‘Life was the only thing we managed to save’

The Philippine government has been banking on the poor’s resiliency to rise above yet another disaster in an attempt to evade accountability. But after surviving yet another raging flood that took away their homes and belongings, Kasiglahan residents are at a loss as to how to start all over again.

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RODRIGUEZ, Rizal – A week after Typhoon Ulysses (international name Vamco) left the country, couple Aya and Rolando Fuentes went back to their house in Kasiglahan Village to scoop the mud out; Roberto using a shovel and pale, and Aya her bare hands and feet.

Roberto Fuentes came home from work after Typhoon Ulysses struck Kasiglahan Village. He found his family traumatized and their house in deep mud.

Like the many housing units in the area, they have no tap water.

“We could at least lessen the mud,” Aya, 40, told Bulatlat in Filipino. “If we would be able to clean the house, at least we can cook our own food.”

Aya Fuentes narrates how the raging flood submerged the houses at Kasiglahan Village.

For now, they have no cooking utensils, relying only on donations to get through each day. All their belongings were swept away by the raging flood on Nov. 12. That day, Roberto was still at work, and Aya was left with the four children. When the flood was already knee deep, Aya tagged along her three children, and her father who lives nearby to the evacuation center. Her eldest son, 17, volunteered to stay behind to look after their belongings. He stayed on the roof for 12 hours.

“I was so worried I was crying all night,” Aya, a survivor of Supertyphoon Yolanda (international name: Haiyan), said. “My trauma came back.”

Her father convinced her to relocate to Kasiglahan Village, a government housing project, three years ago. “I never thought this would happen. When will my misfortunes end?”

Roberto and his son share a light moment outside their home at Kasiglahan Village.

Her eldest son was rescued the following day. Roberto, a carpenter for a small company in Alabang, Muntinlupa, had to borrow money from his co-workers so he could go home. He has not reported for work since. “How could I leave my family in this situation?” he told Bulatlat.

Like the Fuentes family, Mary Jean Donasco, 43, was not able to save anything.

“Life was the only thing we managed to save,” she said in Filipino.

When she heard about Ulysses, Donasco said she became complacent as the previous typhoon did not cause any flooding. On the night of Nov. 12, she and her husband transferred their belongings to their loteng (a low-ceilinged story inside the house). At 2 a.m., the flood submerged many of the houses. Donasco and her neighbors survived only because they stayed on the roof of the two-story house of their neighbor.

“We were about 50 and I was so scared the roof might collapse. All the children were wailing,” Donasco related.

The rescue came at 6 a.m.

May Jean Donasco queues up for relief.

Donasco said she still considers herself lucky as some of the houses were completely washed away. Still, she no longer wants to go back to their home for the past five years.

Most of the residents’ belongings were swept away by the flood.

“We just want to be safe and alive,” Donasco said, calling on the National Housing Authority to provide them decent shelter.

Until now, residents of Kasiglahan Village are in dire need of government assistance. Relief packs mostly come from the private individuals, NGOs and people’s organizations. Trucks hauling the thick mud were sent by private companies.

Aya worries about her children.

“We want to rise up,” Aya said. “But we hope government would pay us some attention.” (https://www.bulatlat.com)

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