The indigenous peoples of Barangay Cabayugan.

Palawan News, together with the Inquirer Foundation and the Palawenyo Savers’ Club (PSC), delivered relief goods to victims of Typhoon “Odette” in northern and northeastern barangays of Puerto Princesa City on Thursday.

As of 10 a.m., December 30, Palawan News has already raised over P490,000 from individuals, organizations, and other donors.

The relief goods were purchased through cash donations crowdsourced through Project Ambagan, Palawan News’ disaster relief operation that is activated during calamities. Personnel from the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park (PPSRNP) also assisted in identifying beneficiaries and delivering the items.

Recipients were indigenous peoples (IPs) living in Barangay Cabayugan, bangka operators and owners in Sabang Beach, and farmers in Barangay Langogan. These groups were chosen because of the massive losses they experienced during the storm. A total of 300 relief packs containing canned food, rice, medicines, pails, and washbasins were distributed in those areas.

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Indigenous peoples of Barangay Cabayugan receive food packs, pales, and washbasins from Project Ambagan and partners Palawenyo Savers Club and Inquirer Foundation.

For IPs living in Cabayugan, which is also a jungle trekking site for tourists, income was already hard enough to come by because of the COVID-19 crisis, according to tribal elder Eliseo Rodrigo. Many IPs had damaged houses and belongings due to the storm. Without tourism, IPs relied on farming, almaciga resin, and yantok for livelihood. Now, they face an uncertain future because of the numerous felled trees that make it difficult for them to gather forest products.

“Sa katotohanan, ang mga katutubo rito, napakahirap ng kanilang dinadanas, [lalo na] sa pagkain. Ang kanilang pangangailangan sa ngayon ay ang sa araw-araw. Sa ngayon, hindi kami makapaghanapbuhay kasi ang almaciga, maraming kahoy na nakahambalang sa daan,” Rodrigo said.

For boat operators and owners in Sabang Wharf, the jump-off point to the Underground River, devastation came when nearly all tourist boats were destroyed by crashing waves during the typhoon. Now, even though they are expecting tourists in January, the members of the Sabang Sea Farers Multipurpose Cooperative (SSFMPC) are rushing to repair around 10 boats that can still be salvaged.

“Sa 81 na bangka, mayroon na lang tatlo na gumagana, ready to ferry, at meron pa kaming nasa 60 percent na sira na puwedeng mag-ferry by January. Ang immediate need namin ay ma-construct ang aming mga nasirang bangka at makabalik sa paghahanapbuhay, sapagka’t ang mga bangka ay hindi lang pang-ferry ng mga turista, kundi pati na rin sa pangingisda,” SSFMPC president Teresita Austria said.

Barangay Langogan was one of the areas hard hit by Odette, where some 200 residents lost their homes, crops, coconut trees, and plants.

Distribution to families in Langogan.

For Marjun de Asis, this was the second time he lost his home to a typhoon this year. He remains uncertain about his source of employment, as he takes any job he can just to survive.

“Dalawang beses akong nagpatayo ng bahay, pangalawa na itong nangyari. Laking tulong talaga [ang relief efforts] kasi nakakadagdag sa pagkain namin sa araw-araw. Kasi ang ganito, parang ang hirap nang makabangon, wala nang hanapbuhay,” said de Asis.

Teofilo Fabregas, 90, also a Langogan resident, said that he had to rely on the help of his relatives for aid after the typhoon hit. He survived the storm by taking shelter in a church.

“Tumakbo kami sa simbahan, mabuti na lang at hindi nasira ang simbahan. Unang beses namin ito naranasan sa buong buhay namin ang ganito kalakas na bagyo,” Fabregas said.

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