In Capiz, the small coastal town of Sapian was among those hardest hit by Yolanda. Among the ten barangays that make up the municipality, an estimated 5,000 families – or some 24,000 people – were affected in the super typhoon’s immediate aftermath.
Marlyn O. Arcangeles, a local ukay-ukay vendor, remembers how in the days prior, officials from the DRRMC roamed around the town with a sound system, announcing the expected arrival of typhoon Yolanda.
Retired teacher Renato Roldan shared similar memories of that time. “The team from the DRRMC drove along the shore and advised the people to go to the highlands, as the area is prone to storm surge.”
As Yolanda neared, some local residents first evacuated to the Sapian civic center. Yet it could not withstand the sheer force of Yolanda: fearing for their lives, evacuees then fled into a nearby elementary school. Yet the super typhoon would destroy even this secondary evacuation point.
Terrified,“we had nowhere to go,” Roberto D. Opino Jr. said.
Changes – some, for the better
There was no question that the town of Sapian has been forever changed by the events of Yolanda.
In the nearby public market, the roof was significantly damaged. Yet, as Marlyn describes, “after the rehabilitation, it became more convenient for us to work here.” The roof has since been repaired, and made more structurally resilient. On market days, volantes vendors often visit from other towns: added aisles and better stall arrangements now mean these groups can now be comfortable accommodated in the shared space.
The newly-repaired civic center is also now a more spacious and convenient space for local patrons.
“There is no civic center like this in the whole of Capiz,” Roberto says, proudly. “It is one of a kind.” Since Yolanda, meetings, gatherings, weddings and graduations have been held in this unique venue.
Hagupit: ‘A test of resilience’
The following year, with the impending arrival of Typhoon Ruby, the civic center would again serve as an evacuation center: its first test of resilience, since the rehabilitation. The citizens of Sapian prepared as best they could.
“When Typhoon Ruby came, the people were more prepared and more alert. Everybody immediately cooperated with the evacuation. The trauma that Yolanda left us with served as a lesson to us, so that people are now more cooperative,” Roberto says.
Most importantly, the citizens of Sapian remained safe and protected within the repaired structure. “At that time, the structure was not damaged, which shows that it is more typhoon resilient,” he added.