Yolanda survivors in northern Iloilo finally have homes
ILOILO, Philippines – First came the winds, then the waves. In the calm that followed the chaos, Agnes Salvaria and her family found out they lost everything.
A resident of Barangay Taloto-an, an island-village in Concepcion town, Iloilo, Salvaria lost her house and boat when Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) hit the region in November 2013. Like many survivors, she thought life was over.
“When Yolanda hit, we thought our lives would end. We had to run to the fields to find refuge and be saved from the storm surge. We didn’t expect to survive. We’re thankful that God watched over us,” Salvaria recalled.
The weeks that followed proved more difficult for the people of Taloto-an. They had no place for refuge and no means of getting back on their feet.
“Even after we survived the typhoon, we thought our lives would end. We couldn’t rebuild our houses because our sources of livelihood were destroyed. We only rely on fishing so when we lost our boats, we didn't know where to find food and income,” the 37-year-old added.
No one was killed in Taloto-an when the typhoon unleashed its wrath but the fishing village suffered heavy infrastructure damage. The village’s school, barangay hall, chapel, and health centers were inundated by storm surges.
Thankfully, help came immediately. A partner of the Iloilo Caucus of Development NGOs Network (Iloilo CODE-NGOs), Taloto-an received relief goods in the aftermath of the super typhoon.
“They gave us food and clothes. They provided for our daily needs. They gave us new pump boats that we can use for our livelihood,” Salvaria said.
But it wasn’t enough because the people still had no homes.
New houses to call homes
Almost 3 years after the super typhoon hit Iloilo, Salvaria is now enjoying her new home. She was one of the 100 beneficiaries of Iloilo CODE-NGOs and Christian Aid’s “Rebuilding for Better and Resilient Shelter” project in Taloto-an. Her house was turned over in late July.
“The house we had before Yolanda hit was just made of light materials which we pieced together. After Yolanda, we made makeshift walls and ceilings just so we can sleep somewhere,” Salvaria said.
She added: “We’re really thankful that we were given this shelter because now we can sleep soundly, not fearing any calamities. Our new house is stronger and well-built compared to what we have before."
According to Cynthia Espinosa of Iloilo CODE-NGOs, while the housing project in Taloto-an is still underway, the organization has already turned over many shelters in other villages covered by the project.
“Of our two shelter projects here in Concepcion town, construction is ongoing for 100 houses in Taloto-an. In Barangay Polopiña, we were already able to turn over 40 houses to selected beneficiaries,” Espinosa said.
The shelter project was started in September 2014 and is set to be finished by end of September 2016. According to Espinosa, there are a lot of challenges to the project because the island-villages are hard to reach.
“In Taloto-an, for instance, we haven’t finished building all the houses because the logistics is difficult. Our contractors did have difficult time in delivering the materials because of the changing weather. It’s also hard to haul the materials from the shore to the settlement areas,” she added.
Built by and for the communities
The organization tapped the communities in making their own shelters. Espinosa said this makes the beneficiaries more invested in the project.
“We don’t have any problems in labor because we agreed beforehand that the beneficiaries would help the contractors and carpenters in building their own homes. They also assist in hauling materials,” she added.
The new houses are built following a design that can withstand harsh weather conditions like the super typhoon. The locations where the houses are built are identified safe zones from storm surges, flooding, and other hazards.
“When we explained to them that the design can withstand typhoons, they were really glad. They feel more secure now compared to where they used to live before Yolanda came. Now, they don’t have to worry whenever it rains,” Espinosa said.
Never truly healed?
In the island-village of Tabugon in nearby Carles town, Riana Pearl Andes is enjoying the security of her new shelter given by the same organizations. Like Salvaria, she lost everything when Yolanda hit her village.
“My house was washed out along with my parents’ house. They were able to rebuild because of my siblings’ help. My husband and I couldn’t rebuild our house though because we don’t have any resources. So we’ve been living with them since,” Andes said.
She recalled: “We didn’t have any dry clothes. We’d sleep in our wet clothes and in our kitchen because that was the only part of the house that was left. I was even pregnant with one of my kids then so it was really difficult.”
While Andes’ family has recovered from the typhoon and her husband is back to fishing, she still feels the trauma inflicted by Yolanda and believes it wil always remain.
“Every time it rains, I still feel nervous. I don’t know what to do even if I have a new home now. I think I have developed a phobia because every time the wind howls, I feel afraid,” Andes said.
According to Andes, they are slowly starting over with their lives thanks to the new house, “Our quality of life has improved greatly because of this blessing. Now, my husband’s income only go to our food so we can save. It’s a lot of help to us.”
Rehabilitation not over
While Iloilo CODE-NGOs and Christian Aid’s shelter project are already done in Tabugon and Polopiña, Espinosa says the work isn’t done until every beneficiary has a new home.
“We look forward for the project in Taloto-an to finish because many of our beneficiaries there are senior citizens and those with kids from 0 to 5 years old. They still don’t have decent homes. We are pushing the contractors to finish the project before September ends,” she said.
The organizations also hope the beneficiaries will take good care of their new homes.
“They should maintain their houses well because for many of them, that’s the only thing they have now while their livelihoods haven’t fully gone back to normalcy. We want them to enjoy their lives in their new houses and live in a safe environment,” Espinosa said.
The residents of Taloto-an and Tabugon have rebuilt their lives from scratch since November 2013. Yolanda has tested their resilience and they know, with their new stronger homes, that they can now survive whatever calamity comes their way.
When the real test comes, the survivors of northern Iloilo know they will be ready. – Rappler.com
This is part of a series of stories on Iloilo CODE and Christian Aid's post-Yolanda project "Rebuilding for the Better." From August 9 to 11, a team from the organizations took MovePH to the rehabilitation sites in northern Iloilo to evaluate and document the completion of the project. The rehabilitation project covers 4 themes: renewable energy, shelter, coastal management, and livelihood. Check out the other stories here: