Maydolong

“Compared to the wind, the rain was not that strong. It started as a whistle, then became a howl. It was terrifying.”

This is how Germi Flynn D. Garfin, municipal engineer from the coastal town of Maydolong, Eastern Samar, describes Yolanda’s onslaught.

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Maydolong Municipal Engineer Germi Flynn D. Garfin

“The strong winds tore off the roofs of the houses, the municipal hall and the civic center. Power lines and trees had been toppled. Debris were everywhere,” he says. “At that moment, it really felt like the end of the world.”

As recovery efforts got underway, RAY DILG funds would later be used to rehabilitate the local civic center.

“The repair of the civic center was important to us because we use it as a multipurpose facility,” Germi says. “It’s used as an evacuation center, a venue for meetings, and for sports events: the repair of the roll-up doors mean that we can also use it as a storage space when needed.

Since it has a seating capacity for 1,000 people, it’s really an important facility in our town,” Germi says.

At the nearby public market, Emma B. Carango- a vendor for more than two decades-explains how the storm was the strongest she had ever experienced.

“It damaged the roll-up doors of the market,” she says.

Yet, with support from RAY DILG, the market was later rehabilitated. “When our doors was repaired, it made us feel safer,” she says. “We don’t need to worry anymore that our things might be stolen at night.”

In Action
Maydolong residents celebrate the 64th anniversary of the municipality in the rehabilitated civic center- May 2015.

The following year, the municipality would be struck by typhoon Ruby, and face the first serious challenge of disaster preparedness and resilience.

“(Typhoon) Ruby’s rains were stronger, but it was not destructive,” Germi says. Attitudes have since shifted considerably. “Since Yolanda, It was not difficult for us to convince the people to evacuate and prepare. After all, during Yolanda, they witnessed and suffered the worst typhoon our town has ever experienced.”

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Santa Fe

Situated on popular tourist spot known as Bantayan Island, Santa Fe, famed for its white sand beaches, is perhaps not especially known for its Yolanda experience.

Yet as Super Typhoon Yolanda made landfall, Santa Fe was one of a number of municipalities in Cebu that remain completely isolated, with all modes of communication cut off, and roads made impassable to vehicles.

As the storm raged, some 1,000 of the municipality’s local citizens sought refuge in the nearby municipal hall.

“There were people everywhere,” remembers Joanes Paulo M. Esgana, a local municipal administrator. “From the ground to the second floor, everyone was packed in like canned sardines.”

Santa Fe Municipal Administrator Joanes Paulo M. Esgana
Santa Fe Municipal Administrator Joanes Paulo M. Esgana

At times, it was a terrifying experience. “It was really scary, watching objects flying around the room. The roof (of the municipal hall) peeled away, piece by piece, like tissue paper,” he says.

Some were even less fortunate. “There were those people who weren’t able to go to the municipal hall – those who were on their way, but beaten there by Yolanda – they held on to coconut trees,” Joanes explained. “Some said that they could feel the coconut trees being uprooted in their hands. They had no choice but to keep grabbing at different trees, holding on, until Yolanda subsided.”

There were moments he experienced on that day that were unlike any other. “On that day, there was a family holding a wake,” he added. “We were asked to evacuate the corpse, along with the family.”

Many in the municipality had undertaken preparations prior to Yolanda’s arrival. Yet the sheer magnitude of the typhoon was beyond regular expectations.

“During Typhoon Yolanda, we had volunteers help out. They are our Barangay Volunteer Emergency Response Team,” Joanes explains. “They shared that it was challenging for them to evacuate people before Yolanda. With many local people having survived Typhoon Frank, they were confident that they would also survive Yolanda without evacuating,” he says.

Ivy R. Illustrisimo, a stall owner in the Santa Fe public market, was one of those who did not evacuate during Yolanda. Instead, she stayed at home and watched as the typhoon wrecked havoc on nearby houses and infrastructure.

Santa Fe public market vendor Ivy R. Illustrisimo
Santa Fe public market vendor Ivy R. Illustrisimo

“We didn’t expect it to be that strong, but we were wrong,” she explains. “The whole surroundings changed after the typhoon. It devastated our market, and our community.”

Rehabilitation means efforts to save lives, now and in the future

With assistance from RAY DILG, the public market has now been significantly improved, with view to greater resilience in the face of calamities.

“Our stalls now have roll-up doors, keeping our products safe overnight,” Ivy says. “In the past, some items, especially school supplies, were stolen while the stalls were closed.”

