“It is the children we are worried about. They cannot bear hunger. Adults can manage but not children.”
By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
TACLOBAN CITY, Leyte — It was the 11th day since Typhoon Yolanda hit the provinces of Eastern Visayas yet the streets of Tacloban City were still reeling from the aftermath of the typhoon with rubbles yet to be cleared, cadavers to be recovered and residents awaiting for relief goods promised to them by the government.
With the seeming slow response that survivors of Typhoon Yolanda have been getting from the national government, residents like Fernando Oquiño, 47, a farmer, wanted to know where the relief packs have been sent. Nearly a week had passed, he added, but only one relief pack that contained two kilos of rice and two canned goods was handed to them.
The Philippine government said it has deployed all the resources of the government to deliver the much needed food, water and medicines to the affected residents. President Aquino wanted to ensure, according to reports, that the “plight of the victims would ease up soonest.” But Oquiño and his wife Benedicta, with eight mouths to feed, find the government’s assistance terribly wanting.
Although the village of Diit does not lie along coastal areas, the strong winds and the flooding brought by Typhoon Yolanda (international name Haiyan), one of the strongest typhoon ever to make landfall, were enough to destroy their homes and the crops they were supposed to harvest in a few days time.
“Everything was destroyed. The cassavas, sweet potatoes and corns I planted were uprooted. It would take a long time before I can start planting again because I have to rebuild this house first. It would spell hunger for all of us. Recovering from this tragedy would be really hard,” Oquiño told Bulatlat.com.
Oquiño said relief packs with food and medicines are sorely needed by the affected families. It would take, he said, about six months before residents would be able to stand on their own and only if they will receive assistance.
“But who would help us?” he said, “The government? I will only believe it when help is already at hand. If help does not reach us, then we cannot do anything about it. I believe not everyone will get their share. I heard the government is giving away donations. But so far, we only managed to get one pack,” Oquiño said.
Hardly no assistance
Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, who left for Leyte on Nov. 14 to check on the devastation brought about by the typhoon, told reporters that she was overwhelmed by the extent of destruction in the affected areas.
She said that there are now improvements in the delivery of relief goods as more roads are now accessible. The national government, she added, has done a lot for the survivors of Typhoon Yolanda.
Several residents interviewed by Bulatlat.com have expressed that they are not getting sufficient help from the government.
Gina Escalona, 57, who was lining up to get relief goods from the Redemptorist Church on Nov. 16, said it is the first time they would receive one.
“I do not know if we are still going to get one from the government. I hope they will send us too. We need flashlights,” Escalano said, who was wounded when she accidentally stepped on a nail during the height of the typhoon.
She said her foot was already swelling. “I have yet to get an anti-tetanus shot. Hospitals said they have none. Right now it is swelling possibly because I am also diabetic. I also do not have medicine for my diabetes.”
Tita Tagolino, 57, one of the evacuees currently residing in the Redemptorist Church, said they have decided to seek shelter there because they have not received assistance in their village, where all the houses along with their belongings were destroyed.
In the church, she added, they at least are getting food from the Redemptorist missionaries. “Otherwise, we would be dead because of hunger. One could hardly pass the road going to our house because the debris and the garbage there have yet to be cleared. Here, we can at least eat,” she said.
So far, the Tagolino family received three packs. The first contained sliced bread, the second included rice and bottled water and the last one had candles, rice and canned goods. All came from the Redemptorist priests.
“We saw several trucks, bearing the logo of the DSWD (Department of Social Welfare and Development), which carried relief goods but none arrived here. We have been waiting for too long for help such as financial assistance, wood, nails and food,” Tagolino said.
Merly Cabidog, 23, one of the evacuees at the Tacloban City Convention Center, said their community in Barangay 60-A Sagkahan has not received any help.
“Here we are getting food from international aid. There was also one from DSWD but it only arrived yesterday (Nov. 16),” Cabidog said.
On Nov. 17, residents lined up outside the legislative building to get relief packs that reportedly came from Tacloban City Vice Mayor Jerry Yaokasin.
Josephine Ablay, a resident, said she has been waiting for nearly an hour. This is only her second time to get a relief pack. Her children, she said, are only eating biscuits and instant noodles.
“We really need rice,” she said.
Oquiño, for his part, said his neighbors received news that the government would be giving financial aid, amounting to P5,000 to P10,000 ($116 to $232). He did not sign up.
Residents of Dulag, several towns from Tacloban City, have also been waiting for relief packs. A helicopter carrying relief goods passed through their area. But according to Annaliz Masion, one of the residents along the coastal areas who lost her home to the storm surge, about 61 families residing in San Jose Central Elementary School, did not get any.
So far, residents have received three relief packs but the first batch only arrived on Nov. 11, about three days after the typhoon hit their community. The relief packs came from their parish priest and the others from their village chief. Good thing, Masion said, that those who arrived from Manila to check on their relatives brought biscuits for them.
“It is the children we are worried about. They cannot bear hunger. Adults can manage but not children,” she said.
Rex Mahinay, another resident of Dulag, said with a lot of international aid that the country has been receiving, it is hard to imagine why survivors of Typhoon Yolanda are not getting any substantial help.
“The people here have been wondering. There is a growing dissatisfaction among the people on the relief goods, or lack of it, that they have been receiving. We received news from Manila that there are a lot of relief goods to be distributed to us,” Mahinay said, adding that so far, his family received six cans of sardines, six packs of instant noodles and four kilos of rice.
In Ormoc, a three-hour drive from Tacloban City, one of the badly hit areas in Leyte, residents, too, are asking where the relief goods are.
Eugenia Taliwala, 61, walked for three hours to get to the city proper of Ormoc after they heard news that there would be relief distribution there. As of the interview, she has not yet received a single relief pack from either the government or the private sector. They have been eating nothing but banana and coconuts since Typhoon Yolanda destroyed their house.
“Yesterday (Nov. 14), we received our first relief pack that was donated from Manila. We got one bag of rice and two instant noodles,” Antonio Inalisan, 53, another resident of Ormoc, told Bulatlat.com.
Nestor Lebico, secretary general of Samahan ng Maliliit na Magsasaka sa Silangang Bisayas, said about 95 percent of the economic activities in typhoon-affected areas were destroyed. Local government units, he added, were not prepared to address the widespread damage, which resulted to incidents of people grabbing what they could from stores right after the typhoon.
“The conditions of the peasants and urban poor are going to get worse. They will face hunger and worse impoverished conditions after the typhoon. Right now, they do not have houses and food,” Lebico said.
Lebico said that it is true that all, both rich and poor, were affected by the typhoon. But it is the poor people who would have more difficulties recovering.
As of this writing, Lebico said, it is safe to say that about 50 percent of the affected residents are still waiting for substantial help from the government. “They keep on saying that there are donations, goods and money at hand. But 50 percent of the people have been experiencing hunger. The government has not given them any relief,” he said.
Tagolino, who was very cheerful during the interview with Bulatlat.com, said despite the tragedy, she remains thankful to God that her family is still alive. No matter how few are the relief pack they have been getting, she said, they share it among themselves.
“It would take a long time before families here could recover. With government assistance, they would slowly rise from this tragedy. But it would take longer if they will not receive any. The people here are depending on relief missions. We are scouting the city looking for one,” Tagolino said.
“But I do not want to totally rely on it. I cannot afford to waste my time waiting for help that might never come,” she added.
Oquiño, for his part, said he and his family would remain strong in the face of these trying times. With or without the government’s help, he said he would strive to get back on their feet and recover from the tragedy, which does not only include Typhoon Yolanda, but the ineptness of the government in looking after the people.