When Typhoon Odette hit several parts of the country in mid-December 2021, the devastation it caused left many Filipinos in the dark during the supposedly festive Christmas season.
But if there’s one thing that became evident days after the typhoon made a series of landfalls, it was that Filipinos, in the spirit of bayanihan, will never hesitate to help each other even in the middle of a pandemic.
With damaged properties, blocked roads, and toppled electricity and communication lines, Visayas and Mindanao received outpouring of support from government agencies, the private sector, non-government and civic organizations, and even individual volunteers who came together to assist millions of residents immediately after the typhoon.
Among those that quickly mobilized and provided service was Manila Electric Co. (Meralco). The distribution utility, which serves Metro Manila and neighboring provinces, recognized the importance of bringing back electricity to the affected areas the soonest possible time.
After sending an advance party to assess the situation, Meralco formed a contingent of more than 140 linemen and engineers to help electricity distributors in Cebu and Bohol. With the heavy damage left by the typhoon, power restoration proved to be a challenge.
In Cebu, over 80 engineers and linemen, and 21 vehicles have been deployed to help Visayan Electric Co. (VECO) and Mactan Electric Co. (MECO) restore electricity service in several parts of the province.
In Bohol, with the assistance of the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), close to 60 personnel, along with 13 vehicles, are providing support to Bohol Light Company Inc. and Bohol II Electric Cooperative.
Thanks to the help of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, Philippine Navy, 2Go, PLDT, among others, Meralco was able to transport its personnel, vehicles, and heavy equipment in the affected areas.
“Extending help to our fellow Filipinos within and outside our franchise area, especially when it comes to power restoration after typhoons, has always been part of Meralco’s DNA. We are very blessed to have employees who understand this and also exemplify malasakit, which is one of our core values,” according to Meralco Senior Vice President and Head of Networks Ronnie L. Aperocho.
“Despite the holiday season and the ongoing pandemic, we did not experience any difficulty in forming contingents who are more than willing to help. We will continue helping those affected by Typhoon Odette the best way we can,” he added.
One Meralco Foundation (OMF), the company’s social development arm, also coordinated with other non-profit organizations and local government units for the distribution of close to 5,000 relief packages to affected families in Siargao Island, Surigao, Leyte, Palawan, Cebu, Bohol, Dinagat Islands and Guihulngan in Negros Oriental.
In Dinagat Islands and Siargao Island, OMF distributed 140 solar torches and some generator sets to help the affected residents. It also coordinated with Power 4 All for the distribution of solar flashlights.
With the affected areas yet to fully recover, OMF continues to work with charity organizations, including the Philippine Disaster Resilience Foundation, to extend assistance to more areas.
Power generation arm Meralco PowerGen Corporation, through Global Business Power Corporation, also provided 20,000 liters of diesel to fuel generator sets used by PLDT-Smart to restore telecommunications services.
Also heeding the call for help were Meralco employees themselves who pooled nearly P1 million in donations for those affected by the typhoon during the company’s virtual Christmas party last month.
“I believe that it’s in the DNA of Meralco to extend help beyond its franchise area after a calamity. We primarily help electric cooperatives affected by disasters,” said OMF President Jeffrey O. Tarayao in a recent interview.
Tarayao recalled one massive effort after Typhoon Pablo hit in 2012 and Meralco linemen spent about three months to help expedite power restoration.
Call of duty
Unbeknownst to many, Meralco’s dedicated and hardworking linemen and engineers had to spend the Christmas holidays away from their families, with little to no rest, to answer the call of duty.
It is through their compassion for their fellowmen that they are able to tide through the challenges that come with helping restore electricity service to bring light of hope to those who are still reeling from the impact of the typhoon.
Recognizing the sacrifices made by these frontliner heroes, OMF prepared a heartwarming surprise for some of these linemen.
Aboard a humanitarian flight of Philippines Airlines, wives of five Meralco linemen in Cebu were given a few minutes to reunite with their husbands on New Year’s eve. It was an emotional moment for them but the surprise visit inspired the linemen to go on with the worthy cause of helping those who are in need.
“I was really in tears of joy because I was not used to being away from my family,” Meralco lineman Cornelio Jamero Jr., said as he thanked OMF.
“Don’t worry. We will do everything we can to serve in other areas,” he added.
Compassionate linemen hailed
In a social media post, Bohol Governor Arthur Yap acknowledged that there were “no weekends, no holidays for Meralco team” who are unwavering in their work to help restore power in the province. He also thanked OMF for the generator sets that powered the much-needed water refilling stations in the province.
“It is truly in your DNA to serve beyond your service areas,” Yap said.
Cebu News Workers Multipurpose Cooperative Elias Baquero also extolled the sacrifices of Meralco personnel.
“We appreciate the sacrifices made by Meralco linemen and engineers who spent their holidays away from their families in solidarity with the crew of distribution utilities and electric cooperatives in our province,” he said.
“Even if we are outside its franchise area, Meralco was among the first to help Cebu. We have witnessed not only their dedication to provide electricity service but also their compassion for their fellowmen who were severely affected by the typhoon,” added Baquero, who is also a director of Cebu City Cooperative Development Council, a special body of the Cebu City government.
Baquero said the manpower assistance was of great help to the province because employees of the electricity distributors were also affected by the typhoon.“It has been a real challenge to restore power in all households and establishments in Cebu but we are very hopeful that through the continuing bayanihan of people who are working non-stop to restore electricity service, all homes will be energized soon,” he said.
Spotlight is BusinessWorld’s sponsored section that allows advertisers to amplify their brand and connect with BusinessWorld’s audience by enabling them to publish their stories directly on the BusinessWorld Web site. For more information, send an email to email@example.com.
Join us on Viber to get more updates from BusinessWorld: https://bit.ly/3hv6bLA.