Soldiers in Bicol raise funds for Marawi evacuees

LEGAZPI CITY, Philippines – The military in the Bicol region picked up various donations by Bicolanos for Marawi City refugees through house-to-house and store-to-store visits, as well as from local radio stations and other designated stations here.

The collection of assorted relief goods was done for a week, before the military's scheduled trip to Iligan City in Mindanao. The flow of relief goods continued even shortly before the said trip.

On July 7, Army Captain Ronnie Madrinan of the 9th Infantry Division public affairs led the Armed Forces of the Philippines' (AFP) humanitarian team that would bring the relief goods to Marawi.

At least 5 military and government trucks were loaded with 200 sacks of rice, canned goods, noodles, and used clothing, gathered after almost 3 weeks of knocking on the doors of Bicolanos to seek aid for Marawi City, where clashes between government forces and the terrorists Maute Group have lasted more than a month.

The AFP also raised P800,000 solely from the pockets of Bicolanos. This, along with the relief goods, will be handed over by Madrinan to the city social welfare office of Marawi City, which is currently stationed in Iligan City.

Albay Governor Al Francis Bichara and Legazpi City Mayor Noel Rosal also provided P200,000 each for Marawi.

Madrinan left the Tabaco City international seaport and boarded commercial ferryboat Regina Calixta – owned by Catanduanes Governor Joseph Cua – bound for Virac, to get the goods shared by the people of Catanduanes. 

The AFP Bicol was given a 50% discount by Regina Calixta management for shipping fees. But from Virac, Madrinan said the transport of the goods to Iligan City will be for free, through a cargo ship also owned by Governor Cua.

'Grateful to Bicolanos'

The AFP Bicol has already been receiving donations from people from all walks of life. For instance, Carlo Lincaso, owner of an ukay-ukay store in Legazpi City and a former cameraman of GMA-7 donated 5 big sacks of used clothing for Marawi refugees. The donation was picked up by Tactical Operations Group 5-Philippine Air Force personnel.

"We're grateful to the Bicolanos because for just less than 3 weeks, we were able to produce P800,000 and assorted relief goods for war-torn stricken city of Marawi. Bicolanos share whatever they can. These goods and money came solely from the Bicolanos, our stakeholders," Madrinan said.

On June 19, a simultaneous kick-off ceremony in the 6 provinces of Bicol launched AFP Bicol's "Pagmakulog sa Sadiring Lahi (Compassion for our Fellowmen)" project, an initiative to lend a hand to the Marawi evacuees. The launch was led by General Manuelito Orense, commanding officer of the Army's 9th Infantry Division.

The program aims to encourage Bicolanos to give any form of assistance they can, including moral and spiritual support, to boost the morale of the displaced families.

The AFP in Bicol also tapped social media and local radio stations across the region to appeal for help from netizens and listeners.

"We hope that the war in Marawi will be over so that the displaced families can return home," Madrinan said. His team will be cruising on the high seas for 3 days before reaching Iligan City.

The Army team is a veteran of humanitarian missions under the Team Albay-Office of Civil Defense (OCD) Bicol, during the term of former Albay governor and current 2nd district congressman Joey Salceda and OCD director Raffy Alejandro.

The AFP in Bicol earlier sent at least 3 battalions to Mindanao before the Marawi City clashes erupted, to go after terrorists sowing fear in various parts of the region.

Since the Marawi siege started on May 23, at least 3 Bicolano Marines and an army soldier have been killed in action. The fallen heroes were given military honors here. – Rappler.com