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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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.”

Mercedes

“We thought we were prepared,” Mayor Enrique A. Cabos says, of the days leading up to Super Typhoon Yolanda.

Mercedes Mayor Enrique A. Cabos
Mercedes Mayor Enrique A. Cabos

“We’re used to typhoons. We know the feel of them, and how the surrounding ares begin to look as they arrive.”

Yet on November 8, 2013, the weather was fine and clear. “So from our experiences, we simply thought it would not come.”

A typhoon, unexpected

By some estimates, some 97% of the municipality of Mercedes was destroyed by Typhoon Yolanda. “Even the doors of buildings!” the Mayor exclaims. “We have no idea where Yolanda carried them to.”

Six days later, all the barangays  in the municipalities were again accessible. “I borrowed a back hoe from a mining firm and we cleared the roads. With it, we were able to begin our recovery.”

“But most of all, of course, we’re thankful that there were no casualties,” he adds.

Then and Now

During the disaster, the local municipal hall, particularly the second floor, was badly damaged. “When the roofing was blown off, our documents were all blown away. We could look up and see the rescue helicopters flying above us,” Nicolas C. Saucelo, a local administrative aide remembers. Heavy rains had also stripped the paint from the building’s interior walls.

Mercedes Municipal Hall - June 2015
Mercedes Municipal Hall – June 2015

As recovery began, rehabilitation of the municipal hall was deemed a priority. “Since it is the seat of power, when people see it being repaired, it brings about a feeling that we’re returning to normal,” the Mayor explains. “It demonstrates that the government really strived and did its best to uplift the lives of the victims after Yolanda.”

Before Yolanda, the municipal building had at times felt like a hotel, separated into closed-off sections. With support from RAY DILG funds, these partitions were later changed to glass.

“We’re now more visible to our clients and to other employees,” Nicolas says. “Our office really improved since, and now we are more inspired and eager to work. It’s more convenient for us to cater to our clients,” he added.

 

Llorente

In Llorente, local municipal employees remember well the difficulties that arose in ensuring government services, after Super Typhoon Yolanda. “It was difficult,” says municipal employee Jesse D. Contado. “We had to return to work right away.”

Llorente Municipal Treasurer Jesse D. Contado
Llorente Municipal Treasurer Jesse D. Contado

“Although, thank God that the water did not enter the municipal hall.” This key government building sustained partial damages due to the strong winds.

Llorente Municipal Hall - June 2015
Llorente Municipal Hall – June 2015

So too, was the civic center. Jude Sidro, a local basketball player, explains that the center provides a vital space for community gatherings and events.

“Rain or shine we can comfortably play together, inside the civic center,” he says. “It’s why we always hope that the next typhoons will not have the same intensity as Yolanda.”

For government officials and local residents alike, “Yolanda was an important learning,” Jesse emphasizes. “I just hope that there will be more projects for the LGU to protect the people and infrastructures most especially since we are facing the Pacific Ocean.”

“The weather is very unpredictable nowadays and it is very hard if you’re greatest opponent is the ocean,” he added.

 

Lawaan

Located between Guiuan and Tacloban City, the coastal municipality of Lawaan lay almost directly on the path of Super Typhoon Yolanda.

After Yolanda - Lawa’an public market
After Yolanda – Lawaan public market

“We knew that it will be a super typhoon, but its strength really took us by surprise,” says local market vendor Elena G. Gayda.

Lawa’an market vendor Elena G. Gayda
Lawaan market vendor Elena G. Gayda

For these local residents, water is a way of life. The small town relies largely on local marine sanctuaries and fish reserves for much of its daily income.

“Since our public market is located right beside the sea, we already anticipated that it will be affected by Yolanda,” she explains.

As with nearby houses and other infrastructure, the super typhoon stripped the roof from the market. Stalls were blown away by the freakishly powerful winds, and all that remained of the once-thriving market were the remnants of what had been structural columns.

We didn’t expect just how damaged the market would be,” Elena remembers.

Improvements at the market by the sea

With support from RAY DILG funds, rehabilitation works were soon underway to restore the public market to its former vibrancy.

The newly-rehabilitated Lawa’an public market - June 2015
The newly-rehabilitated Lawaan public market – June 2015.

With columns and roofing repaired, vendors could then return to selling items, vital for their continued income. Electrical works then provided brighter lights, ensuring that vendors can now display their items better, stay open until late in the evening, and also protect their wares from theft. Improved wet market areas, aisle spacing and comfort rooms can now ensure a more comfortable visit, for vendors and patrons alike.

Guiuan

Super Typhoon Yolanda first made landfall in the municipality of Guiuan, Eastern Samar. Almost all the structures within the municipality were left in ruins, and the town remained largely isolated in the first days after the storm.

Guian After Yolanda - Courtesy - John Javellena
Guiuan after Yolanda. Courtesy: John Javellena

“Almost everything were completely washed out,” explains Rosario D. Merilles, a local market vendor.