The newly-rehabilitated Santa Fe Public Market - July, 2015
The newly-rehabilitated Santa Fe Public Market – July, 2015

The addition of a second floor also means more vendors, and a more vibrant space. “Our market is made of concrete, with proper division for the stall owners. It was really a make-over here in our market,” Ivy added.

The Santa Fe municipal hall has also experienced significant improvements.

“Before (Yolanda) the municipal hall looked like a warehouse,” Joanes says. “Where once we had jalousie windows, now we have sliding windows and doors. New floor tiles have also been installed, while our payment centers now also have glass windows.”

“The RAY DILG fund was a big help in Santa Fe. People are impressed because our municipal hall and public market have been improved. Both are beautiful and resilient. We can proudly say that the fund was utilized well and can be seen and used by the whole community,” Joanes added.

Sara

“When a calamity like Yolanda strikes,” Melvin Lyndon B. Garzon says, “you’re kind of numb: that you were powerless. You’re like a robot. At first, you don’t even care that you’ve survived.”

Sara MDRRMC staff Melvin Lyndon B. Garzon
Sara MDRRMC staff Melvin Lyndon B. Garzon

So begin the powerful memories – of rampant destruction, survival and ongoing recovery – shared among the residents of Sara, Iloilo.

In the forty-eight hours prior to the super typhoon’s expected landfall, a forced evacuation was undertaken, nearby residents were evacuated to the municipal hall. “We tried to prepare, but nothing could be done,” Melvin says. “Nobody could have fully prepared for that kind of typhoon.”

Evacuees could only watch as the gale-force winds tore the roof from above them. “All you could hear was the howling noise of the winds. It’s was so loud and strong. Sheets of roofing flew around above us: the galvanized sheets crumpled even before they hit the ground,” Melvin explained.

Outside the building, enormous coconut trees were found thirty meters from where they had once stood, surviving multiple typhoons, for decades.

“Even Hollywood cannot create these kinds of ‘special effects’,” he says.

Next, the aftermath

As conditions subsided, Melvin and a team made up of chainsaw operators and drivers, along with the several members of the Vice-Mayor’s own bodyguards, set out to clear the town’s main roads.

As the extent of the destruction became clear to them, “I saw the people around me crying,” Melvin remembers. “Even the bodyguards! These are the kind of guys who eat bullets for breakfast. But even they were crying,” he said.

These memories again bring tears to his eyes. “We were all wondering – could we even survive this? What had happened, and would happen, to our families? It was really bad,” he explained.

The backbone of the LGU

James Daniel C. Godinez, a municipal employee, shared that the RAY DILG fund was distributed swiftly once documents were submitted and formalized.

Sara municipal employee James Daniel C. Godinez.
Sara municipal employee James Daniel C. Godinez

As James explains, these contributions were especially useful in returning basic services to the people. “We had international NGOs present here, and they were very helpful,” he says. “However, these organizations tend to focus more on residential housing, shelter and training, rather than on government infrastructure. These kinds of buildings really are the backbone of the functioning of the LGU.”

“With these rehabilitation projects, at least there are some things that we feel thankful for,” adds Mary Joy B. Abellar, a municipal accountant.

Sara Municipal Accountant Mary Joy B. Abellar
Sara Municipal Accountant Mary Joy B. Abellar

Hopes for a post-Yolanda future

Each of these officials were then asked what their hopes are for the people of Sara, in this time since the destruction wrought by Yolanda.

“I hope that our projects would benefit the people of Sara, since – as government officials – the people are our topmost priority,” James says.

“If we survived Yolanda, we can survive hell,” Melvin added. “That was a hell of an experience for everybody. For sure, we will be more resilient. There’s no doubt about it.”

Mary Joy agrees. “I really hope that as we move forward more projects will continue to enrich the lives of the townsfolk.”

 

Capiz Province

The Capiz provincial hall is a pre-war building and one of the strongest buildings in the province. Yet during Yolanda, much of the roof, ceilings and windows were damaged.

Capiz Province Capitol Building
Capiz Provincial Capital Building – July 2015

It was there that Victor A. Tanco Sr., public servant for more than 45 years and current governor of Capiz province, spent the days before, during and after Yolanda.

It was also within the Capitol Building that the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council (PDRRMC), established two years prior to Yolanda, held command to support the widespread disaster relief effort.

The Governor emphasized how “we were prepared, we were listo (alert)!” to help limit the suffering of those affected.

Capiz Govenor Victor A. Tanco Snr
Capiz Governor Victor A. Tanco Sr.

“We decided to establish the command center in the provincial hall so that there would be no breakdown in governance and response teams,” he explained. “During Yolanda, we continued working, even while the rain poured in.”

