PLDT wireless subsidiary Smart Communications Inc. has taken part in a relief assistance activity for hundreds of families displaced by the ongoing Mayon Volcano eruption in Albay.
Smart volunteers, in a joint effort with the Tulong Kapatid initiative of Manuel V. Pangilinan’s group of companies, served hot meals to over 2,000 evacuees housed in evacuation centers in Ligao City and Malilipot town in Albay.
Tulong Kapatid is the Pangilinan-led companies’ consolidated corporate social responsibility efforts geared toward helping families who have fallen victims to calamities such as the Mayon eruption.
Smart also provided Libreng Tawag (free calls) and Wi-Fi service to evacuees and personnel, allowing them to communicate with their families and loved ones.
Apart from the feeding program, the relief drive also provided hygiene kits, grocery packs, bottled water, parlor games for children and adults, and free cable viewing at Ligao City Technical and Vocational High School in Barangay Nasisi and Malilipot Central Elementary School.
Among the organizations part of the Tulong Kapatid initiative are PLDT, Smart, PLDT-Smart Foundation, One Meralco Foundation, Philex Mining Corp., Maynilad, Alagang Kapatid Foundation, Makati Medical Center, Metro Pacific Investments Corp., and TV5.
Each of the companies played a significant role during the Albay relief operation, which started on Feb. 10 until Feb. 16, said Menchie Silvestre, Alagang Kapatid Foundation executive director.
Silvestre said Alagang Kapatid set the ground work in determining where the relief activity should be held, while PLDT and Smart provided hot meals, hygiene kits, and communication services. Maynilad, for its part, provided free drinking water, while Meralco took care of electricity needs, Philex distributed more relief packs, and Cignal offered free cable entertainment.
“Tulong Kapatid aims to reach out to victims of calamities and help make their lives more bearable by making sure they get the basic services that they need,” said Silvestre. “What we did in Albay was a team effort, where you see volunteers from the different MVP companies working hand in hand for this humanitarian event,” she added.
The seven-day Tulong Kapatid relief drive served over 8,000 people housed in at least seven evacuation centers in the towns of Camalig, Guinobatan, Malilipot, and the cities of Ligao and Legazpi.
Latest data from Albay Public Safety Emergency and Management Office (Apsemo) indicate that there are still 17,346 families or 66,097 people housed in 60 evacuation centers in the towns of Malilipot, Bacacay, Sto. Domingo, Daraga, Camalig, Guinobatan, and the cities of Tabaco, Ligao and Legazpi.
According to Apsemo, evacuees living in the 10 villages that were assisted by Tulong Kapatid were located within the six- to seven-kilometer danger zone of Mayon, which began erupting last month.
PSF manager Odette de Guzman said Alagang Kapatid had always been involved in various disaster relief operation in disaster-stricken areas, notably the Marawi siege, typhoons “Yolanda” in 2013, “Ondoy” in 2009, and “Sendong” in 2011.
De Guzman, who joined PSF after retiring from corporate work at PLDT, said as part of her stint in the foundation, she had been exposed to situations where people were in dire need of help.
“This is the work I love to do. In helping others I meet lots of people, those who have less in life. It’s a challenging but very fulfilling work for me,” Guzman said.
Asked how it felt to help people, Guzman’s response was: “People are appreciative when they receive the help they need. It is so heartwarming to hear them say, ‘salamat po at tinutulungan mo kami (thank you for helping us).’”
For Christopher Dizon, PLDT Bicol customer service operations zone chief, helping people is a touching experience. “You feel so accomplished seeing them smiling and appreciative of the small gesture you have given them,” he said.
These children hold plates of hot meals during the relief drive conducted by employees of companies under the Tulong Kapatid initiative at Ligao City Technical and Vocational High School, which has been turned into an evacuation center due to the eruption of Mt. Mayon.
A Smart employee distributes lunch to Albay residents who have been affected by the eruption of Mayon during the Tulong Kapatid relief operations.
Young students enjoy games on a cell phone during the relief drive organized by Tulong Kapatid at Malilipot Central Elementary School.