Rebounding After Sendong

ILIGAN CITY — Bonifacio “Boni” Valendez sits behind a broken window, where he tries to recover from painful memories and a great loss.

In the middle of the night, tropical storm Sendong made heavy downpour and caused a huge flashflood that caught the whole city unaware. For Boni, it was out of his duty as a barangay peace and order volunteer that motivated him to go that night and warn the residents of Orchid Village, a middle class subdivision near Bayug River.

He went from one house to the next, informing the neighborhood of the impending disaster, which he thought was one of those usual perennial floods. But then in an instant, raging waters carrying mammoth logs and uprooted trees with mud came rushing and submerged the whole village.

Boni looked behind him and saw what he dreaded the most. His house collapsed and disappeared into the rushing water, along with his loved ones.

He recalled swimming for safety to a nearby roof, where he saw a lot of people afloat—some struggling to survive, others already cold dead. He wanted to save lives, but the strong flood current stopped him, even just to touch a finger of a drifting body. Helping is impossible even if he wanted to.

By daytime, he saw the fatalities of the flood. The whole place became desolated with hundreds of houses gone, while those still standing were either filled with mud or damaged by the huge logs that floated with flood.

Immediately, he went to the exact spot where his house was once located, but he knew from what he saw that night that his family did not make it.

Grieving Husband, Mourning Father

Boni is evidently grieving when Operation Blessing (OB) met him at a ruined house in Orchid Village. It is in this house that he sits behind the small broken window and stares blankly beyond the sea.

Boni played professional basketball from 1985 to 1994 with the Pepsi team in Cagayan de Oro, Mama’s Love in Cebu, PICOP in Surigao Del Norte, and some seasons in UAAP and NCAA.

During his prime, some PBA stars like Alvin Patrimonio and Bonel Balingit were once playing hard with him in the court. But sadly, his multiple injuries prevented him to pursue basketball again.

He went home to Iligan, got married, and raised a family. Through his small hollow block making enterprise, and with his wife earning through a networking business, their children made it well to school.

But everything changed when the ill-fated storm ravaged the city. Thousands of lives and millions worth of properties were lost, including Boni’s.

The emptiness of losing four members of his family—with only one remaining son, who will also leave him soon after deciding to marry—is too much for a man to bear.

Rebuilding Block by Block

Operation Blessing encouraged Boni to start anew by offering to rebuild his hollow block business so he can help his workers who survived the flood. The pain inside him will slowly subside as he sees them move on, too, from their tragedy.

Dr. Kim April Pascual, EVP and COO of Operation Blessing, told him that by infusing new capital to his microenterprise, he could now help other Sendong victims like him.

It seemed unusual to Boni that a group like Operation Blessing could offer livelihood assistance that fast, but he obliged and said yes when the OB team instructed him to canvass for the exact molder he needs so he can start jumpstart his livelihood again.

Last March, he informed the team that he already found the right molder he needed, as well as some raw materials making hollow blocks.

When OB met Boni, a glimpse of hope lit in his face, the first time that the team saw his very reserved smile. His smile speaks something of a new hope, affirming that, indeed, there is always a rainbow after a storm.

After helping Boni purchase his first molder, the OB team encouraged him to immediately look for another molder so he can hasten production. His hollow block business is so timely in the aftermath of Sendong, when rebuilding of houses by the hundreds is now ongoing.

Before the month of April ended, Boni received another hollow block molder and additional capital for his now bourgeoning business. To date, he now employs 20 people helping him in his livelihood.

Like the story of Job in the Old Testament, Boni’s humility and trust in God made him slowly recover what were lost and destroyed by the flashflood. His is another story of success in the making.

Let us continue praying for Boni and the people working with him that they will completely rebound from the agony brought by Sendong through the help that Operation Blessing and partners like YOU provide.

TOGETHER, LET’S BUILD DREAMS AGAIN!

Your partnership with The 700 Club can help disaster victims on their way to recovery. Sign up with us TODAY. | by Rob Saballero, Operation Blessing

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