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 

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Villaba

Typhoons are ‘nothing new’ to the townsfolk of Villaba, a coastal municipality situated in western Leyte.

“Typhoons are really part of our lives, especially as we are facing the sea,” Myrna Ombajen, a local market vendor explains.

Villaba market vendor Myrna Ombajen
Villaba market vendor Myrna Ombajen

Yet Super Typhoon Yolanda proved another experience entirely, she explains.

“The strength of Yolanda was way beyond our expectations. The sound of the wind was like a helicopter. Cars were being thrown through the air. The market was damaged, my house was damaged,” she remembers.

Like a ghost town

“After Yolanda, our municipality was like a ghost town,” Gino V. Esmero, a local DSWD worker, explains.

Local DSWD employee Gino V. Esmero
Local DSWD employee Gino V. Esmero

“After Yolanda, there was nothing green left,  as almost all the trees and plants had been damaged,” