In the towns, the people stand in line for hours to get their food 'relief' package, but the message is not getting to those on the coast who have further to travel. There is no way to communicate with the displaced and marginalized. On the roads as we traveled between towns, children were lined up holding placards PLEASE HELP US and WE NEED FOOD. It is truly heart-breaking.
We stopped at Romeo's home to visit his mother, as he was busy being one of my guide/translators. The whole upper level of her home is gone and what remains so badly damaged that it will need to be completely demolished and rebuilt. But blessings abound, for while buildings can be replaced, the hugs of a mother and son are precious and priceless.
We visited with municipal officials at the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) in Iloilo to discuss the role of the churches working ecumenically with ACTalliance to ensure fair distribution of food packages to all people for the island of Panai. This is not the time for politics or favoritism, although we hear that it is happening... who do you know? Who did you vote for? "If I get elected, I will make all this better...", the problem being that there is not another election for several years to come!
We saw how the DSWD are trying to track families on a constantly changing whiteboard, but it is really the churches that know their congregations better than the town which deals with numbers. There is concern for running out of food, so rationing seems to have begun before people are even fed. While the NCCP is giving 15 kilos of rice, here it is 2, and only 2 cans of sardines compared to 6 from the churches, plus many other dried food... but again, many volunteers are working at packaging and preparing meals to feed themselves as they work long hours. I hope they will live up to their claimed Charter to value all human life.