What happened on September 15, 2018 in Ucab, Itogon Benguet was one of the biggest typhoon-induced catastrophes that tested the heart and resilience of Filipinos. The strong winds and heavy downpour caused by Typhoon "Ompong" (international name is Mangkhut) left landslides, flooding, and power outage for most of Northern Luzon. Amidst all of these was Itogon’s landslide which wiped out several houses and approximately 60 people died.
This unfortunate event brought about the renewal of the sense of community not just among locals of Itogon but also other concerned citizens and various organizations.Volunteers helping out with the search and rescue, and eventually retrieval operations came from as far as Metro Manila. Other concerned citizens and organizations helped by providing the volunteers, and combined workforce of government agencies, with equipment as well as supplies throughout the search and rescue operations duration.
UTalkers, never ones to hesitate in helping those in need, answered the call for donations via "Bangon Itogon UTalk Donation Drive" launched right after the reported landslide in Itogon. The 2-week donation drive among UTalk employees yielded a total of 1,455 items comprised of clothes (adults and kids), rice, grocery items, personal hygiene-care kits, blankets, home cleaning supplies, and bottled water. The donations were then turned-over to Benguet Philippine Red Cross as represented by Oscar Paris, Chapter Administrator. He also provided an update regarding the current status of the Itogon operations based on the in-depth assessment of Red Cross. According to the latest information gathered from ground zero in Ucab, Itogon, so far there have been an overwhelming continuous flow of relief donations from several organizations. Therefore, Red Cross will now focus on providing livelihood for displaced families through cash grants for Ucab residents. Since this the case, succeeding donations such as that of UTalk were re-allocated to Kibungan, another hugely affected area in Benguet. The municipality of Kibungan is still currently in need of relief goods as of writing since most organizations have concentrated their relief operations in Itogon. Mr. Paris, on behalf of Red Cross, has expressed his gratitude for UTalkers’ generosity and willingness to help those in dire need during such calamities. UTalk on the other hand will continuously support and participate in such humanitarian activities.
Filipinos are known to be resilient and have strong ties with their community. Both are essential characteristics that make them overcome difficult times. The UTalk “Bangon Itogon” drive is in its simple way a manifestation of such strong character. May this be another testament and an inspiration that together, we can succeed in our pursuit of a nurturing and united community.