The people of Sigma: ‘When are we going to rise?’
CAPIZ, Philippines – More than two weeks after Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) went barreling through Panay Island, the residents of Sigma in the province of Capiz are finding ways to survive, their hope in the government’s ability to help starting to collapse.
Sigma is a fourth class town of 7,054 affected families. The homes are now dilapidated, the families don’t have enough to eat, the children are getting sick.
Mary Ann Ebacuado, a 26-year-old resident of Matangcong village and a mother of 4, took the initiative to ask the National Disaster Risk Reducation and Management Council (NDRRMC) for a “trapal” (heavy-duty tarpaulin). It can cover their roofless nipa hut from rain or sun.
Her request was denied. An employee told her that she must go to the village captain so her name can be included in the list of families which need housing assistance.
“I didn’t bother asking help from the village officials since we did the same during Typhoon Frank in 2008 and we got no help at all,” said Mary Ann, sadly.
But then her eyes lit up upon seeing a goat entering their patio. “We have food for the day!” she told her children.
Two years to recover
Sigma Mayor Christopher Andaya estimated that the town’s complete recovery would take a couple of years. The damage Yolanda’s wrought on crops, poultry, and livestock totalled P212.6 million.
The 7,054 affected families need food, the mayor said.
According to Joy Salado, head of the Municipal Social Welfare and Development Office, DSWD of Region VI (Western Visayas) has been extending help and provided the town 6,041 packs of relief goods on November 20.
Another typhoon survivor is Roel Villanoy, a 29-year-old farmer from Poblacion Norte. In the middle of the sweltering afternoon, he was breaking coconuts open, resorting to coconut water as a replacement for mineral water, which whose price has jumped to P35 from P20 a bottle.
“Starvation’s a killer. There’s no point surviving the typhoon if we will just die because of hunger. We need to find our own ways to survive,” he said in the vernacular.
It is the children’s survival skills which are impressive. Nine-year-old Renz Marnilo of Matangcong village helps his family survive by scavenging green shells from the irrigation canals found in the middle of the typhoon-ravaged rice field.
“We wanted to help our lolo and lola (grandfather and grandmother) because the sole relief pack we received last week was not enough. It doesn’t matter if we don’t go to school as long as we can survive the day. And even if we want to, it’s not possible because our school supplies have also been wiped out,” he said.
The same brave kid made his way to the evacuation center through a knotted makeshift boat when floodwaters reaching chest level hit the village.
When asked why he thinks they were able to survive the tragedy, silence and a smile were his only answer.
How much more can they handle?
The town of Sigma have received foreign aid. The Indonesian government gave 4 tents and 10 boxes of biscuits. A good Samaritan from Finland offered 5 sacks of rice and other basic needs, such as mineral water, dried fish, oil, vinegar, soy sauce, and noodles on November 15.
The second wave of relief operation was carried out on November 22.
“We don’t just need food and water, some of us also need health assistance. My two year-old child has been suffering stomachache, constipation, fever, and cough since November 8,” said 26-year-old Mary Ann, looking at her child who was lying on the bamboo floor.
As she spoke, crying, she was breastfeeding her other child – a month-old baby.
“San-o kita makabangon?” she wondered aloud (When are we going to rise?)
Like 9-year-old Renz, the 7,054 affected families are all filled with silence.
Like 9-year-old Renz, the city officials can only offer a smile.
They said the human spirit can handle much more than we realize. The people of Sigma wonder until when. – Rappler.com
(The writer and photographers are volunteers for the Typhoon Yolanda Story Hub Visayas, a citizen journalism portal created on Nov 13, 2013, by veteran journalists, student writers, mobile journalists, and photographers based in Iloilo City. The Hub delivers reports from across the Panay Island, especially the severely damaged and minimally covered northern Iloilo and the provinces of Antique, Capiz, and Aklan.)