The Typhoon called Yolanda, Part 2 of 3 (Day 41)by Rey Laguda
(This is the 41st day of 50-day journey of DepEd Undersecretary Rey Laguda as being serialized here with his permission, culled from his Facebook account - Blogger/owner)
Sleeping at Leyte Normal University’s guesthouse compound was providential because the NDRRMC command center had decided to transfer its base of operations to the provincial sports compound which was just around the corner. And so was Leyte National High School (LNHS). We had set out different tasks for the team members and split up. I went to LNHS and met up with school personnel who were present. There were several families that occupied different buildings within the school. I met Bong, who was a teacher and the designated physical facilities coordinator. The principal had not yet been accounted for together with other teachers. It was decided that LNHS was going to be DepEd’s home base since the division office was inoperable. An office was used for all teachers to sign up whenever they would show up. It was the start of a division wide accounting of DepEd personnel.
We were fortunate to have brought with us 30 liters of gasoline when we flew in to Tacloban. Gasoline was being sold at P250/liter and the lines were just so long. So I went up to a teacher who had a motorcycle and offered him two liters so that he could bring me around for the whole morning. I went to the division office to leave word and a handwritten sign saying all teachers and personnel should report to LNHS so that we could start accounting for everyone. I would then coordinate with the City offices and the other agencies to synchronize our plans. After attending the meeting with Sec Gazmin and Sec Roxas and the agency reps, I met with Peter Galvez of DND and offered DepEd personnel to help in staffing the operations center of the regional Office of Civil Defense (OCD). We also said that there was available space for military personnel to sleep in the school across so long as they helped us in cleaning up some of the flooded areas. This would also help us secure the school from possible looting. It was a win-win situation.
In the meantime, we had received reports that SDS Gorgonio Diaz and Assistant Superintendent Carmela Tamayo were both alive and okay. This was great news. We also started to convene an education cluster meeting with whomever was present in the area.
Communication was established with central office and we were able to transmit messages intermittently as to our plans and status. Regional Director Lilit Yu had also met up with us and it was great to know she was doing okay. She had been riding on a motorcycle to get around all these time.
I kept on telling myself that we must account for all our employees no matter how long it took and despite the fact that we had thousands of teaching and non-teaching staff in Tacloban alone. It was important to let the grapevine function. We kept on telling every DepEd personnel we saw to spread the word – Go to LNHS and report. Give a status of their personal circumstances. It was important for people to know that the chain of command has been established and that a base of operations was functioning. Those that were not severely affected were asked to help the OCD.
Teams of MMDA had started to arrive and initiate clean up operations together with other volunteer teams from various groups. In the evening the council called for another meeting with the presence of the Governor and other municipal mayors from all over Leyte. They were discussing protocols on the management of the dead. I could not forget the personnel of Bureau of Fire Protection who were working non-stop in the retrieval of bodies.
We had also confirmed that Br Armin Luistro was going to come to Tacloban together with USec Francis Varela via Cebu and Ormoc. They would be bringing with them whatever emergency and relief supplies they could muster. By the time we got back to our quarters, we were exhausted but adrenaline was still pumping us to plan for the following day over a shared meal of canned meat and rice. This was only the beginning. We also agree to make sure that the sleeping quarters was going to be clean for Br and party.
(to be continued...)