RAY DILG funds capitol building repairs

Repairs to the provincial capitol building, funded by the RAY DILG program, proved morale boosting to local government employees, their clients and local citizens.

“If we had had to use our own finances, it would be much more difficult to rebuild our provincial hall and stadium,” the Governor shared.

Villareal Stadium

Basketball games in the rehabilitated Villereal Stadium - Roxas City, Capiz
Basketball games in the rehabilitated Villareal Stadium.
Courtesy: Capiz Provincial Press Bureau

Capiz Provincial Engineer Lennet Sodusta.
Capiz Provincial Engineer Lennet Sodusta.

Villareal Stadium is the largest stadium in the Western Visayas. Lennet L. Sodusta, the engineer in-charge of the venue, remembers how in the days leading up to Yolanda, a large-scale national convention could be comfortably accommodated within the stadium grounds.

Yet the Super Typhoon devastated many of the stadium facilities, this included its roofing, windows and doors. Much of the roofing above of the bleachers where spectators watch track-and-field were also affected as well as the swimming pool area.

Soon after release of RAY DILG funds, repairs began. With improved seating capacity and a sturdier construction for the safety of its patrons, the gymnasium now features once again as the leading sports venue in Capiz province.

 

Tacloban City

When Super Typhoon Haiyan struck the Philippines on November 8, 2013, it pounded the island of Leyte with winds near 315 kilometers (195 miles) per hour and a tremendous storm surge. In Tacloban City, winds blew a wall of water ashore that may have been as much as 7.5 meters (24.6 feet) high.

City Hall

Zosima A. Cordaño, the city treasurer, remembers November 8, 2013 and the days that followed  like they were yesterday. Here, she tells her story.

Tacloban City Treasurer Zosima A. Cordano
Tacloban City Treasurer Zosima A. Cordano

“In the days before November 7, the Mayor Romualdez provided instructions to inform all the barangay officials to go to safe ground, secure their things, and secure their families. In fact, during our last Department Heads meeting, the Mayor was already giving directions to the Chief of Police to force people to evacuate. If the people did not want to go to safer grounds, the barangay officials would ask them to sign a waiver – that was the instruction. As a Department Head, I was part of these preparation meetings that were being held by the Mayor.

Right after November 8, after the super typhoon… It seems that an atomic bomb had been dropped upon us. That was my first impression. All the trees in our neighborhood, all of the houses, I cannot imagine how to describe it.

Together with my son, we went to the office to secure the documents there. As we walked, we came across others… They were telling me that so many people had died, that there were dead bodies lying in the streets.

I began to cry. Everyone was in a mess. People did not know where to go. It seemed that all of us, we were walking, with no sound at all… I looked into their eyes, and they were lifeless: just walking, carrying their remaining things, with blank stares on their faces.

We are already prone to typhoons as a tropical country, but we are not expecting this – Yolanda, to be as great, as big as it was.

In the office, everything here was broken all over – all our things, blown away – there was water everywhere.  All the windows, all the doors, were all broken. Part of the roof was blown away. Fortunately I had already instructed the city engineer to cover this window (in her office) with the plywood because the vaults were kept here.

The good thing that happened after Yolanda, was that all of us tried to care for each other. We tried to help each other, in our own way. There were many selfless acts of giving. People gave anything they had, for those among us. That’s probably why, sooner than expected, we were able to stand. We all shared something during the experience that cannot be easily understood by those who were not there. We are now resilient, and we share everything we have: even if it is small. Because you care. Because we are all survivors. We are vigilant among us.

Then, the RAY DILG fund came which have helped us in the reconstruction and recovery program of the city.

The newly-rehabilitated Tacloban City Hall - July 2015
The newly-rehabilitated Tacloban City Hall – July 2015

The ongoing rehabilitation of the City Engineer’s Office, which will later be used to shelter those affected by disasters
The ongoing rehabilitation of the City Engineer’s Office, which will later be used to shelter those affected by disasters

Public Market

At the local public market, vendor Jaime Macawile remembers:

“Yolanda brought almost total destruction to the market building. It took about 4 more months before we were able to go back and sell here.

I became aware that the market would be rehabilitated when we saw the repair works starting… The rehabilitation was a big help since now we can go back to our old stalls. We are very excited to go back and move away from where we are currently located now, which is a bit smelly and dirty. Things would be easier when we have our stalls back.

Business is also better in the market since people do not have to go out of their way to buy from us, since we are all inside the market area. The only concern is parking, as it is quite a challenge to find parking space near the market.

