Relatives of Yolanda victims express worries, anger over slow government response

“Some may have survived the typhoon, but can they survive the aftermath?” relatives of typhoon-ravaged areas ask.


MANILA – Juanita Bonifacio, 61, was wiping her tears during a protest action on Nov. 15, Friday at the national office of the National Food Authority (NFA). When she got the chance to speak before the crowd, Bonifacio expressed her anxiety because she has not received any news from her relatives in Dulag, Leyte.

“Please help the people of Leyte. President Aquino, they voted for you even if Imelda Marcos is from Leyte. The people of Leyte still voted for you. Please help them; please stop playing politics,” Bonifacio pleaded.

Bonifacio told that she still has not heard from her parents and four siblings who reside in San Jose, Dulag, Leyte. She is worried sick as she has not seen the names of her relatives in lists of survivors being published by news agencies. “I am worried and nervous,” Bonifacio told She said every time she monitors the news in television; she carefully looks at the lists of people hoping that she could see one of her relatives.

She got even more worried when her niece posted in Facebook that only two of them have survived and they have not yet heard from other relatives in Leyte. “My two relatives who confirmed that they survived were in Tacloban when the typhoon hit because my niece works in a mall there. But our relatives in Dulag live in the coastal area, that is why I am so nervous,” Bonifacio told

Fe Ramirez, 46, is also worried about what happened to her relatives. “The only news I received was that one uncle of mine had died. But I still haven’t received word from the rest of my family – my aunts and cousins – if they survived or not,” she told

Both Ramirez and Bonifacio came from Eastern Visayas. They are here in Manila to look for jobs because of the difficult life in the province. Ramirez was born in Guiuan, Samar while Bonifacio was born in Dulag.

“There is one barangay in Dulag where almost all of the residents are my relatives. I am worried for them too, I don’t know if they survived,” Bonifacio said.

Government’s ineptitude

What is more tormenting for them is the government’s ineptitude in search and rescue operations. Since day one after Yoland ravaged the Visayas islands, Bonifacio said, the government should have been able to respond immediately. “They have all the resources. I know they can do something; there are many ways to get there but they are not doing it,” Bonifacio said.

As relatives here in Manila anxiously wait for news about their loved ones, their anguish have slowly turned to anger at the government’s ineptitude.

“How irresponsible for this government not to act fast enough to protect its citizens,” Ramirez said.

Myrna Javier, 46, also from Borongan, Eastern Samar does not only feel grief. She is also furious. “We are very angry. What’s taking it so long for them to rescue the people in the affected provinces? We want to storm Malacañang,” she told referring to the government’s sluggish response.

Juanita Bonifacio worries for her parents and siblings living in Dulag, Leyte. (Photo by Anne Marxze D. Umil/
Juanita Bonifacio worries for her parents and siblings living in Dulag, Leyte. (Photo by Anne Marxze D. Umil/

As of the Nov. 20, update of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC), the death toll has reached 4,011, 18,557 were injured and 1,602 people are still missing. At least 2,166,891 families or 10,047,652 people from 10,560 villages in 44 provinces had reportedly been affected by Yolanda’s rampage. News reports also showed that many bodies are already decomposing and some are beyond recognition.

Bonifacio, Ramirez and Javier have no clue if their loved ones are included in the statistics being released by the government.

Javier said her sister will go to Borongan, Eastern Samar to check on their relatives. She said that instead of downplaying the number of casualties, the government should concentrate on how to quickly respond to the people’s needs.

Ramirez said, “Whenever I hear someone coming from Leyte, I always ask if they have any news about my relatives.” She said displaced families who fled Leyte have been arriving in their community in Quezon City to stay temporarily with their relatives. She said she cannot go to the province to check because of she has no money for the fare.

‘Exert more efforts on relief and rescue operations’

Bonifacio was on the verge of crying when she said, “The people have lost everything there, and yet the government seems not to care.”

While news reports show that the government has been conducting relief and rescue operations, Bonifacio said she doubts if remote areas have already been reached by the government. “The news did not cover our place in Dulag, which is far from Tacloban.”

Meanwhile in Capiz, both parents of Tin Ciubal, 30, were fortunate to have survived. “They evacuated to a safer place when the typhoon hit,” she told However, their house, which was made of wood, was destroyed by Yolanda. “Nothing was left, our house was totally wrecked. We have to save money so that we can rebuild our house.”

Her parents said no help from the government has ever reached their village in Capiz. Ciubal doubts that the government would reach their place because it is a remote village. “People there are relying on each other and on their relatives rather than expect something to come from the national government.”

“The government should respond to the victims’ needs,” said Javier. She said for as long as relief operations are delayed, people would be more desperate. “And then they call them looters? Isn’t it their fault that people have reached this level of desperation?”

“Some may have survived the typhoon, but can they survive the aftermath?” Bonifacio asked.

For Ramirez, Bonifacio and Javier, they can only wish and pray that their relatives are still alive.