Mixed Martial Arts

Yolanda still haunts children, families in Iloilo

Roma R. Gonzales

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Yolanda survivors from Iloilo are grateful for the temporary shelter but they complain about the lack of livelihood

TRANSIENT. These bunkhouses supported by international organizations and NGOs in cooperation with some government offices serve as homes to 101 families for 2 to 3 more years. Photo by Althea Marie M. Elle

ILOILO, Philippines – While insomniacs seek sleep and serenity from rain sound loops, children from Northern Iloilo relive nightmare and terror.

Girlie Cataluna, 32, wife of a farmer and mother of two said, “Ang mga bata nahadlok ron (The children are scared).”

She sat in front of her wooden house in Geronimo, Barotac Viejo, built from the very trees felled by Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) and from the aid of generous individuals.

Okra and purple camote tops adorned her yard. A swarm of dragonflies and orange and pink cosmos greeted her school-age daughter who just came home for lunch break. But Girlie’s eyes were glazed and sorrowful as she retold the story of how they stood against the howling wind and rain, and how they are trying to make ends meet at present.

Kung magbaskog ang ulan, gahambal tana, ‘D’yan ruman, d’yan ruman,’” she said about her daughter. (When it rains hard, she would say, ‘Here it goes again, here it goes again.’”)

At the height of Yolanda’s rampage, Girlie’s family saw the roofs over their heads being peeled away piece by piece. For two months, they lived and celebrated Christmas in a makeshift shelter built from the tatters of their old home.

A similar echo

Nona Jeane Gabayeron was pregnant when Yolanda ravaged her town of Concepcion in the 5th district where the death toll in the whole of Iloilo province was the highest. The child in her belly is now plump and happy, smiling readily when teased even by strangers. But at the corner of the room was 4-year-old Jhian whose head hung low as she ate quietly from a cup.

Gasala-sala na siya kung mag-ulan. Mahambal siya ‘Ara naman’ (She panics when it rains. She would say ‘Here it comes again),” Nona confessed.

Jhian would cry, only to be pacified by her mother’s reassurance and embrace.

Thirteen days after Yolanda’s landfall, Ianna was born in Concepcion town, which was shrouded in death and destruction. Her family presently lives in a temporary bunkhouse a year later. 

Loida Asturias, 62, claimed that even she feels nervous whenever it begins to rain heavily. Last year, she had to wade in neck-high waters only to find a vacant lot where her house stood. She was screaming through the day in desperate search of her family.

Her 6-year-old granddaughter, Ayrin, would cry as well, saying things like “Mabagyo naman ni (There’s going to be a typhoon again)” to which a helpless hakus (embrace) is her only form of relief.

Ginahambalan ko na siya nga gapamunyag lang sila tanom sa sagwa,” Loida said. (I would tell her that they’re only watering plants outside.)

Healing the wounds 

YOUNG AND OLD. Nelly Paclibar will never forget how she had to wrap her then infant grandson Nel John in blankets just to keep him warm as violent wind and rain tore their house to the ground. The family has rebuilt a new home but like the rest of the residents interviewed in this story, they are still waiting for the government’s calamity fund that is expected to arrive in January 2015 yet.  Photo by Althea Marie M. Elle

Girlie’s family borrowed money to rebuild their house through partida bugas system (paying money with harvested rice) and is still trying to pay the debt in full. They consider themselves lucky when an Australian soldier saw a picture of their devastated house on Facebook and donated 12 pieces of metal roofs.

According to Judith Barredo, social welfare officer II of DSWD Region VI, P30,000 for every household with totally damaged houses and P10,000 for those with partially damaged houses have been approved as part of the P8-billion rehabilitation plan. The regional office is yet to receive the said budget. 

Remedios Ballaret, municipal social welfare and development officer of Barotac Viejo, said that no calamity fund has reached the residents. They just received the order this October to finalize the list of residents who need monetary assistance.

Meanwhile, Nona Jeane, Jhian, Loida and Ayrin live in a temporary shelter in Concepcion, Iloilo. This cluster of bunkhouses will serve as home to 464 people for 2-3 years until permanent residences under SM Housing Care are completed.

They received support from International Organization for Migration (IOM), Save the Children, Americares, the European Union, and the Canadian government in cooperation with the Department of Social Welfare and Development, and the Department of Health. (READ: The people, places one year after Typhoon Yolanda)

Residents get free medicines, vaccines and consultations every Wednesday. Every household receives grocery supplies every month. Jhian and other children her age go to the local daycare center and tend a garden of vegetables.

They are grateful for the temporary shelter but complain about the lack of livelihood. Most of the families’ breadwinners were fishermen but the relocation in the highlands made the old occupation impractical. Heat during the day and the lack of privacy are also concerns. The residents also claimed no stress debriefing has been given to them since the disaster struck.

Perhaps, it was an awful question to ask Nona Jeane and Loida if they received any form of psychological support when they have not even received a centavo promised by the government. – Rappler.com

Roma Gonzalez is a member of the Typhoon Yolanda Story Hub Visayas.

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