On November 5, 2013, in the town of Ajuy, Iloilo, Mayor Juan Alvarez had joined local police officers in their rounds.
“We advised our people to prepare as best they could for Yolanda,” Mayor Juan says. Many locals had already evacuated to assigned centers. Relief packs had been received at different schools, and families had already received food packs.
On the morning on November 8, he explains:
“… Yolanda struck. I was in my office. First, I was confident that the building would be resilient: but since the windows were shaking so hard, and trying to break, I hid myself here, away from the windows. All I could hear were loud bangs as the window glass were destroyed.
The typhoon lasted from 10:30 until 13:30 in the afternoon. We couldn’t go outside: it was too dangerous. At one point, the wind changed direction. By 13:30 we had no communications, and no electricity. People started to come to our health centers, badly needing medical support. Some of them had serious injuries, but there was nothing we could do: as all the transmission lines, all the posts and trees were down, and covering the roads. We had an ambulance, but we could not bring them to the hospital. We had eight casualties.
We had no means of communication: no signal, everything was down. I was here until around 20:00. I had to go to my home, because my daughter was there, and I had no idea what had happened to her. I had to ride a motorcycle, and ride under the trees, and it was still raining. When I arrived at my house, ten families were already there: our neighbors. We had to cook dinner for them and for the children.
Our focus was on our three island barangays: Ajuy is composed of 34 barangays, and 19 of these are coastal. These coastal barangays were badly hit because of the storm surge.
Many people had tied their motorboats to their houses. After Yolanda struck, the houses and motorboats were all gone, swept away by the storm surge.
It took around three months for electricity to be restored. On the national highway, it was almost two days before vehicles could pass, but it was only partially open. It took us almost a month to clear our barangay roads, because of the debris, the trees, and the electricity poles were down.
We are very lucky because in our municipality, we have more than eighty groups that helped us after Yolanda. Government, individuals, schools, INGOs, foundations, they were here to help us in the different barangays.
After Yolanda, our people now are more alert, and more concerned. Every time there’s an announcement of a storm, they prepare: they go to our schools that serve as our evacuation centers. We can say, we are now over-prepared: actually, our preparations are over-kill now, due to the trauma that people have experienced.”
The road to recovery
Among the national government agencies that helped Ajuy, the largest amounts came from RAY DILG.
This funding was used to repair the roof and ceiling of the public market, civic center and municipal building. Glass used as walls, doors and office partitions were also installed in the municipal building.
This is my last term as a mayor. I am hoping that all of these projects would be finished so that life will be different here in Ajuy,” says Mayor Alvarez.