Yolanda survivors still live in tents

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Sunday, June 29, 2014


TACLOBAN CITY--Marian Faye Merin fanned herself while sitting on a wooden bed inside their tent. It was raining lightly, but air could hardly get in, leaving the sleepy two-year-old awake and sweating.

Waving a yellow fan half her size, the girl tried to cool herself with little success.

Mylene, 26, doing laundry just outside the makeshift bedroom, called out to her two older children who were playing outside in the afternoon drizzle. “Paypayi niyo an iyo bugto (Fan you sister)!”

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Almost eight months after Yolanda, many families in Barangay 88 still live in donated tents, enduring heat and leaking roofs.

When the super typhoon struck last Nov. 8, it caused a storm surge that washed away houses in the coastal barangay. More than 6,000 people died across the Visayas in Yolanda’s wake.

Mylene, a stay-at-home wife, said her family has yet to receive any housing materials although several evaluators have gone to their tent promising help.

“Makuri mag-ukoy ha tent (It’s difficult to live in a tent),” she told Sun.Star Cebu yesterday. “Bisan gutiay la nga balay, okey na basta diri la tent (A small house will do, so long as it’s not a tent).”

Mylene, her husband and three children, ages six, three and two, returned to Tacloban last April, after living for four months in Luzon.

Ten days after the typhoon, they boarded a military C130 aircraft to Manila, joining the bandwagon of homeless survivors seeking refuge outside the storm-shattered city.

They were housed in a resort-turned-evacuation center in Cavite Province.

Mylene said they returned after learning stories of various organizations giving out housing materials in Tacloban.

Two months have passed, but the family still lives in a temporary shelter they set up a few meters from where their house used to stand using tarpaulin sheets given by their relatives.

Sleep

Mylene said she can hardly sleep at night because she has to fan her children to sleep.

They get electricity from a donated solar panel, but except for a bulb, the family has no appliances. They lost all their belongings to the storm surge.

They are starting over with a few donated household items such as water containers, a thermos and cooking utensils.

Relief goods have also stopped coming, Mylene said, making their situation even more difficult.

Her 30-year-old husband, who is away five days a week, provides for the family by working in a fishing vessel. The family has to make do with his weekly income of P1,000 to P1,500.

Mylene said she’s thankful their eldest child, Mark Dave, received free school supplies, as they could not have afforded these.

The first grader studies at the Fishermen’s Village Elementary School, located within walking distance from their shelter.

Relatives

Mylene said she wished to move her family to the town of Dagami, where most of her relatives live, but her husband doesn’t want to live far away from his job.

Going to Dagami, a two-hour ride from Tacloban, and staying at her sibling’s house saved Mylene and her children.

The storm surge swept away their house, located some 100 meters from the shore, leaving her husband, who stayed to guard their properties, injured.

With cuts and bruises all over his body, Mylene’s husband arrived in Dagami five days after the typhoon.

The family stayed in the town for five days before deciding to join the long queue of people leaving for Manila.

Fishing

While recuperating in Cavite, Mylene’s husband went back to fishing along with other displaced fishermen from Leyte, after a donor gave them a boat.

Mylene said she hopes donors could give them materials to rebuild their house soon, especially that the rainy season has come.

A non-Catholic religious organization, she said, offered to give housing materials to the residents in Barangay 88, but recipients were asked to change their faith.

Mylene said she is loyal to the Roman Catholic Church.

Yesterday afternoon, a preacher’s voice blared from the speakers of a church not far away. Inside the tent, Mylene brushed dirty clothes her family got from donors, seemingly oblivious to the thundering preaching on salvation.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on June 30, 2014.

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