Manila (Philippine Daily Inquirer/ANN) - In times of distress, Filipino ingenuity rises to the occasion.
In operations to help people in distress, rescuers are using ordinary household items and even rubbish to get people to safety.
And they have found a use for condoms that Catholic bishops would surely approve- keeping their gadgets dry.
Yesterday, rescuers who waded into the floods used their bodies and household items to ferry people in flooded communities.
Lieutenant Jayson Diciano of the Philippine Coast Guard said he and his team used Styrofoam, slippers, nets and bamboo sticks to build a stretcher. The team used it to carry a 19-year-old resident of Malabon who was injured.
Diciano said he and his team also carried people on their backs.
Anything that floats
Those who could walk to safety used anything that floats-pails, plastic tubs, driftwood, banana trunks, discarded Styrofoam blocks-to survive the floods.
"This is Filipino ingenuity. When it comes to this kind of situation, we should use all available means," Diciano said.
Cell phones in condoms
"We can't expect every household to have response equipment," he added.
Rescuers from the Philippine National Police Maritime Group used condoms to keep their gadgets dry.
"Do you have one more condom?" one rescuer asked a colleague before boarding a truck to Barangay (village) Sienna in Quezon City, where floodwaters had reached up to roof level.
He was one of dozens of rescuers from the Maritime Group and from the Air Force-trained group Search and Rescue Auxiliary Group Inc. (Saragi) who were proud to pioneer the use of condoms in protecting cell phones and cameras from getting wet in the rain.
"Hindi lang pangpamilya, pang gadgets pa-not only for family planning but also for gadget protection," said Fred Biloy, a volunteer from Saragi.
"Using condoms is the cheapest way to make small gadgets like phones and cameras waterproof," he said.
"It can hold water," he added. "I'm not sure when we started doing this. [But it] had passed on to others because it worked."
On Taft Avenue, pedicab drivers and commuters used pieces of old billboards to protect themselves from the rain. Large plastic bags became raincoats for others.
Lack of equipment
The days of relentless monsoon rains, however, not only coaxed Filipino creativity to surface, but also exposed the dearth in disaster-response equipment in the national and local governments.
"Malabon has an ambulance but they have no stretchers," Diciano said.
"There were many rescuers, but a few rubber boats," Biloy said.
Most rescuers from Saragi were stuck in the trucks that ferried them to flooded communities.
Biloy's team itself had 100 members, but only four rubber boats.
Lt. Cmdr. Armand Balilo, spokesperson of the Philippine Coast Guard, said the Coast Guard had only 12 rubber boats for disaster response. He said the Coast Guard could do better if it had more rubber boats.
"The MMDA (Metropolitan Manila Development Authority) called us last night asking for more rubber boats. But all our boats have been deployed," he said.
Rescuers observed that people responded better to assistance than during the disaster caused by Tropical Storm "Ondoy" (Ketsana) in 2009.
Diciano said people were less hysterical this time. "It was easier for us to convince them to leave their houses," he said.
When Ondoy slammed Manila three years ago, he said, people didn't know what hit them.
Local governments also were more alert and cooperative this time, he added.