were. they watched us opening our gifts and they saw all our reactions from laughing to clapping, as they laughed and clapped with us. :)

so there we were, all together on christmas thanks to technology. me, my mom, my brother, my sister, and my darling godson roco on christmas day. ♥

  i sincerely wish you all a happy and meaningful christmas with your loved ones.


rachelexi :) said...

i really couldn't be in cdo so i was one in spirit. thank you for this beautiful blog ate bianca :) may each and everyone of us do our share in helping mindanao rise above this challenge.

where we are from, heroes live right? :)

Merry Christmas!

Anonymous said...

Thank you Bianca for sharing this story. It really breaks my heart everytime I read or hear about it on the news. We really are blessed that we are still alive and celebrating Christmas with our loved-ones. We should be really thankful to God. Let's continue praying for the victims to be strong.

Marco Walter said...

That's really sad...

Merry Christmas Bianca G!

Anonymous said...

im actually crying while reading your blog.... how nice of you and jc to spend your free day, with the victims of sendong,,, you are such an inspiration... keep it up :)))

Anonymous said...

thanks to u ad jc for visiting cdo..it was an unbelievable event..i myself saw our street transformed into a mini-river with wild waters running through..we were just lucky we were on d 2nd flr..water was neck lvl wen my father and brother brought our young siblings to safety..but we,adults,stayed..prayed..i nver imagined that other areas would be much worst..it was a devastating news..hearing friends loosing homes and loved ones..now,im doing my part,even if its just a small help..my family went for a feeding program and distribution of clothings monday after sendong hit our town..this week we will also have feeding and relief operations together w/ highschool batchmates..instead of having a party for our 10th yr graduation anniversary..we agreed on this..thank you for the love and prayers..

Anonymous said...

Well that is really the sad truth of life here in this world. There is no certainty and assurance for you to live long but I hope people can now realize that every second counts so we must live in the life of Jesus and express our love to everyone especially your family & friends! God Bless Everyone.....

David Zandueta said...

I just read this from Twitter. I must say that your emphasizing EVERY LITTLE BIT OF HELP COUNTS is very, very true. Besides, it feels better to do even a little bit than nothing, di ba? Thanks for blogging your experience also. And happy holidays. :)

chikmonk said...

u r a breath of fresh air. thank you miss Bianca.

Bianca Trovela said...

Pinaiyak mo ko Ate Bianca. Thank you for writing a compassionate and life-changing post. Merry Christmas! :)

tuwentytri said...

OMG. i still cant get over what happened in CDO. you are such a nice person to care for them.

godbless you Ms.Bianca

Anonymous said...

Hi Bianca! Forgive me if I share a little of my own story. I am just a student living in Batangas. I may live a comfortable life but I was taught of the value of money. I was taught so much, that my parents opt to teach me in way that I had to earn money if I want to buy something I don't really need. I save money from my allowance for I have yet no resources. So every Christmas, my sister and I are given 5000 of a budget for shopping. An amount "just right" to buy what I need. Often, I spend way beyond it that I add what I've saved to buy whatever I want.

This year, I said I'd go for cheap finds. Being a male, it really is so hard to find cheap clothes and shoes that is not "jej" (hehe).

Well, the main reason why I go over the top is the pair of shoes I buy every year. They're really not that expensive but with the small budget I have, kulang talaga.

This year, I bought on sale items. I have also been to malls a couple of times that subjected me to fight the temptation of buying expensive items. Come December 23, my dad took me to the mall again. At the back of my mind went "it's Christmas, I don't want people to see me wearing an old pair of shoes. I'd buy myself a pair of top siders." But you know what, there was something inside that stopped me from buying. Everytime I held a shoe, I felt guilty.

To cut the story short, I decided not to buy a pair of shoes. I said I'd give a part of my budget to the victims.

Up to now, I have not deposited the money since the bank's always full. It may just be a part of my shoe budget, just 500 pesos, just a small sacrifice, but I know it could help a lot. Better that making myself happy with a pair of shoes diba? I have also encouraged friends to donate and they would too. I know that it's never too late. I would do my part to help.

So now, I encourage everyone to help. Even a small amount of money can go far. A little sacrifice won't hurt naman diba? Siguro yung 1 week nyong pangsigarilyo, pag naipon, malaking bagay yan. Yung pambili nyo ng 1 bottle of wine for Christmas, madaming pagkain na ang mabibili ng iba para dyan. Yung pangbili nyo ng paputok ngayong new year, bakit hindi na lang natin ideposit sa bank at itulong sa ibang tao, diba? paputok lang yan, kaya nyong magcelebrate ng wala yan. At syempre, ang prayers natin. ano ba naman isama natin sila sa prayers natin kahit 1 sentence lang? It won't take up much of your time naman. Libre naman 'to at kahit sino kaya tong gawin. So please do your part. Kapag nabasa mo 'tong comment ko, isipin mo kung gaano ka kablessed at nababasa mo to. May access ka sa resource na "extra" lang samantalang sila wala.

Sorry kung nagspeech na ako dito. Alam ko may mga hindi pa nagigising sa katotohanan na they really are very blessed. Thank you! :)

Len said...

It's great that you are sharing things like this, as it would encourage the people who believe in you.

God bless! :)


Anonymous said...

