Living in the evacuation center for more than five months now, these children rely on friendship to get through another day of being homeless.
The cardholders of RCBC Bankard donated their reward points to SOS Children’s Villages Philippines which made it possible to provide help to 264 displaced families who are still living in 3 evacuation centers in the municipality of Guinobatan in Albay province four months after Typhoon Rolly's onslaught. On March 4 and 5, the families went to the designated grocery store located at the town center where they redeemed 2,050-peso worth of grocery items.
For Fred, a student from Bicol University who lost their home during the flood and landslide, this was a great help. He stood out from the crowd of busy mothers and grandmothers carrying two to three baskets each of groceries. Being the eldest son with two younger siblings and with both parents working, Fred had to take responsibility for their groceries that day. He was beyond grateful for receiving the much-needed support for their family.
“A month after the storm, they told us that many would still send help. But soon, we were receiving only a handful. So when we heard that another donor came [SOS Children’s Villages Philippines and RCBC Bankard], we were truly thankful. Their support is a big help to get us through the next few weeks,” he said.
Homes such as this remain buried five months after the disaster. The local government unit declared the affected area as a permanent danger zone.
Like the other survivors, Fred’s house in Guinobatan got buried under the sand and rocks which violently slid down from the slope of Mayon volcano during the typhoon. All but a single concrete post remained upright when their home was dug up a few weeks after. He and the other displaced families do not want to continually rely on the help and kindness of donors, but losing their homes and all other possessions is like losing everything they have. For them to start over, they need help from others.
“Among all the donors who helped, [SOS Children’s Villages and RCBC Bankard] were the only ones that allowed the families to choose grocery items they need. I can say that this project is better,” remarked community leader Bon Makasadya of Travesia, one of the communities affected the most by the typhoon in the municipality of Guinobatan.
To limit the crowd inside the grocery store, each family follows a specific shopping schedule given to them five days before the event.
At Travesia Elementary School, one of the three school buildings that have been turned into an evacuation center, there is an elderly named Lolo Juan. He is among the 49 families sharing nine classrooms at the school. The typhoon took away the lives of his wife and grandson. Now he lives with his brother’s family in the small classroom where three other families live.
“I was by the door while my wife and three other people were already on top of the roof. The water level was high above my head,” recalled the 77-year-old.
His wrinkled and dislocated left hand shook as he narrated. He remembered staying by the door, desperately clinging to it as he saw another big wave of water saturated with sand coming at them. Ironically, he was the first to say goodbye. Thinking he was but seconds away from death and his companions were safely out of water’s reach, he yelled out to them as a final farewell. He remembered how he could almost feel the painful blow of a gigantic rock that could crush him to death anytime soon. Yet, at the final moment, he was able to escape the violent gush of floodwater carrying sand and rocks.
“I looked back and saw that my house was gone. Even my family, they were gone,” he said painfully.
Lolo Juan got rescued around 10:00 am. He was found holding on to a tricycle while his body was crushed by one of the boulders which dislocated his left hand. A crouched back, a few teeth left, and with teary eyes, his whole figure resonates the extreme trauma and the marks of someone who survived it. The municipality of Guinobatan recorded a total of 7 casualties from Typhoon Rolly. Two of the casualties were Lolo Juan’s wife and the other was his grandson.
Despite the tragedy that has happened to him, Lolo Juan remains optimistic. He hopes that he can soon have a starting fund to put up a small general store.
In February, in the same evacuation center where Lolo Juan is staying, a woman named Arlyn gave birth to a healthy baby. It was right after midnight when Arlyn felt the contractions.
“I started to feel that the baby was coming so I asked my husband to go and call for the ambulance. But I could not hold it much longer. I sat down and grabbed one of my adult diapers. The baby came out and I caught him with the adult diaper,” recalled Arlyn.
The baby was born healthy, but it might not remain so if they continue to live in the evacuation center where the conditions are not suitable for the baby. For one, their running water tends to get murky and sometimes nothing flows from the tap at all. Arlyn and the other families, or at least those who can afford it, have to buy clean drinking water from the nearest purifying station.
The local government has been doing its best to ensure that all displaced families were provided with basic needs. But the cost seems too much for the local government which is but a small municipality. To make matters worse, the process of relocation has turned out to be arduous. The displaced families have resumed working, but some cannot anymore go back to their previous job and some have completely lost their jobs because of the ongoing pandemic. The increasing prices of basic commodities alongside the fare hike in transportation make the daily lives of the displaced families much more difficult.
Arlyn reluctantly calls this tiny space a home. She hopes that when her baby turns one next year, it will be in a place where they can truly call home.
That is why Arlyn lit up when she learned that a donor came to aid. Her baby has been lacking proper hygiene in the past weeks because of water problems in the evacuation center. So, one of the first items that Arlyn put in the shopping basket was a bag of diapers which for her seemed like a luxury. She has two more children, a six-year-old and a three-year-old. For a family of their size, the help that SOS Children’s Villages and RCBC Bankard provided would last for two weeks.
“We really appreciate the help. It may not seem much, but it’s a big help to get us through our daily needs,” Arlyn said.
As the entire country continues to suffer because of the ongoing pandemic, countless families and children become more vulnerable. Natural disasters even aggravate their vulnerability. That is why SOS Children’s Villages will continue partnering with individual and corporate donors to bring life-saving support to those who need it the most. Currently, SOS Children’s Villages Philippines is home to 1,020 orphaned, neglected, and abandoned children and youth. SOS Children’s Villages Philippines also supports 1,700 vulnerable families all over the country.