“Blue Boats” Bring Hope to Iloilo

 

By Edwin Fernandez  Originally Published in the Philippine Daily Inquirer

SOME of the pump boats waiting for their recipients in front of the Ajuy town hall in Iloilo province. PHOTO FROM OMF

ILOILO CITY—Fisherman Polne Bataolan never thought he could still recover from the devastation wrought by Supertyphoon “Yolanda” when it swept through Ajuy town in Iloilo province and other areas in the Visayas last year.

In less than two hours, his motorized fishing boat and the rest of his valuables vanished. How then could Bataolan, 39, feed his family and send his children to high school?

With nowhere to go, he moved his family to a community hall and started begging for food and clothes. “My family had only our clothes on as our wealth at that time,” he said.

To “restart” his life, a missionary congregation of priests from Mindanao came to Ajuy last month and donated motorboats to Bataolan and the other typhoon survivors.

Donors

Although devastated like other coastal areas, Ajuy and its population of 47,000 did not draw the attention of donors here and abroad, according to Agnes Myra Piñol of the Oblate Media Ministry.

“Before you came, we received aid, but it was not as meaningful as what you are giving us now,” the fisherman told Fr. Rito Daquipil, treasurer of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate (OMI) which is based in Cotabato City, in the vernacular.

The beneficiaries were grappling for words as they thanked the “strangers.”

“We never heard of the OMI. But thank you, thank you so much, we never thought you will give us motorboats. We thought we were  going to receive only food stuffs and used clothing,” Bataolan said.

Daquipil said: “There is joy in helping the needy.”

Turnover

Mayor Juan Alvarez witnessed the turnover of 25 blue boats, along with accessories and fishing gear.

Last year, OMI provincial superior Larry de Guia, Daquipil and Piñol went to Iloilo to “lend a helping hand” to families displaced by the country’s worst natural disaster in recent history.

“When you first came in December 2013 to extend relief goods and food, I thought that was it. I was humbled learning from you that you shall return and give our people motorboats,” Alvarez said. “I could hardly find words to fully appreciate your gesture, thanking you would not be enough.”

Before the boat project, the OMI Foundation (OMF) distributed relief items, such as “noche buena” packs, to six villages in Ajuy and in Estancia town, also in Iloilo. It had earlier appealed for help from international donor-friends and acquaintances.

No sale

Fr. Jonathan Domingo, OMI director, said the Archdiocese of Jaro helped the Oblates identify the beneficiaries of the pump boats.

To ensure the success of the project, the OMF entered into a memorandum of agreement with the local government and the fishermen. Under the deal, the beneficiaries shall personally receive the motorboats and all accessories, take responsibility for registration with the proper government agency, use them for livelihood, and never sell or lease them.

Last week, the OMI priest dispersed farm animals and distributed farm inputs and other livelihood assistance in Barangay Badiangan, its adopted village, in Ajuy.

“This project comes as the OMI celebrates its 75th year of missionary presence in the Philippines this year,” Domingo said.

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