Olango cop chief recalls Odette experience: Super typhoon strengthened police, community ties
CEBU CITY, Philippines — The Super Typhoon Odette, particularly in Olango Island, may have brought havoc in the island, but it strengthened the police and community relationship much more.
This was what Police Major Michael Gingoyon, the former station commander of the Olango Police Station, now the chief of Cordova Police Station, said, after their station also had a fair share of the destruction caused by Odette. The super typhoon wrecked 70 to 80 percent of their two-storey police station situated in Olango Island.
In Dec. 16, 2021, around 7 p.m., amid the efforts made to protect their police station from the onslaught of Super Typhoon Odette, but the howler’s wrath did not spare the Olango policemen’s office.
“Atong mga alas 7 sa gabie, ang marecall nako, kusog na kaayo ang hangin adto. Mga 6 p.m. nagstart og brownout and by 7 p.m., pinakauna nga nangabuak na amoang window glass sa station, labi na sa babaw. 60 percent ato mga window glass na gyud kay bag o man to sya nga station,” Gingoyon said.
(At 7 p.m., I recalled, that the wind was already very strong. It was at 6 p.m. when we had a brownout, and by 7 p.m., the glass windows in the station, especially the ones on the second floor had started to break. 60 percent of the glass windows of the station were glass windows because the station was fairly new at that time.)
Seeing that the second floor of their station was no longer safe for them, they immediately took their valuables and hid at the station’s custodial facility.
Who would have thought that of all the areas in their station, the detention facility would be their safe space for hours? For three long hours, the Olango police stayed with a few of their detainees inside their custodial facility.
“Pagkanaug namo, nakita nako ang pinakasafest way sa may custodial facility. More or less mga three hours gyud mi didtu hangtud sa naghinay hinay na ang hangin ug ang ulan,” Gingoyon said.
(When I went down, I saw that the safest area was the custodial facility. We were there for more or less three hours until the wind and the rain has already slowed down.)
Gingoyon said that it took them around seven months to bring their police station back to where it once was before Odette hit. This was because they prioritized helping the community such as in the clearing operations and in the distribution of relief goods to the residents there.
“Days after the Odette, wala sa namo giatiman ang among police station ato. Ang amoang giatiman kay ang atong clearing efforts, recover sa casualties, most importantly, sa relief operations para ma-prevent ang chaos kay halos tanan nanginahanglan man og pagkaon ug tubig,” Gingoyon said.
(Days after Odette, we did not focus on the police station then. What we focused on were the clearing efforts, recovery of the casualties, and most importantly, in the relief operations so that we could prevent chaos from happening because everybody needed food and water.)
“Apil sad mi, wa mi mga tubig. As far as I can remember, didto mi nangaon sa kung asa mi nahunong sa clearing operations namo. Nagbawon ramig pagkaon,” he added.
(We also did not have water. As far as I can remember, we ate where we stopped our clearing operations. We just brought along our food.)
After two to three months of prioritizing their community efforts, they then turned to fix their police station. He said that the local government unit, their partner stakeholders, and private individuals really helped in all their needed construction materials.
From this experience, Gingoyon said that resiliency was really the biggest lesson he learned, making sure that they could cope despite several obstacles.
Since majority of their personnel have families outside Olango Island, including himself, Gingoyon said that days after the onslaught of Odette, he allowed half of his personnel to check their respective families and the remaining personnel to continue with the station’s services, vice versa.
There are more or less 30 personnel of the Olango Island Pollice Station and five to ten percent of these are residents of the island. This, he said, was an additional challenge for them.
“Pero mao man na ang gipanumpaan namo, so kailangan gyud to namo trabahuon kung unsa gyud ang angay namong trabahuon knowing nga ang public nangailangan gyud atong time-a sa amoang full support and assistance sa amoa,” Gingoyon said.
(But that is my sworn duty, so we had to work on what needed to be worked on, knowing that the public at that time needed our full support and assistance.)
In his 11 years of service, this was so far his most devastating first-hand experience of a typhoon-related calamity.
Olango slowly rising from ashes
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