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Typhoon Pablo evacuees seek shelter in SM City Cagayan de Oro
By Elson T. Elizaga

When typhoon Sendong struck Cagayan de Oro, SM City Cagayan de Oro (SMCDO) responded first by doing the usual: The management opened the mall, allowing continuous supply of goods. Other malls quickly ran out of supply, so SMCDO became the major source of commodities to customers and various organization doing relief efforts.

The yellow packages of SM became such a common sight in affected barangays that a barangay chairman, interviewed by a radio station, expressed gratitude to SM for help. In reality, an organization had purchased and delivered the packaged goods from SMCDO.

SMCDO also went to various communities as far as Iligan City to directly give food, clothing, and other needs. It was the first organization to assist the survivors, going first to barangay Bayabas, then barangay Bonbon and barangay Balulang. SM Foundation also donated money for the construction of concrete houses in one of the relocation sites in barangay Canitoan.

The entire relief activity was headed by Debby Go, the assistant vice-president for Operations of SM Supermalls in Mindanao. As a result of this humanitarian effort, SM won an award from the International Council of Shopping Centers.

On December 3, 2012, another super typhoon called "Pablo" -- international name: "Bopha" -- sent many residents to evacuation sites prepared by the local government. One site was Manresa Farm of Xavier University, located across SMCDO. Tents were put up in the area, under coconut palms, but when the wind became overwhelmingly powerful and the tents began to collapse, evacuees hurriedly abandoned the area and ran to SMCDO, first under the waiting shed, then to the ground floor of the car park building. This area quickly became overcrowded. The manager eventually decided to tell the evacuees to move to the fourth floor of the car park.

Following is an excerpt of the official report of Clara G. Elizaga, manager of SM City Cagayan de Oro.

Number of families sheltered 1,221 (composed of 4,838 individuals), which is 13.5% of the total number of evacuees during Typhoon Pablo in Cagayan de Oro.
Duration of shelter Dec. 3 (10:00 AM) to Dec. 5 (9:00 AM)
Assistance by SMCDO
  • Shelter (Door 5 and 4th level of car park building)
  • Comfort rooms
  • Light and electricity for charging cell phones and for operating other electrical equipment
  • Hot water and cold drinking water
  • Chairs and benches
Volunteers and partners
  • Philippine Red Cross -- 12 volunteers
  • City Social Welfare and Development (CSDW) -- five volunteers
Barangay residences of evacuees
  • Carmen
  • Kauswagan
  • Bonbon
  • Balulang


SM City Cagayan de Oro prepared the ground floor for the evacuees. But it became too crowded and humid -- the air conditioner was switched off because of the blackout. The evacuees were then asked to transfer to the larger, ventilated fourth floor.
The City Social Welfare and Development put up a registration table at car park building.
Evacuees on the way to the fourth floor of the car park building.
4,838 people occupied the fourth floor of SM City Cagayan de Oro car park building
The fourth floor of SM City Cagayan de Oro car park building.
This command center also provided free cold and hot drinking water.
The command center gave free cold and hot drinking water. Evacuees were also allowed to use the DC sockets to charge their cellphones and laptops.
Published Sunday, December 16, 2012. Updated April 16, 2014. Elson T. Elizaga, the author of this article, is the husband of SM City Cagayan de Oro mall manager Clara G. Elizaga.

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