The women who stole

Patricia Evangelista
They are in Cebu, far away from the carnage that is left of Tacloban. They will start again, because they are women who have discovered they can do what they must.

SURVIVAL. A young girl stands on debris in San Jose, Tacloban, one of the hardest-hit areas in Tacloban City. Photo by Jake Verzosa.

CEBU, Philippines – They left home at 6 in the morning, 7 women and 4 children wearing makeshift masks, walking over a broken road lined with corpses in black body bags. 

Look straight ahead, they told the children. Keep walking. They walked, past dozens of bodies lining the sidewalks, past the stadium with crumpled government cars wedged into fence posts, past a twisted chain link fence and the long lines of the waiting.

Jane is 28. Her husband is a seaman, the only boy among 4 children of a policeman and his wife. He was not in Tacloban when Yolanda whipped through the city. Two days later his wife and child walked 5 hours from Palo, Leyte, to his mother’s home in Aslum Sagkahan in Tacloban City.

There was no transportation. The lucky ones find motorcycles, says Jane, and steal gas off open pipes at petrol stations like her sister-in-law did when she rode in from Tanauan. 

Now there are 7 women at the airport in Cebu, safely out of Tacloban, the widow with her daughters and nieces and daughter-in-law Jane stepping out of a C130 cargo plane, trailing children of one and 4 and 7 and 11. They survived 5 days without food or water or electricity, they don’t intend to try for more.


We looted, they say.

Their mother Antoinette is proud. It was the 2 youngest who took to the road, leaving home at one in the morning in the dead of the night. (READ: Yolanda survivors desperate for aid)

It was a three-hour walk. They followed the crowd, all the way to a warehouse with a shattered roof. They climbed the broken wall, up the roof and down to the building filled with thieves. They thought they would find only rice, but the women took home more. Sardines, water, whatever they could carry.

They were brave, says their mother. They were hungry, say the girls.

It was six in the morning when they got home. It was dangerous, because to steal also means people might steal from you. 

They insist it’s not difficult to be women, they say laughing, because they survived. There were rumors of rape, from the next village, from the next family, it is why they stood guard.

Today they are in Cebu, far away from the carnage of Tacloban. They will sign the government registers, they will ride the bus out of the airport, and they will start again, because they are women who have discovered they can do what they must. –

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