The municipality of Tunga, smallest both in land area and population in Leyte province, experienced the strong intensity of Super Typhoon Yolanda.
For Lea C. Requiez, a municipal accountant for more than three decades, there were ominous signs prior to the typhoon’s arrival.
“The night before, there was no wind,” she remembers. “There was also no movement in the trees: not even the leaves were rustling.
There is saying from our elders that if you experience something strange in your environment, then something disastrous is about to happen.”
Yet no-one expected a disaster of such a scale. “My husband is a fireman. He told us before his assignment for Yolanda to prepare and secure our things.
“He shared that while they heard about the typhoon’s imminent arrival, they didn’t expect that it would be a strong one. As it arrived, the sound of the wind was similar to a loud whistle…”
Lea remembers the reactions of evacuees who had sought shelter in the municipal building.
“The evacuees thought it would be safe for them there,” she says. “But the glass windows shattered and the roof was damaged.
Almost all of our office equipment were destroyed. We recovered some documents, but others could not be saved.”
All the banks in nearby Tacloban City were destroyed.
“On November 12 (four days after landfall), Mayor Catalina, the treasurer and I went to Cebu to withdraw money to buy relief goods and for the salary of the employees,” she says. “It was difficult at that time to go to Cebu via Ormoc City.”
After a month, normal – if basic – operations resumed in the municipal hall. “We used typewriters,” she says. We didn’t spend most of our time in the office. Instead, we were assigned to help with the distribution of relief goods.”
The local market had also sustained extensive damage.“The roof was completely destroyed,” the market vendor Nelson Arguilles, remembers.
RAY DILG funds
With support from RAY DILG funds, “now, everything is back to normal here,” Nelson says. “(The market) is not crowded anymore because it’s been extended. Tiles and new faucets in each stall were also installed.”
At the municipal hall, concrete repairs have since replaced glass, and a new, more resilient roof has been installed.
‘The welfare of the community’
Attitudes towards disasters, and disaster risk reduction and preparedness measures, have also shifted.
“The people (of Tunga) are still recovering from the trauma,” Nelson says. “It is also bizarre now ,that even if there are just typical rains, many will worry regardless.”
Yet “the local government is now more prepared. Our DRRM activities and fund are already programmed,” Lea explains. “There is also a strong coordination between the municipal government and the barangay officials.”
“There were DRRM activities in place before (Yolanda), but the people didn’t take it seriously,” Lea adds. “After Yolanda, our community have realized its importance for their own welfare and for the whole community.”