For Odette survivors in Leyte, every day is a struggle

Odette leaves a trail of destruction in Southern Leyte (Photo courtesy of Rev. Eutropio Delvo)
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LEGAZPI CITY, Albay – A farmer and a fisherfolk from Leyte province share their struggles a month after surviving typhoon Odette (international name Rai).

“We’re slowly rebuilding back our homes, but life’s generally hard because our daily source of income is affected,” Edgardo Gases tells Bulatlat in an online interview.

Gases, who lives in Libagon town in Southern Leyte, is a farmer and a part-time fisherfolk. He says he has nothing to sell because his crops like bananas were ruined, adding that he could’ve gone fishing for his family’s food but the typhoon destroyed his fishing gear.

Gases says he lost P4,000 (US$78) and P6,500 ($127) and due to farming and fishing damages respectively, and an overall damage of P36,000 to 40,000 ($705 to $783).

“Now, our main hope is our children working in Manila,” he says. His rice plants, while not totally damaged, were flooded and a part of it is now covered with sand. That, coupled with the recent spike in the costs of farming inputs, doused his hope. According to him, fertilizers now cost P2,000 ($39) from its previous price of P1,250 ($24), and hybrid seeds increased from P1,000 ($19.57) pesos to P1,300 ($25.45).

Extreme weather events are also becoming a burden for him. Gases says there’s a lot more rain, which can turn into floods now than before even in months when it isn’t supposed to. “There’s nothing we can gain from rice farming. It’s a lot of struggle,” he says with a hint of resignation. Yet this is the livelihood he grew up to and has continued until now that he’s already 60 years old.

Houses of farmers and fisherfolk in Southern Leyte are destroyed by typhoon Odette. (Photo courtesy of Rev. Eutropio Delvo)
This experience isn’t new. A 2009 study co-authored by Elizabeth Cruzada found that “flooding and unusually long rainy season were among the most frequent problems” by farmers from Luzon and Visayas islands and are often caused by typhoons.

Moreover, the study said that “conventional farmers [like Gases] are shown to be more vulnerable in the face of climate change,” which affects the interviewed farmers “in many ways” from increasing droughts, typhoons, strong winds, flooding and saltwater intrusion. Some of the farmers interviewed for the study were full organic and conversion farmers from seven provinces across the country.

Gases says it will help if he can have a collection of inbred seed varieties. Unlike hybrid seeds which revert to one of the resulting crops’ parent types, inbred varieties are a pureline so they don’t lose their varietal identity. The latter will encourage a farmer to save seeds and not be forced to buy every planting time.

The same study states that “the farmer-led approach documented [ ] has a positive role to play in both mitigating climate change and in responding to it.” It is because the said approach involves saving seeds and on-farm varietal testing for developing diverse, locally-adapted crops, and this requires organic fertilizers and taking care of soil health.

Food system accounts for 35 percent of global man-made greenhouse gas emissions, according to Xiaoming Xu’s and Atul Jain’s 2021 study. According to the authors, who discussed the study in detail in this article for The Conversation, “Rice is the largest contributor among plant-based foods, producing 12% of the total greenhouse gas emissions from the food sector.”

Fisherfolk are as much as affected by climate change which, according to the recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, is mainly caused by human activities. This includes the production and use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides which emit greenhouse gasses to the atmosphere, thus contributing to climate change.

“It’s too hot on the island these days because the trees were knocked down,” says fisherfolk Frankie Aruta from Limasawa Island. According to him, he just fixed a hole in his boat when a portion cracked due to heat and sun damage. 

While he was able to fish prior to this, the new fishing gear he bought didn’t last. “It cost me 5,000 pesos ($98),” he says. For him, planting more trees on the island would help make the area cooler and prevent coastal erosion. 

PAG-ASA’s 2020 Philippine Climate Extreme Report projects that there will be “drier conditions [in the country] but more extreme rainfall events in some areas.” The province of Leyte is projected to have drier conditions from 2020 onwards.

Gases and the thousands of affected families in the province are getting by through relief aids and with the help of relatives working in Manila. The fisheries bureau gave a neighboring village one small boat which, according to him, is not meant for long-distance fishing.

“We need to go far and beyond and fish longer hours now than before because of large commercial boats and illegal fishing activities,” he says.

Reverend Eutropio Delvo of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines says his church has also provided food packages to affected members like Aruta and Gases, in addition to government relief aides. However, the Church’s limited resources cannot provide for the entire affected communities, moreso with livelihood which, he says, is equally needed. (RVO) (

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