The slogan of MacArthur, Leyte are the words made famous by the man after whom the municipality is named: “I shall return.” This message of hope and resilience is one that resonated strongly after Yolanda’s landfall.
A day earlier, municipal Mayor Rene R. Leria instructed local MacArthurnians to evacuate to pre-assigned evacuations centers, including nearby schools, the local civic center and municipal hall. Many who evacuated to the centers lived in nearby coastal areas: elsewhere, it proved difficult at times to persuade people to evacuate, given the perceived familiarity with typhoons, and typhoon season.
“The strong winds arrived at 5:00 am,” Mayor Rene remembers. “That’s when the electricity went out, when our signals went down. At that time, I was trapped in our house.” The roads, blocked by debris and coconut trees, were unpassable. “I sent someone to the municipal hall to find out how the MDRRMC was functioning.” The Mayor soon received news that local officials were seeing to the needs of evacuees.
Yet much of the infrastructure struggled to cope under the sheer force of Yolanda’s powerful winds. “It was the strong winds, not only the rains, which affected our crops, houses and our infrastructures,” he explains.
“Our three government facilities – the civic center, municipal building, and public market – were each significantly damaged. The roof in the civic center was all blown off. We were lucky that the municipal hall was made of concrete, but Yolanda still damaged the glass windows, roof and ceilings.”
In the public market, ‘we just didn’t expect it’
“But the major damage was really seen in our market,” Mayor Rene says. “There, nothing was left.”
For local market vendors, the effects were devastating. Some explained that few had expected that the entire market would be destroyed, and parts blown away, taking with it their produce and stall items.
“We weren’t able to bring home most of our products, but mostly, we just didn’t expect the typhoon to damage our market in such a way,” one vendor shared.
“I felt numb. Who would not be? Most of the fishes we stored were smashed also,” he added.
Resilience in the market and the municipality
In Yolanda’s immediate aftermath, some of the vendors would set up temporary tents to serve as makeshift market spaces. Others set up small stores outside of their homes.
With support from RAY DILG funds, a new roof, stall spaces and improved drainage have since been built in the market. Now, most importantly, its vendors, and their clients – return to a newly improved and more resilient space. Nearby, the local civic center have seen town activities, including the distribution of aid and other government services, after repairs were done.
“With this funding assistance, and support from NGOs, we’ve been able to bring back a state of normalcy to our municipality,” Mayor Rene added.