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Rising leaders in a temporary community

Rather than continuously worrying about their home, complaining about their situation and pitying their current state, two mothers have better things to do.

Clarissa Quinto and Arlene Del Rosario, both from the town of Talisay in Batangas Province, are among the more than the 140,000 affected individuals by the Taal Volcano eruption. Their families are both staying at the Polytechnic University of the Philippines – Sto. Tomas Gymnasium in the city of Sto. Tomas since January 13 with 217 other families mainly from their town.

Three days into their stay in the said evacuation center, 27-year-old Clarissa and 35-year-old Arlene are both selected as parent leaders who ensure peace, order and cleanliness in their temporary community.

“Noong una po talaga, medyo magulo. ‘Yung iba hindi nabibigyan ng goods, ‘yung iba naman nakakuha na, pipila pa ulit. Nagkakalamangan dito,” admitted Arlene.

With parent leaders like them, they are slowly making their temporary community a good home, especially with the uncertainty of when they will be able to go back to their own homes.

Finding meaning inside the evacuation center

Clarissa is grateful that they have been housed here.

“Okay kami dito, nakakakain kami nang maayos, nakakatulog. Nakukuha namin ang pangangailangan namin dito. Kahit nga ‘nung nagkasakit ‘yung anak ko, may nagchecheck-up, may nagbibigay ng gamot,” she shared.

Both Clarissa and Arlene agree that they have been receiving a lot of help from both the government and private groups and individuals since they arrived here.

“Kung wala kami dito, mahihiya naman kami na makituluyan sa kamag-anak namin dahil wala kaming panggastos dahil hindi na kami nakapagtatrabaho,” added Clarissa, who sells snacks for a living and whose husband is a construction worker.

But rather than simply receiving all these, Clarissa and Arlene both are leaders in their own ways.

In the management of the said evacuation center, parent leaders are selected per group of family. Clarissa handles nine families while Arlene handles 13.

“Kunwari po may darating na relief goods, sinisiguro po naming mga parent leaders na bawat pamilya na hawak namin ay may natatanggap,” said Arlene.

Strategies like this one make the distribution orderly and fairly among all the affected families.

Other than assisting with the distribution, parent leaders like them gather the issues and needs of their member-families, raise these to the officers-in-charge and lead in other activities such as maintaining the cleanliness of the evacuation center.

“Medyo mahirap po, pero masaya kami na kahit pare-pareho kaming nasalanta, nakakatulong kami hindi lang sa ibang pamilya dito kundi pati sa mga staff na naka-assign dito,” shared Clarissa.

Arlene cannot agree more. It is in simple ways of being a leader in this kind of situation that makes them somehow pay back all the kindness they have been receiving.

Hope amidst the uncertainty

Both Clarissa and Arlene do not know what lies ahead, not even how long they will be able to get back to their homes.

“Pagbalik namin sa bahay, okay lang, babangon kami. Ang mahalaga sa amin, nakaraos kami, ligtas kami,” said Arlene.

At this point, both of them cannot do much about preparing for their return home.

“’Yung mga ibinibigay sa aming tulong dito, iniipon namin, malaking bagay ‘yun para makapagsimula kami ulit,” shared Clarissa.

Clarissa and Arlene are also two of the recipients of the calamity cash assistance from the DSWD, which was personally awarded to them by President Rodrigo Roa Duterte in his visit to their evacuation center last January 20.

“Gagamitin namin ito para makapagsimula ulit. Marami na ang nagbibigay ng gamit at pagkain, pero ‘yung cash, magagamit namin pagbalik sa aming mga lugar lalong lalo na para sa pag-aaral ng mga bata,” shared Arlene, whose whole family is not able to earn any income while inside the evacuation center.

For now, while they are still here, they will remain positive and be instruments of maintaining their temporary community a good home for all of them.#

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