As Super Typhoon Yolanda neared Leyte, in Leyte, Councilor Roque F. Rojas Jr. was stationed in the local civic center: a prescribed evacuation center for local citizens, seeking refuge.

Leyte Councilor Roque F. Rojas Jr
Leyte Councilor Roque F. Rojas Jr.

“Mayor (Victoria Salvacion-David) assigned myself and others to help the DRRM staff to prepare,” he remembers. “I was placed in charge of cooking for the evacuees.”

Leyte Mayor Victoria Salvacion-David
Leyte Mayor Victoria Salvacion-David

Soon after, Yolanda’s gale-force winds began lashing at the building.

“As I was cooking, I looked up and saw how the strength of Yolanda was stripping away the roof above us,” he explains. “Piece by piece.”

The winds lasted for almost two hours. Nearby, “in just the blink of an eye, the glass windows and panels in the civic center were shattered,” Roque says. “Even coconut trees were uprooted.”

As Mayor Victoria explains, Leyte municipal hall was first built in the 1930s, and made largely of wood. “It was already in need of repair,” she explained. “Yolanda finished it off.”

Nearby, the local market also sustained significant damage. Two years on, vendors each remember their often devastating experiences during Yolanda: long-time vendors like Nenita B. Rojas, who was at home when Yolanda struck.

Leyte public market vendor Nenita B. Rojas
Leyte Public Market vendor Nenita B. Rojas

“I was at home, and honestly, we didn’t prepare so much, because we didn’t expect that it will be a strong typhoon,” she says. “Even though many were saying that it would be a ‘super typhoon’, we haven’t experienced such a thing before.”

On realizing the strength of the typhoon,  and the widespread damage to nearby homes and infrastructure, “I really cried,” she says. “It was really heartbreaking.”

Rehabilitation through RAY DILG funds

Since the events of November 8, 2013, extensive repairs have been underway in the municipality.

Funds for the repair of the public market and civic center were provided for through RAY DILG funds, while the nearby municipal hall is being rehabilitated with assistance from DPWH.

“We are thankful that civic center has been repaired, as it serves as our temporary municipal hall, while the new building is under construction,” Roque says. “Along with community events, it also serves as our evacuation center in case of future calamities.”

The newly-rehabilitated Leyte Civic Center
The newly-rehabilitated Leyte Civic Center

At the local market, repairs have ensured that “the local economy has slowly recovered and improved. Everything is returning to normal,” Nenita says.

Vendors gather at the newly-rehabilitated Leyte Public Market
Vendors gather at the newly-rehabilitated Leyte Public Market.

Finally, at the civic center, repairs were undertaken with Build Back Better (BBB) principles in mind. “We integrated the ‘BBB’ policy as instructed by (now former) Secretary Mar Roxas,” Mayor Victoria says. “We added louvers as protections to the facility, and strictly followed what was listed in the POW (program of works) and provided detailed estimates.”

These efforts are in line with the municipality’s renewed focus on disaster resilience. “DRRM is a priority of my administration,” Mayor Victoria says. “With the help of our MLGOO, we trained our people here about rescue operations. Now we have a rescue team available in each barangay.”

“I am a first time mayor, and that’s why we are still learning,” she adds. “With our Yolanda experience, the people now listen and follow, they are not pasaway (hard headed) anymore.”


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