Hi Ms. Bianca,

I’m happy that you had the most meaningful Christmas. I admire your heart. So inspiring. Thank you so much for sharing your experienced when you and JC went to CDO. You really made me cry. And you’re very right, every little bit of help counts. You know what, since the news came out how devastated the places in Iligan and CDO, I really wanted to help. But I dont know how. I want to tell to my officemates to join in helping to donate but I’m a little hesitant and shy to approach them. Until someone approached me this morning if I want to help and donate for victims of Sendong. Isang Masaya at Malakas na OO agad. Hehe.. Masarap ang pakiramdam na makatulong. Iba!!!

I just hope that in everything that happened, I and everyone should learn to value life more. And be thankful to the Lord in every small and big blessing. At higit sa lahat, matuto tayo magshare. Mas magniningning ang journey natin dito sa earth.

Merry Christmas Ms. Bianca. And I hope all your wishes this season may come true.


Sarrah said...

it was heart-breaking to see those photos that tells beyond what our people went through. thank you for sharing.

Carmel said...

I admire you for taking the time to fly down there to actually see what was going on, and on Christmas Eve at that. Thanks for sharing this with us, Bianca. You are right, every bit of help counts. Merry Christmas!

Rhea Nel said...

Awww. Grabe talaga yung nangyari sa CDO :( But anyways, your so mabait po Ate :D And yeah, that's true. Kahit gaano pa kaliit ang isang bagay, matutulungan at matutulungan mo pa rin sila. So sweet of you na you did allot a time for visiting Typhoon Sendong Victims. God bless!

Anonymous said...

Thank you Bianca for sharing Cagayan and giving us hope.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Hi Bianca!

I just want to thank you and JC for sharing your blessings here in our city. May God continue to use you as a channel of blessings to others. Thank you very much.

Anonymous said...

i was sad tonight, until i read this blog. it reminded me that there are far more things to think than life's problems, and i better be grateful for all the blessings i have. to the CDO victims, WE can pray for them TOO! :)) happy new year everyone! :)

THANK YOU MS. BIANCA for this inspiring blog. :)

Anonymous said...


Paul said...

Thank you so much to you and JC for sharing your blessings with my beloved hometown! All the help is much appreciated! I wish both of you continued success and bountiful blessings so you can reach out to more people in need and be a blessing to them! Happy New Year!

Rick Oconer said...

Hi Supergirl wannabe! This is a very inspiring story. A wake up call as well to everyone to value every thing we have in our lives right now. Also, let's us always think of sharing what we have to others especially those in need, may it be big or small, it will definitely matter. I was emotional while reading the stories and looking at the pictures you shared about what happened in CDO. Let's continue to extend whatever help we can offer and also continue to pray for our kababayans in CDO.

Kudos to you for spending the Christmas in its truest sense, to share and to help. May God Bless you more so that you can keep on sharing and inspiring!

Much love from a supergirl wannabe fan ~ Rick :)

MyStyLeumilM. said...

I only have two words for you miss b. ur a good "Samaritan" and a true "Christian" for you are so humble and a very good hearted girl, May God Bless you and always watch over you and may you always remain as who you are... i hope you will also check my blog :D http://leumilm.blogspot.com/ thnx.

pritsininni said...

hi bianca, i got emotional while reading your posts. i'm also from CDO. fortunately, i live far from those devastated areas. but it was truly heartbreaking. tragic.
god bless you and those who have helped in one way or another.

Wonder Grace said...

Wow! Nakakatouched naman. I like all your photos. :)

ralph said...

this is what i like about filipinos, we still smile even tragedy hits us. nice post. Yahweh bless.


On behalf of all Kagay-anons, daghang salamat Miss Bianca..

cutiemark1000 said...

Hi Ate Bianca! While I'm reading your post, my heart breaks cause I felt pity to those who had affected by the disaster. It was a heartbreaking tragedy that happened to CDO. Thank you for sharing this! May God bless you always and to your family.

Elsa D. Alnas said...

hello bianca....fan mo ako since i had watch you in pbb...i've got interested in your blog... its only now that i had followed your blog. pardon my english because i am not good enough just like you... God bless you...

kleer said...

it really breaks my heart seeing the pictures you posted considering we've just experienced the wrath of super typhoon pablo here in compostela. :(

Maria Isabel Ada said...

I am an OFW here in dubai, and as young as 23,i bravely decided to work abroad for my family. Fortunately,we trasferred to our new office and it is not yet fully furnished so i dont have work today. I am fan of you and lot of friends tells me that i looked like you (ambisyon nga naman.haha).as u can see,i am your follower on ig,twitter,fb and just now i encountered your blog. I am living near CDO. An recalling the tragedy and reading this story of you, just cant help but cry. Parang bumalik yong grief,yong sakit nang tragedya.. reading your stories from latest to the old ones, it inspires me a lot.. kasi as a bread winner in da family,ang hirap mag cope up sa mga bagay na hindi mo nagagawa o naeenjoy kasi ung sahod mo enuf lang for da food,haus rent,pamasahe at padala. And as i read your post on do not envy if you dont have anything,if you dont travel,or you dont have the fame like others are experiencing. Parang nasabi ko sa sarili ko,tama din. And we should be thankful kasi hindi lahat may pamilya,hindi lahat may masayang lovelife,hindi lahat maraming nagmamahal..

Thank you for inspiring me ate bianc's..its like seeing an artista's heart in you. Thats despite the fame,the financial stability still you fell those stuffs :) Godbless you more and Jc