In the days leading up to Super Typhoon Yolanda, Maria Victoria Lyra Dela Cerna, the municipal administrator and local municipal disaster management officer, was in Tacloban City for a seminar.
“We knew that there was a typhoon coming. We prepared somewhat, and were told that it would be a Super Typhoon, but hadn’t really imagined that it would be a ‘super’ typhoon of that force. For a place like this, so used to typhoons, it was hard to imagine.
The news reported that (the winds) would be up to 250 km/hr. Then all of the sudden it’s sunny outside. At the back of our heads, we thought: we just hope that this is not as bad as how they sensationalize it to be on the news, or how they exaggerate things because we are so used to typhoons.
Then the governor called. He told me that I have to go back to help with preparations, because this would be really bad. So we cut the seminar short, and went back to our town. Through phone I already called for the Rural Health Unit (RHU) to provide medicines, for the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) to buy commodities already. Then, somebody in a car with a sound system began driving around the town, announcing the forced evacuation. We had the army visit those who wouldn’t leave. “Evacuate or we have to drag you,” they said. Some were reclucant to leave their house, livelihood, boats, and animals behind.
We opened the school because it is our only evacuation center. I began organizing everybody: Department of Education officials, teachers, local government employees, rural health unit personnel, and barangay captains. The people who were trained in CPR and rescue operations were stationed, along with heavy equipment, in the municipal hall.”
Alan R. Samson, a local municipal engineer, remembers the relief efforts in Yolanda’s immediate aftermath:
“Straight away, we made surveys and cleared up the roads going to Ormoc City. All the trees and posts were uprooted. The 17th Infantry Division (Army) and our payloader were in charge of clearing the debris. It was 10 am when Yolanda subsided.”
Maria Victoria also shared the challenges of immediate disaster relief in Albuera:
“We couldn’t transport the victims to the hospitals in Ormoc City because it was also damaged. So, I went to every school and told them to be extra careful with their health. We couldn’t afford to have our people become sick, since we don’t have enough medicines and don’t have hospitals.
It was after two days when the medical team came. We saw people with injuries after Yolanda with bleeding wounds. We were helpless: in a normal situation, these injuries would have need suturing. We had to make do with what we had available to us.
Our civic center was totally damaged. Our municipal hall was also damaged, but we had to fix it right away because it serves as our operations center. We cannot work with water dripping all over. We also have piles of rice inside the building. The municipal hall was the first facility to be repaired, since we cannot allow the rice to get wet. We needed to function as much as possible, since few NGOs will help you if you cannot provide them with accurate reports regarding your needs.”
With support from RAY DILG
“The RAY-DILG fund helped us a lot, especially in our civic center,” Alan says. The funds were used to install a new roof, repair electrical wirings and fittings, and repainting of the facility.
“(The civic center) is where we hold our social functions and community gatherings. The transport terminal and other business establishments are near the facility. It is also close to the public market which was restored already.”
In some ways, “Yolanda was really a bad experience but it is still a blessing for some people,” Maria Victoria says.
“Before, some had nipa huts as their houses. Now they have galvanized iron sheets for their roof, and have been provided with livelihood assistance. Those who planted coconuts before now plant other crops such as corn. Coconuts take years to grow compared to corn which grows faster. Shorter harvest cycles mean that they can generate money faster.
Yolanda might be bad, but there’s always a sun after a storm,” Maria Victoria adds.
Situated outside Abuera town hall, this sign reads:
“This landmark is made from an old-age acacia tress that has fallen down infront of Dr. Geronimo B. Zaldivar Memorial School of Fisheries during the onslaught of super typhoon Yolanda last 8th of November 2013. This is dedicated to the good people of Albuera.