The people of Basilan — Muslim and Christian — have been raising funds in the past weeks to send to communities in Luzon that were most affected by the series of typhoons that hit the country in November.
When Catholic priests and nuns started the fund drive, they were expecting that people in the streets would easily give a peso, about US$0.020, for the campaign.
They were surprised that drivers and vendors in the public market easily gave from US$10 to US$20 each to the fund-raising drive organized by a local Catholic school.
In the first three hours on November 20 when the campaign started, the organizers were able to raise about US$2,900.
Bishop Leo Dalmao of the Prelature of Isabela in Basilan has earlier called on parishes to go out in the streets to appeal for funds to help typhoon victims.
“We saw the interest of people to help,” said Claretian missionary priest Arvin Bellen, head of the social action ministry of the prelature.
“We were impressed by the action of the parishes, but we were more inspired to push the help a bit further,” said the priest.
Sister Alecs Dumaboc of Claret School, a Catholic school in the predominantly Muslim town of Sumisip, said she thought they would not be able to convince people to share.
“We went to the villages where people give whatever amount they could afford to give,” said the nun.
Tricycle drivers who could not go to church on Sundays because of work immediately pulled something out of their pockets when they saw volunteers with the collection boxes.
All ten parishes in the prelature conducted their own donation campaigns drives.
Father Bellen’s parish in the village of Tumahubong was able to raise about US$230 during the first three hours of the campaign.
“The generosity of the people will always be there, you just have to include them and provide them with venue for it,” he said.
Nasiba Amilin and Nur-in Gunong, Muslim teachers in Claret School, volunteered to go around the prelature for the fund drive.
“We were just simply helping those who are in need, regardless of their religion,” said Amilin.
“We are happy that we were able to become instruments to help to our brothers and sisters in Albay,” said Gunong.
They were at first hesitant to go around to appeal for help, especially in the middle of the pandemic.
“Doing it makes you humble,” said Amilin.
The Prelature of Isabela de Basilan was able to send a total of nearly US$6,234 to two dioceses in the Bicol Region that was most affected by the disaster.
At least US$2,909 was sent to the Diocese of Ilagan in Isabela province, while about US$3,300 was sent to the Diocese of Legazpi.
The total cost of damage brought by Typhoon “Ulysses” (international name: Vamco) has reached at least 12.9 billion pesos (about US$270 million) in agriculture and infrastructure.
“Ulysses” battered the Luzon island in mid-November, submerging many provinces and leaving over 3.8 million people affected and at least 73 dead.
In total, at least 34,328 families, or 139,866 individuals, are still staying in evacuation shelters while 12,829 families, or 46,848 persons, are being served outside emergency sites.
“Ulysses” had left 88,713 houses damaged in the wake of its onslaught with 9,763 totally destroyed.