Carrying 55 tons of relief goods – sacks of rice, clothing, bottles of water, hygiene materials and kitchen utensils provided by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), Save the Children Foundation, and ABS-CBN’s Sagip Kapamilya Foundation, M/Y Esperanza left Pier 15, Manila on 8 December 2012 at around 9:00 PM to respond to the humanitarian crisis that was happening in Mindanao.

Things happened so fast, two days before, M/Y Esperanza was supposed to sail south to survey the state of the Philippine seas as part of our oceans campaign. But we could not turn a blind eye and ignore the crisis. Everyone decided we had to respond and help those who are affected and devastated by typhoon Bopha.

Being relatively new to the team, I did not really know what to expect with this mission. Just one thing is certain – we had to deliver the goods to where it was most needed.

After three nights and three days of sailing, we arrived in Sasa Wharf, Davao Port noontime of December 11. As soon as I heard the signal that we were about to dock, I looked out and what I saw eased my initial discomfort. It was my first time to sail, I was tired and sea sick.

A group of people was eagerly waiting for us at the quayside; they looked at the approaching ship the way a child would look at his parent coming home after being away for a long time. And I was happy just to see their faces.

As soon as we were given the clearance to go offshore, I talked to some of them. Hope Fernandez, a motherly-looking woman who was helping coordinate our delivery told me that they really appreciated the effort. “We could not thank you enough,” she said, “at least now, families will be able to receive these goods, and somehow it will make them feel that some people out there care.”

Offloading of goods

It took almost two days to offload the goods. I witnessed how people volunteered and tirelessly worked to help other people. Uniformed policemen from the Davao Police Force and the Davao Task Force 10th Infantry Division – numbering one hundred and twenty—came along with other volunteers. They joined the crew of M/Y Esperanza and together they worked all day unloading the goods.

When the cranes wouldn’t work the policemen and volunteers formed a line and passed along boxes of water until it reached the waiting truck. One could feel the positive energy flowing although they were tired and exhausted. After all, they were working under the scorching heat of the sun. Everyone was smiling, joking and were so willing to do more. They actually wanted to finish the offloading in one day even if it would take them until dawn. But for safety and security reasons, Mark Dia, Greenpeace Typhoon Bopha Operations Team Leader and Dinko Lisica, the ship’s 1st Mate decided to continue the offloading the following day.

To offload the relief goods, they needed a crane that could do the job. It was heart-warming to know that the owner of Kudos Trucking, Mr. Johnny Ng, readily offered his crane for free.

M/Y Esperanza crew wanted to do more

With the offloading done, I thought our job was over. But the crew wanted to do more. They wanted to help with the repacking. So off we went to the inter-agency relief center located only 2-kilometers away from the port.

While we were there and the crew were with the locals helping in the repacking, I had the chance to talk with Mrs. Pedrita Dimakiling, DSWD Officer in-charge of the day. “This is our first typhoon experience and we were not prepared. We were so devastated, we could only find comfort in the help that was pouring in – and we thank everyone for their help,” she said.

Back on the ship

After the long day, we were back at the ship. Victor Pickering, a volunteer deckhand, shared that it was a good experience for him. “It was a good decision that we took a detour and responded to the crisis. What we did was the real thing,” he said.

No one regretted the decision. Everybody was happy they were able to help. If they had any regret, it was that they were not able to do more.

Time to say goodbye

On 13 December as we were watching the ship sail away, I realized I would miss the Esperanza, Captain Pep Barbal, and the crew.

Virginia Benosa-Llorin is communications officer for Greenpeace Southeast Asia based in the Philippines. She was part of the team onboard the Esperanza to transport of relief goods to Davao, post-typhoon Pablo.