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Special Feature

No dark Christmas



The last thing that got blown off by the wind in the Salazar family’s house was the thought of how in this sorry state of affairs they’ll be able to celebrate Christmas.

For years, Christmas in this part of Catanduanes is subject to the vagaries of the weather. And, for years, they got by. There were days Minda Salazar’s kids would peer outside their foggy windows and lament: The hurricane would soon pass, sure. But it could have waited for the holidays to be over, so that they could go from house to house to sing their Christmas carols.

That is to say Catanduanes is built to weather any storm. But not this one.

There were nary windows to peer out of, no wishful thinking altogether of singing Christmas carols soon at the wake of no typical storm, with most of the houses in this part of the island-province swept away by the winds and the roaring tides.

Per the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, some 10,000 houses were destroyed, while 19,000 others were partially damaged in Catanduanes.

But Minda is hell-bent in rebuilding their lives.

Scouring for what little remained of their home under flood and rubble, she found a miniature Christmas tree and brought it back to the house that once was. Pushed over the edge of loneliness, the family sat around the tree at night, and, with practically no roof above their heads, watched the shifting stars.

“Wait for the tree to light up,” Minda told the children. “It will be truly majestic.”

No odds too daunting

But word got out that restoring electricity in Catanduanes may take up to two months, with over 53,000 households in parts of Luzon fearing they would have to celebrate their Christmas in the dark.

And so, the efforts began in earnest, with a 48-man contingent composed of Meralco linemen and engineers and One Meralco Foundation (OMF) volunteers barreling down Virac, the capital of Catanduanes, on 8 November, to work round the clock to expedite the restoration of power services in affected areas in the province.

The volunteers were enlisted to be part of the Power Restoration Rapid Deployment (PRRD)-Task Force 2020, which closely coordinates with the Department of Energy (DoE), National Electrification Administration, Philippine Rural Electric Cooperatives Association Inc., and the electric cooperatives in Catanduanes to restore the lights before Christmas.

Besides helping restore power in the typhoon-hit areas, the MVP Group continues to ramp up relief efforts. The Alagang Kapatid Foundation Inc. provided free charging to residents who have been without electricity or only with limited cell phone access using Meralco’s generator set.

OMF also deployed its solar-powered mobile charging station in areas that are experiencing power interruptions to allow affected residents to keep their mobile devices powered and be able to contact their loved ones.

In every disaster, Meralco is going above and beyond the call of service. And it cannot wait for the holidays to be over, recognizing the happiness afforded, especially at Christmastime, by the gift of electricity.