I am very thankful for the rehabilitation done to the market. It is well built. Right now, the makeshift stall that we have is also where I stay, so that I can keep an eye on my wares. We are very thankful for the help from the government so that we can go back to our lives before Yolanda. And also, because of Yolanda, people learned their lesson to prepare and cooperate.”

City Convention Center

Rudolph M. Mate, General Services Officer of Tacloban City Convention Center narrates his Yolanda experience.

Rudolph M. Mate, General Services Officer of Tacloban City
Rudolph M. Mate, General Services Officer of Tacloban City

“Everybody was normal during that day. No-one believed that Yolanda would cause big trouble for the city. We are used to big typhoons but our forefathers had never told us stories about storm surges. So when we heard about Yolanda and that it was going to have a storm surge, it was ordinary for us. We never knew that it would be such a strong typhoon, and that all of us would be affected.

I was recovering from prostate cancer at the time of Yolanda because i had been operated on that September. The very day before Yolanda, I was discharged from the hospital. It was fortunate, otherwise the next day there would have been no hospital, no doctors, no nurses. I was very lucky, as I was well taken care of.

During the coming of Yolanda, we safeguarded the house. Then after that, we stayed at my grandfather’s house in downtown area. We never knew that during November 8, that house would be submerged with seawater also around 12-15 feet. It’s not even ordinary sea water, it was mud water.  We could not return to our house after two days, because of the debris. There were dead bodies, all around the downtown area. Most of the water damage we experienced was downtown. In fact, the whole area of downtown Tacloban was submerged.

We never knew that we would be able to go back to regain what we have lost, because without international and local groups… I think Tacloban would not be as you see now. We ourselves, we cannot do it, even to clean up Tacloban, we cannot do it. But because everyone was helping, around the world, (we were able to do it).

It’s already two years. We are so happy, that people are still here, still helping. It makes us feel very glad.

These buildings are bringing lives back to normal. All that help coming from the national government, and from NGOs, make us feel like normal again: because these are the facilities that we can use”.

The newly-rehabilitated interior of the Tacloban City Coliseum
The newly-rehabilitated interior of the Tacloban City Coliseum

Provincial Civic Center

Local engr. Rosalie Canuda remembers:

Tacloban City Municipal Engineer Rosalie Canuda
Tacloban City Municipal Engineer Rosalie Canuda

“The storm surge reached our office (at the provincial civic center). It was high, up to the window panels. All the garbage was here. We wrapped everything in garbage bags: computers, documents, equipment, but it was not enough.

We have two civic center facilities. One is being rented by a business processing outsourcing (BPO) company. Because of the typhoon, the whole roofing were destroyed which damaged most of their computers. The second building is the gymnasium in which all the provincial activities are being done. It was also destroyed, especially the roofing.

When the gymnasium was repaired, we used it as stockroom for all the supplies and relief goods we received. From the province, we distribute it to other municipalities. Other INGOs would also use the facilities to safe keep their supplies.

The newly-rehabilitated Tacloban City Provincial Civic Center - July 2015
The newly-rehabilitated Tacloban City Provincial Civic Center – July 2015

The gymnasium can accommodate 2,000 people. We really plan to convert the gymnasium into an assembly area for conventions, seminars and sports activities. We are still planning and designing on how we can install centralized air-conditioning so that it will be more convenient to the users.”

DILG Region VIII Office

Before the landfall of Yolanda, Regional Director Pedro A. Noval, Jr. Ceso III joined the meeting called by the former DILG Secretary, Mar Roxas.

DILG Regional VIII Director Pedro A. Noval, Jr. CESO III
DILG Regional VIII Director Pedro A. Noval, Jr. CESO III

“Secretary Roxas came and gathered us, all the local government units in Eastern Visayas. We had a meeting and discussed the preparations we made for the coming of Yolanda. The meeting ended at around 9:00 pm, that’s when we started to feel the strong wind.

I returned back in the DILG regional office to prepare for the impact of Yolanda. We had evacuees who came in the office, more particularly from our regional staff and some of them were neighbors and relatives.

The DILG Region VIII office sustained extensive damage during Super Typhoon Yolanda (I)
The DILG Region VIII office sustained extensive damage during Super Typhoon Yolanda

At around 11 pm to 12 midnight, Yolanda started to batter us. It lasted until 5:00 am. Because of the strong wind, we heard a blast at the second floor. It was like an atomic bomb. All of us stayed in my office. Everyone was crying even myself but I have to control my emotions and stay strong for them so that they would not be discouraged.

Exactly 6:25 am, the wind was weak already so I went outside. Then, I saw Secretary Roxas roaming around. So, I approached him and reported that “I’m alive”. Then, he replied: “good, we have survived”.

