Cars lined up the streets of Napsan days after Odette hit Palawan, as the coastal village at the west coast was the only area in the city with mobile signal at the time.

The entire province of Palawan plunged into total darkness and isolation as soon as Odette made landfall in the afternoon of December 17, knocking down not only the power supply but also its telecommunications infrastructure.

For at least two days since Odette struck, no news about the typhoon was available even on social media as even regular cellular signal to facilitate text messaging was not available.

It later turned out that at least three remote villages located on the West Coast of the city — Barangays Bagong Bayan, Simpocan, and Napsan — had working cellular towers that could handle 3G data.

News of this quickly spread by mouth in the city proper and soon enough, there was a beeline of city residents along the highways at least 45 minutes drive north of the city proper. Some even ventured up the hills and elevated areas hoping to get stronger signals and send messages to the outside world.

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For many, this was like getting the ultimate Christmas present as it allowed them to call relatives and alert them of their condition after several fiber cuts and power outages caused communications and connectivity to be lost.

According to Fr. Eugene Elivera, parish priest in Napsan and spokesperson for the Apostolic Vicariate of Puerto Princesa (AVPP), the opportunity to still have a signal when the entire city was down, corresponds to the obligation as a Christian to help connect the locals to their families outside Palawan.

“Nagtataka sila na ako lang ang online. Until nagtatanong sila sa akin kung kumusta ang pamilya hanggang sa naramdaman ko na wala silang contact sa city proper. Morally obliged, as a Christian, as a priest— what did I do ay araw-araw akong bumababa,” he said.

“Noong una, ay of course, ang swerte naman na may signal tayo. Pero pala ‘yong swerte mo ay hindi para sa iyo, kundi i-share. Otherwise, dito ka lang sa Napsan. May purpose pala talaga ang blessing na meron sa’yo and I think the purpose of blessing is to share it to others,” Fr. Elivera added.

For four days straight after Odette’s onslaught, Fr. Elivera would go down to the center of Puerto Princesa to check residents and update their relatives outside of the city and province.

He narrated also going “door-to-door” to locate locals, whose families outside the city were worried about them. Every 5 p.m., Fr. Elivera said he would drive back to Napsan to post online and update.

Each day, about 20 families would be informed about the situation of their relatives in Puerto Princesa.

“Umaalis ako nang maaga, umiikot pa ako ng city proper. Iba doon ay hindi ko pa nga kakilala, may mga pastor pa nga, ibang relihiyon. Ang ginagawa ko, nagpapa-picture ako sa kanila para ma-assure ang mahal nila sa buhay sa ibang lugar at ibang bansa,” he said.

“Naging conduit ako nang buong bayan dahil may signal ang buong Napsan,” he added.

When locals realized that the signal in Napsan and the two barangays were still operating, they raced to the west coast in droves to be able to communicate with their families.

Even news organizations traveled to the area to inform the public about why the city and province of Palawan had been isolated.

Palawan News contacted PLDT, Smart, and Globe for an explanation regarding this, but they have yet to respond with any information.

“Kung hanggang ngayon ay wala pa rin signal ay mapipilitan ako bumaba just for the sake of our kababayans,” Fr. Elivera said.

Fr. Elivera said he even planned to drive to the city’s northern barangays and the border village in Langogan, which had been severely impacted by Odette.

He explained that the importance of communication was apparent when the entire city’s connectivity was disrupted.

“Iba pa rin ‘yong konektado tayo sa pamilya natin, nakikita nila tayo and pinapadama natin ang concern natin sa pamilya. And I think now, family goes beyond religion, profession, lahat-lahat, dapat natin ito pahalagahan. Importante na concern tayo sa isa’t isa,” he said.

Napsan, like the rest of the city, was also affected by the typhoon. The parish church served as a charging station for the barangay due to the absence of electricity.

The residents are also in need of relief efforts, which they wished to be extended also in their area.

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is one of the senior reporters of Palawan News. She covers agriculture, business, and different feature stories. Her interests are collecting empty bottles, aesthetic earrings, and anything that is color yellow.