There are many surreal memories shared by survivors of Super Typhoon Yolanda. For some in Santa Rita, Samar, the most unreal of these are of a coastline without water: when, on November 8, 2013, the sea seemed to have drained away.
“The accounts of the people here, especially from those who leaving in the coastal area was that three to five kilometers from shore, there was no sea water,” remembers Siony Afable, a local DILG field officer.
The municipality of Santa Rita, Samar, is connected to Tacloban City in neighboring Leyte by the San Juanico bridge, the longest bridge in the Philippines.
“We could only assume that this was the seawater that washed out Tacloban City.”
Infrastructure, victim to strong winds
Super Typhoon Yolanda’s gale-force winds would cause extensive damage to local government infrastructure, including the municipal building, public market and civic center.
With support from RAY DILG funds, repairs were extensive: and vital to ensuring continued public access to government and community services. At the municipal hall and civic centers, respectively, funds provided for the repair of the roof, doors, windows and repainting. At the local public market, roof repairs, repainting and electrical works.
With repairs complete, life in the town could then return to a semblance of times before Yolanda.
At the local civic center, basketball player and local resident Brian R. Lazarte explains, “after Yolanda, we would usually have our basketball practice and games under the sun. Now that it was repaired, we are using it again for our basketball leagues like the ‘Basketball Cup’ sponsored by our mayor,” he says.
Yet there have been significant changes, particularly in attitudes towards disaster risk reduction.
“Typhoons Ruby and Seniang were very strong here,” Maria Aurora explains. “We were severely affected. We experienced flooding during Ruby, and strong winds.”
However, “our people here have really changed,” she explains. “Before Yolanda, you had to force them, and argue with them that it was time to evacuate. However, during Typhoon Ruby – even while we were still under signal number 1 – local residents went to the evacuation centers right away. We still lack DRRM equipment, but our DRRM plan was updated already and in-line with the Oplan Listo of DILG,” Siony added.