Burauen is one of the biggest municipalities in Leyte province. With 77 barangays, the centrally-located municipality was heavily affected by Super Typhoon Yolanda.
“Three days before the landfall of Yolanda, we announced a forced evacuation, and I asked the Philippine National Police Force (PNP) to help us,” Mayor Fe S. Renomeron remembered.
As Yolanda struck, “the wind was very strong. The people at the community center were all crying and praying. We thought we won’t survive it,” she says.
Both the local civic center and public market also sustained extensive damage. “Most of the roof and doors were blown away,” Nilo T. Ontimare, the market supervisor, says.
“Even though the market was damaged, the economic activities of the municipality didn’t stop,” he says. As local people rely on the selling of produce for a living, “vendors sold their products outside their houses or on side streets.”
Recovery with RAY-DILG Fund
“I was very happy with all the assistance we received from International Non-Government Organizations (INGOs),” Mayor Fe says. “Then, DILG gave us the RAY fund for the rehabilitation of our municipal building, market and civic center.”
Afterwards, the slow yet steady recovery of basic government infrastructure could began.
“It took one year for the market to be fully operational again,” Nilo says. “While our economic activities returned, not all of our vendors returned right away because of financial concerns.”
The continued functioning of the local public market contributes to the lives of those outside the municipality, Nilo explains. “As Burauen is located in the central part of the province, people from nearby towns of La Paz, Julita, Dagami and Tabontabon also come to our market,” he says.
At the local civic center, Vilma A. Abad, head of Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), explains how the construction of the facility have improved the Department’s capacity to provide effective services to the people.
“The civic center helped us a lot because we now have a venue to meet with our clients in a private setting,” she says. “In the past, we struggled to observe the confidentiality of our clients, including those involved in cases of abuse, since we didn’t have a separate, private space where we could discuss sensitive matters.
“Now, we have a special area to cater to battered women and child abuse cases. After Yolanda, we also experienced a surge in cases of depression, and this space can cater to the needs of these clients, also,” she says.
Challenges and Learning
“We are still recovering from Yolanda,” Mayor Fe says.
“After all, we are an agricultural town: seventy percent of us here are farmers. Our situation is different, and our recovery needs are more long-term. We still have to wait for more years to grow our coconuts, which is our main source of livelihood. In the meantime we are growing other, alternative crops, but these are very vulnerable to bad weather.
So we are now moving forward, despite these current challenges. We are doing our very best to fully recover.”
Attitudes towards calamities have also shifted. “We had people arriving in the community (evacuation) center three days before typhoon Ruby made landfall,” Mayor Fe says. “They didn’t wait the truck to pick them up, but instead, evacuated voluntarily. They brought everything with them, including their pigs. In that respect, Yolanda taught us well and this made us more resilient.
“We still feel the pain from Yolanda, but i always tell my people to forget about it, divert the pain to positivity and move forward,” she adds.