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.”

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.”

Naval

The sheer magnitude of Super Typhoon Yolanda came as an early – and unwelcome – shock to the citizens of the small coastal town of Naval, Biliran.

“It was around 7:00 am when the typhoon began to ravage our municipality,” says Pedro S. Salomon Jr., a local resident and basketball coach. “I’ve never experienced a typhoon like it before: with such strong winds…  So many houses and businesses were affected.”

Biliran Provincial Engineer Ventura B. Barbanida.
Naval resident and local basketball coach Pedro S. Salomon Jr.

The local gymnasium, used as a venue for provincial basketball games, was completely destroyed.  “You had a full view of the sky from inside the building,” Pedro remembers.

Used as an evacuation center during the disaster, evacuees like Pedro himself could only watch as the building struggled to protect them, and withstand the gale-force winds.

“When the storm starting tearing off the roof, the evacuees beneath were transferred to other, safer facilities,” he says.

A time after Yolanda

Coach Pedro gathers with local basketball players for a photo in the newly-rehabilitated Naval Civic Center - July 2015.
Coach Pedro gathers with local basketball players for a photo in the newly-rehabilitated Naval Civic Center – July 2015.

While recovery efforts were underway, local basketball players switched to a temporary venue. “We used another gym… because it was the only venue available,” Pedro says.

With support from RAY DILG funds, a more resilient roof and new polycarbonate walls were placed in the civic center: for the first time, windows were also installed to allow for added weather protections.

“Now we use this as a venue for our community gathering events,” Pedro says. “Like prom, reunions, concerts and graduations. Government departments also use it for training activities.”

“Mostly, we feel much safer now,” he says.

Biliran Province

Before leaving Region VIII, Yolanda would not spare the smaller province of Biliran.

“Yolanda taught us what a ‘storm surge’ is like,” says Alberto S. Tan, a local administrative aide.

High water levels, along with gale-force winds, proved devastating. “There were debris everywhere,” provincial engineer Ventura B. Barbanida. “Trees were uprooted, electric posts were down.” The provincial capitol building, civic centers, local gyms, schools and buildings each sustained extensive damage.

Biliran Provincial Engineer Ventura B. Barbanida
Biliran Provincial Engineer Ventura B. Barbanida

“Our (municipal) office looked like a junk shop,” Alberto remembers.

RAY DILG funds

As extensive post-Yolanda recovery efforts began, engineer Ventura learned of RAY DILG funds. “We immediately identified our motor pool and engineer’s office as facilities for rehabilitation,” he says. “These had been completely damaged.”

The Biliran Office of the Provincial Engineer sustained extensive damage during Super Typhoon Yolanda
The Biliran Office of the Provincial Engineer sustained extensive damage during Super Typhoon Yolanda.

Funded repairs saw the old buildings demolished, and new, more resilient structures built in their place. “We’re really happy here in the (new) engineer’s office,” Nimfa S. Sandigan, a long-time local engineer, says. “We have enough space work, and it’s an inspiring place to be.”

Municipal Engineer Nimfa S. Sandigan
Municipal Engineer Nimfa S. Sandigan

The new motorpool office is also much improved. “Employees from other departments are very impressed, and our stockroom is also more secure, minimizing our losses,” Alberto adds.

The Biliran Office of the Provincial Engineer has since been rehabilitated with support from RAY DILG - July 2015
The Biliran Office of the Provincial Engineer has since been rehabilitated with support from RAY DILG – July 2015.

Talalora

Talalora was among four towns in Samar hardest hit by Super Typhoon Yolanda, with around P100 million worth of infrastructure damaged in the nearby towns of Basey, Sta. Rita and Marabut.

Among the damage, the first – and only – civic center in the poblacion  of Talalora. It serves as a primary venue for the town’s civic, sports, cultural and school-based activities, and provides a vital meeting place for enjoyment by all members of the community.

First Yolanda, then Hagupit: lessons in resilience

With support from RAY DILG, the civic center was repaired soon after Yolanda struck. A new roof structure, replaced electrical wiring, concrete reinforcements, and the like then ensured that the civic center could once again, become a place for the community to gather.

The newly-rehabilitated Talalora Civic Center - July 2015
The newly-rehabilitated Talalora Civic Center – July 2015

Yet in December 2015, the civic center faced its first major challenge – a storm surge wrought by Typhoon Ruby (Hagupit).

“Our town became well-known during Typhoon Ruby, because of the news that our town had been washed out due to the storm surge,” Mayor Leonilo T. Costelo explains.

Talalora Mayor Leonilo T. Costelo in the newly-rehabilitated Talalora Civic Center
Talalora Mayor Leonilo T. Costelo in the newly-rehabilitated Talalora Civic Center

“But the civic center stayed upright,” he says. “That’s why the people are commending this work, because it is resilient.”

“This project was also a test for us,” says Mayor. “Some critics doubted if we will finish the project. When it was completed, it showed the people that the government are fully accountable to them, and can implement a project within the scheduled period,” he added.

Santa Rita

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.

Santa Rita local basketball player Brian Lazarete
Santa Rita local basketball player Brian Lazarete

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.

Basketball players in the newly-rehabilitated Santa Rita Civic Center
Basketball players in the newly-rehabilitated Santa Rita Civic Center