Written by Pia L. Camagay, Writer, Operation Blessing Philippines / Photos by Frederick Deserva, Volunteer Photographer

Meet Anica Jane Bellen, born February 7, 2018 in Cutmon, Albay – one of the Mayon evacuation babies.

Denalen Bellen, Anica Jane’s 25-year old mother, became an evacuee at Bariw National High School (BNHS) about a month before her expected due date (February 15th). It was noon when she, her husband, and their two children fled from their home in Brgy. Quirangay. As an expecting mother, Denalen couldn’t help but feel scared. She knew inconveniences of evacuation life and how it could have negative effects on her pregnancy.

Thankfully, the delivery went well.

It was around 8:00 AM on February 7, 2018 when Denalen felt contractions in her stomach. Her husband, a gasoline boy in Legazpi City, was at work at that time. Denalen went to the medical station at the evacuation center to ask for assistance. With only her aunt and the medical team as companions, Denalen was immediately rushed the nearest lying-in clinic in Cutmon, which was about 15-minutes away from Bariw National High School.

A couple of days after her labor, Denalen and Anica Jane are safely resting at the rooming-in facility in Bariw. Before the evacuation, the room served as the guidance counselor’s office. And before it was converted into a rooming-in facility, the room had been the site of Operation Blessing’s medical station.

The Guidance Counselor of BNHS still comes in at the office during daytime to do some work

Despite her joy in welcoming Anica Jane, Denalen struggles as a mother. Even if she and the baby get to stay in a special room, it cannot be denied that the conditions are uncomfortable.

The rooming-in facility is a school room. So there are, of course, no comfortable beds to lie down on. Denalen and Anica Jane sleep on layers of mats and carton with a big mosquito net hanging upon their sleeping area. Most babies can expect to sleep in comfortable cribs upon arriving home. But for Anica Jane, it’s just mats and cartons.

Because the walls of the classrooms in BNHS are made up of thin plywood, it’s easy to hear the noise that comes from other rooms. Denalen shares, “Maingay po tapos nakakatulog gabing-gabi na” (The noise keeps me up late at night). Anica Jane would also often wake up in the middle of the night because of all the commotion.

Because there are a limited number of comfort rooms at the evacuation center, sanitation is also a growing problem. Denalen shares that her two elder children have to deal with long lines before they can use the facilities. “Pila-pila po pag nag-c-CR sila. Tsaka tubig po ang laging [problema] namin” (They have to line up to use the CR. Water is also a constant problem).

Denalen feeding her 5-year old son

While Denalen and Anica Jane have access to an exclusive comfort room at the rooming-in facility, it does not offer the same convenience as the one they have at home. It was obvious that Denalen cannot wait to go back home. She said, “Masaya po pero mas masaya sa bahay po na mag-stay” (We’re happy, but we’d be happier if we could stay at home).

It’s understandable why Denalen craves the comforts and conveniences of home. Mothers and newborns like herself and Anica Jane need extra care and attention. It’s been hard for them to get the nourishment they need while in evacuation. Most of the relief packs that come in are in the form of instant noodles and canned goods, which is why Denalen is grateful to have received a pack of healthy food from Operation Blessing.

At present, there are more than 20 pregnant evacuees at Bariw National High School. With Mayon still on Alert Level 4, there is no telling when they can go back to their homes.

Help us make their condition a little more convenient. Kindly go to http://www.staging2.obphil.com/home/give-through-banks/ or call us at +632 477-7802 to 08 to learn more about giving to Disaster Response Mayon.