MANILA, Philippines – Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) was the strongest typhoon to hit land in recent history. It ravaged many parts of the Visayas, claiming more than 6,000 lives and destroying billions of pesos worth of properties.
Some 8 months after the super typhoon, survivors are still in the process of rebuilding their lives. Despite the outpour of support from the international community and many civil society organizations, as well as government rehabilitation efforts, most survivors’ lives are still not back to normalcy.
What do survivors from Yolanda-battered areas have to say to President Benigno Aquino III as he delivers his 5th State of the Nation Address (SONA)? What are their needs that the government hasn’t been able to provide?
Here are some letters to President Aquino from Yolanda survivors in the Visayas.
“Dear Pres. Noynoy Aquino,
Alas, I would like to wish you good tidings, but at this very moment the eastern seaboard of our country is being subjected to fierce weather conditions brought about by Typhoon Inday. Even after Inday, our local weather agency is forecasting another storm to arrive in the next few weeks.
Have we already learned from the blunders committed during Super Typhoon Yolanda, in preparation for the incoming storms in our path? In a way, yes. People already know all too well what storm surges are. People are, to say the least, more obedient when ordered by their respective LGUs to evacuate to safer areas.
But what about the politics that reared its ugly head even in the midst of a humanitarian crisis such as Yolanda? I am not sure.
Despite all your claims that there was no politicking involved, your administration’s bungling of the Yolanda incident has left a deep scar, even deeper than the healing wounds on the flesh of those who faced the massive howler and the flying/floating debris that came with it.
When the people of Leyte and Eastern Samar needed your help most, especially exactly after the super typhoon’s wrath, your representatives on the ground were quaking in fear with their tails between their legs. They took off as soon as the first flight out came, leaving the survivors “high and dry,” in a manner of speaking. Only after several days – when looting was already prevalent and general chaos was spreading – did your envoy return, if only to emphasize political colors over anything else. What was even more appalling was the fact that before Leyte residents could see traces of assistance from your armed forces, international teams of medics and military troops were already coming in droves to the hard-hit areas, securing the airport and other installations from looters and thieves, and giving first aid to injured and suffering victims. By the time the local armed forces arrived, everything was already running like clockwork.
Then there was the disturbing body count. Sacking the Tacloban City police chief for estimating a total of 10,000 deaths from Yolanda and persistently bringing down the number of deaths to only 6,500 made us realize your administration’s penchant for putting on facades to mask the ugly truth. The joke about unidentified bodies being classified as debris is not funny, Mr. President. What was your administration trying to hide – the fact that you grossly underestimated the impact of Super Typhoon Yolanda on those directly in its path, as well as its repercussions on your standing before the international community?
The politicking continues until today, Mr. President, as well as the corruption among supposed public servants that knows no hell nor high waters. And now, as you stand before the Filipino people anew in your State of the Nation address, we – the Yolanda survivors and their relatives – will be earnestly listening to you. The moment you laud your administration about how well it handled Yolanda, you can be assured that by 2016, whoever you endorse for president will go down in flames in Region 8 by election time.”
– Dinky Rodriguez, IT Manager whose family in Tacloban was affected by Yolanda
“Dear Mr. President,
My name is Noel Batoto of Brgy. Lat-osaa, Palompon, Leyte. My family and I have been receiving help since Yolanda happened. The food packs we’ve been getting are from the barangay, and the municipal hall. We also received help from the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) in form of canned goods and rice. The materials we used to rebuild our house were also from the government and Oman.
Dear Mr President, I would like to express my sincerest gratitude to you and to everyone who helped me and my family.”
– Noel Batoto, Palompon, Leyte
“Dear Mr. President,
Now on your 4th year as President of the nation, what you said in your inaugural address is still instilled in our minds, when you told the Filipino people that “Kayo ang boss ko” it gave us so much hope that time has come when the welfare of the Filipino people is the utmost priority of the government. Unfortunately, these all remained hopes, hope for a brighter future, hope for free education, hope for genuine agrarian reform, hope for better and free health services and a lot more. Until now the Filipino masses are still yearning for these all to come true and it seems like your administration doesn’t see these realities. Your “daang matuwid” has made a wrong turn that led to numerous programs that has been very consequential for your constituents.
As students, we feel that the government is slowly abandoning our sector, programs like the RPHER, the Socialized Tuition Scheme in UP and the continuously shrinking “real value” of the budget for education has made education inaccessible for the common people. Education has ceased to become a right and now a privilege. Only those who can afford can avail of education! Colonial policies have greatly compromised the quality of our education. In your effort to please the international community, you implemented a program like the K-12 to impress them. However, this not only isn’t the answer to our problem but has actually made it worse. We believe that the Philippines can impress the world in its own way.
Recently, the issue on DAP has surface and we saw how you defended DAP; if only you are as dedicated in the way you fought for DAP in fighting for the rights and welfare of the Filipino people then probably your administration has done more things that probably made life for us easier. Victims of the different calamities in the past years have experienced this the most, your neglect of the victims of these calamities was a greater disaster than all the calamities that hit the Philippines combined.
We hope you stop the blame game and man up, Mr. President, do what you are supposed to do and I hope you do it for the Filipino people. We appreciate your efforts – hold the people who stole from us accountable – but we hope it would be fair to all and stop protecting your “friends” who also stole from the people. Mr. President, be the leader of this nation and not just a few because if you can’t, we wish you would graciously step down from power.“
– Shawn Capucion, Chairperson of UP SC Tacloban
I am Marilyn Dotillos from Barangay Mazawalo, Palompon, Leyte. MY husband is a fisherman and we have 10 children, some of them already have their own families.
I will never forget my experience with my family during Yolanda on November 8, 2013. Even if it’s been 8 months since the typhoon, the experience is still fresh in our minds and hearts. The super typhoon left a dent in our hearts. During Yolanda, my family and I thought the world was ending. We were so thankful that Yolanda passed by our area without claiming any of my family’s lives, even if it destroyed our home.
Our house was reduced to nothing when the storm hit. Our boat was also wrecked by Yolanda. With this tragedy, I asked myself if we will be able to stand up and go back to normalcy. All that we’ve been building were lost.
Because of God’s help, we remained strong. We contented to hope. Then came the relief goods and the materials we used to rebuild our home. I realized that Yolanda brought both devastation and beauty, because we saw how other people responded to others in need.
I thank our LGU in Palompon and the government with my whole heart for the help. I thank the various medical teams who gave treatment to my son who has epilepsy. I thank everyone who helped rise above the tragedy that is Yolanda.
Thank God and thank you.
– Marilyn Dotillos, Palompon Leyte
– With reports from David Lozada/ Rappler.com
The views expressed in this column are the letter senders’ own.
Do you have anything to say to President Benigno Aquino III? E-mail your letters to firstname.lastname@example.org. Use #DearPresident in the subject line of your e-mail.
Help illustrate the story of the nation! Send your photos and a brief caption to email@example.com. Use #StoryofTheNation in the subject line of your e-mail.
There are no comments yet. Add your comment to start the conversation.