Post Yolanda, we reported immediately all the damaged facilities in the local government units. I also reported to him the damage in our regional office and within our compound: our office, dormitory, guard house, evacuation center and other facilities. We are happy because the Secretary immediately responded to our request.

As we implement the RAY DILG projects, we ensured that all the repairs and construction that we are doing in the office and in the LGU include and observe the “build back better” policy as instructed by our President.

The DILG Region VIII office has since been rehabilitated with support from RAY funds - July 2015.
The DILG Region VIII office has since been rehabilitated with support from RAY funds – July 2015.

The effect of our project is to normalize the operations in the LGU, so that the people will feel that the national government is really helping and supporting the LGUs, to bring back what has been lost due of Yolanda,“ he said.

Tacloban City Vice Mayor Jerry Yaokasin
Tacloban City Vice Mayor Jerry Yaokasin

The newly-rehabilitated Kanhuraw Business Center acts as a ‘one-stop shop’ for local government services - July 2015 (I)
The newly-rehabilitated Kanhuraw Business Center acts as a ‘one-stop shop’ for local government services – July 2015 

Quinapondan

“Among the municipalities struck by Yolanda in Eastern Samar, Quinapondan was still lucky because it incurred minimal damage, when compared to our neighboring municipalities,” Mayor Nedito A. Campo remembers.

With Mayor Nedito Campo of Quinapondan, Eastern Samar
Bulacan Gov. Wilhelmino M. Sy-Alvarado hands over a check amounting to P500,000 to Mayor Nedito Campo of Quinapondan, Eastern Samar to help local typhoon victims – March 14, 2014. Courtesy: Bulacan.gov.ph.

Yet despite the minimal physical damage, the Mayor explains, local survivors experienced a kind of damage that proves invisible at first glance.

“The Yolanda experience was an eye opener for everyone,” Mayor added. “During the typhoon, in our municipal hall, there was total chaos.”

“Truthfully, afterwards, almost everyone in the town was demoralized,” he says.

Rehabilitation

At the Quinapondan local market, vendors returned to view the destruction. For some, like Susan B. Gonzaga, this would make for some necessary improvisation. “With the roll-up door to our stall damaged, we had to hammer it down, open it, then hammer it down again each night, before re-opening it again the next morning. It was very tiring, but we had to sacrifice just to ensure that our products are secured at night,” she explains.

Quinapondan market vendor Susan B. Gonzaga
Quinapondan market vendor Susan B. Gonzaga

As post-disaster recovery projects got underway, officials faced additional challenges. “Our challenge was the availability of construction materials,” Mayor Nedito says. “It was really hard to find these, post-Yolanda. As demand went up, so did prices: as the closest licensed lumber dealers are in Tacloban City and Guiuan, we had few available materials to work with.”

With support from RAY DILG, “the moment the fund was downloaded to us, after having complied with procedural requirements, we started implementing the projects,” the Mayor added.

A morale boost

“After our municipal hall was repaired, it was a morale booster to our Yolanda victims, including our barangay officials,” the Mayor believes. “They saw that the government is helping us to recover.”

Likewise, at the local market, vendors are back in business. “It is a morale booster to them (the vendors and customers), also,” the Mayor adds.

The newly-rehabilitated Quinapondan public market
The newly-rehabilitated Quinapondan public market

“Yes, it was very difficult after the typhoon,” Susan says. “Yet now that the market has been repaired, and our roll-up door fixed, I am very much at ease. I don’t need to worry anymore when we close our stall at night.”

Busuanga

Before exiting the Philippine Area of Responsibility (PAR), Yolanda made its sixth and final landfall at around 20:00 on November 8 in the far-western province of Palawan.

The municipality of Busuanga, Palawan, serves as the gateway for tourists to reach the popular town of Coron, and other neighboring island municipalities. It was there that some 688 households from its nine barangays were affected by Typhoon Yolanda, while the island barangays , at least 260 families were also affected.

Busuanga Municipal Hall - Palawan
The newly-rehabilitated Busuanga Municipal Hall – August 2015

Both the local municipal hall and civic center sustained significant damage, with roofs, ceilings and electrical wiring in need of extensive repair.

“The rebuilding of our municipal hall and civic center resulted in more efficient services and convenience for our constituents,” municipal engineer Marlo M. Dagomboy, explains. “We also repainted, and included provisions for better fire protection. In the civic center, the benches were also modified.”

Busuanga Municipal Hall - Palawan (I)

Yolanda’s last landfall in Northern Palawan badly affected the tourism industry, especially vital services including hotels, cottages and pump boats. With support from a range of national government agencies and international organizations, recovery in Busuanga continues.