The Road to Cateel

by Jezzene Gail Paler



"It is often said that whenever you are encountering difficulties in a mission, it is an affirmation that you are indeed doing God's work." — Unknown


Getting ready to help the victims of Typhoon Pablo

Morning of December 14: We were not yet ready to leave for Davao Oriental; the financial assistance from the office of the Governor was not yet released; the registration of our GK Van was not yet renewed and could not be renewed that day because the LTO was having their Christmas Party, therefore, no work; I have a party to organize that day and the details of the party were not yet fully polished; Nanay Gina has many catering services during the weekend, so she needs someone to supervise her business because she would be gone. Almost everything was in chaos. Then it came to my mind, maybe this chaos is God's way of telling us that we should not proceed to Davao Oriental because of whatever reason. But then, I remembered the quote mentioned above. Yes! This is God's work. All this chaos is His affirmation that we are on the right track.


Lunch time that day, we immediately travelled Maasin to San Ricardo. Gladly, we were permitted to renew the vehicle's registration. Travelling by land for eleven hours and by boat by one hour is no joke. It's pretty exhausting especially when you do not have a comfortable seat. We reached Butuan around 11pm. Thank God we were welcomed by Team GK Caraga. We stayed at their office in FSUU. Around 3am, we were all set, ready to go to Cateel.


For the first four hours of our travel, there was no trace of typhoon Pablo on the places that we passed by. So I said to myself, maybe the media just sensationalized the issue on the damages of Typhoon Pablo. But as soon as we get nearer and nearer Cateel, there it was, before our naked eyes; the damage that typhoon Pablo did. We couldn't hold back the tears, seeing the inhumane situation of our brothers and sisters in the affected areas.


The damage caused by Typhoon Pablo


As soon as we reached Cateel around 9am, we were met by Team GK Davao and Sultan Kudarat. The team was waiting for deployment. Having two doctors and a nurse on board, we were then divided. Dr. Freddy Letigio from St. Bernard and Rainier Endriga, a nurse from Libagon, were then deployed to Brgy. Maglahos and Aragon together with the volunteers from Sultan Kudarat. The rest of the team, with Tatay Jerome as our doctor, went to Brgy. Taytayan, the 2nd most populated barangay in Cateel.


When we reached Taytayan, the sight again brought tears to our eyes. People were waiting, eagerly and patiently waiting. They have been waiting for a doctor for more than a week now. Many of the children are getting sick, many of the adults have untreated and undressed wounds. They need immediate medical attention. So with the medicines that we brought, which was donated by our Congressman, we started the consultation and dispensing of medicines. But unfortunately, we lacked medicine and vitamins for the children. We were devastated. It hurt that we cannot give proper treatment for the children. But then again, God always provides. Around lunch time, the Phil. Pedia Society, Davao Chapter came in and helped us. Although they have been there for two hours, at least they left the medicine for the children and it would be us who will be dispensing the medicines. We ended around 5pm. Mission for day one: complete; patients treated: 342. We then headed back to our GK Van.


Giving medical attention to those who need it the most


The night time was the hardest. We didn't have proper sleeping places. We only had the GK Van as our home. Some of us slept outside and inside the ruins of their municipal, others inside the GK Van. Darkness was everywhere. No electricity, no light, no cell phone and definitely no internet. It seems were going back to the old days. But we were experiencing for one night, what the people of Cateel have been experiencing every night for the past few days. We do not have the right to complain.


December 16 was supposed to be the first day of Misa de Gallo but we were not able to attend because there was no Misa de Gallo. An ordinary mass was celebrated. During the mass, still many people attended. They were still happily singing Christmas carols. It is indeed true, it is more fun in the Philippines! We continued the medical mission to other two barangays that day, in San Alfonso and Aragon. But this time, all the GK volunteers were together. After the end of the day, we then headed home, to Southern Leyte. We reached Southern Leyte, Dec17 lunch time.


A medical mission we will never forget


It saddens me, thinking they would be celebrating the Christmas season in that situation, we hope and pray that many people would have the heart to help them, help them in big and small ways. The mission trip reminded me to always be thankful for the little things that you have now. As they say, you don't know what you've got till it's gone.


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OPERATION WALANG IWANAN is ongoing, and we need YOUR help. Let us transform this disaster into an opportunity to bring hope to the families affected by Typhoon Pablo. Walang Iwanan!


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