Rosario D. Merilles, Guian market vendor
Guiuan local market vendor Rosario D. Merilles

“All the business establishments, even those that were made from concrete. Houses, schools, roads: everything here was affected by Yolanda.”

The town’s La Purisma Conception church, a heritage site considered one of the finest Spanish colonial structures in the Philippines, was also devastated.

Nearby, close to the sea, the local market had also sustained extensive damage.

“In my market stall, all of our products were damaged; they were washed out, and all the debris made their way inside. Looting was also rampant, and some of my products were stolen,” she says.

The Guian public market suffered extensive damage after Super Typhoon Yolanda
After Super Typhoon Yolanda – Guiuan Public Market

While the public market was under construction, Rosario joined other vendors in building temporary stalls. “We can’t afford to take a break from selling,” she says. “Its our source of living. The market contractor even warned us that we might get hurt during the ongoing construction, so we were extra careful at that time. Still, we needed to survive.”

RAY DILD funds

“I learned of the RAY DILG funding assistance when I saw the billboard,” Rosario says. “Also when Secretary Mar also came to visit us, here in Guiuan.”

Since then, “we’re slowly recovering,” she says. “Almost all our stalls here are functional. The vendors are back again, to do business.”

The newly-rehabilitated Guian public market
Guiuan public market – June 2015

The lessons of Yolanda remain strong, in the minds of many. “When we heard about Typhoon Ruby (Hagupit), we packed our goods without giving it a second thought. Our market and the town proper are beside the sea. Our municipality is facing the Pacific Ocean. Now, everything changed. We are more prepared and cooperative with the local government, especially if we hear about storm warnings.”

“We really never want to experience again the pain and stress that we did during Yolanda,” she adds.

General MacArthur

Maria Daina C. Monta has served as the municipal bookkeeper in General MacArthur, Eastern Samar, for more than twenty-five years. What she and her community experienced during Super Typhoon Yolanda will stay with them for a lifetime.

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Municipal bookkeeper Maria Daina C. Monta

A group of army soldiers were stationed at one of our upland barangays , and they themselves witnessed giant waves in the Pacific Ocean,” she remembers. “As it approached the shoreline, they saw how it parted into two: maybe that was the storm surge. Since it was divided, it spared our municipality from extensive damage, but our neighboring municipalities were badly affected,” she remembers.

The municipal hall served as an evacuation center during the disaster, and would later be converted into a relief operations center. “Everything was washed out here,” she says. “That’s why now, everything looks new.”

Located in a catch basin, the local civic center situated nearby had often suffered floods during regular rains. After Yolanda, it too was almost entirely destroyed.

Meanwhile, at the public market, Yolanda had added further devastation. “(The market) was in chaos,” Rosita Abode says. “All the trash from the sea was brought by Yolanda into the market itself: and all our items were mixed in with the debris. You couldn’t buy anything, not even sugar, nor rice. All of it had been destroyed.

General MacArthur market vendor Rosita Abode
General MacArthur market vendor Rosita Abode

You couldn’t even recognize that there had been a market here, afterwards.”

Citizens, near and far

As the municipality began upon the long and slow road of disaster recovery, local Mayor Jaime S. Ty would prioritize rehabilitation of the public market and municipal hall.

“Since the market was repaired immediately, even people from (nearby towns) of Borongan, Dolores, and Guiuan would come here to buy food supplies and other necessities,” Maria explains.

With the support of RAY DILG funds, the municipal building could also be rehabilitated, quickly reinstating public access to basic government services for those both within and outside the municipality.

“Once the municipal hall was repaired, regular government business could resume,” Maria says. “People from nearby towns visited to receive their documentation stamps, so that they too could receive access to basic services while their municipal hall were being repaired.”

Basketball players in the newly-rehabiltiated General MacArthur Civic Center
Basketball players in the newly-rehabiltiated General MacArthur Civic Center

At the civic center, regular community activities are again underway, much to the delight of local patrons like basketball player, Jaypee Araneta. “Our league too a break after the building was destroyed,” he says. Since then, the structure of the center has been reinforced with sturdy materials, and the flooring raised for added flood protection.

Local General MacArthur resident and basketball player Jaypee Araneta.
Local resident Jaypee Araneta

An unforgettable series of events

With mixed emotions, on November 9, 2013 – the day after Yolanda – Maria would celebrate her birthday.

“The day after Yolanda, livestock were being sold cheap, so I bought some of it,” Maria remembers. “Since, after all, it was my birthday. We cooked it and had a celebration on the street with our neighbors, under the moonlight. By far, it is one of my unforgettable birthday celebrations.”

Nowadays, she and the townspeople celebrate a return to normal life following these unforgettable series of events. “When you enter General MacArthur, you can see only a few traces of Yolanda, compared to other municipalities here in Eastern Samar,” she says. “The bayanihan  spirit here helped ensure that eventually, everything would return back to normal.”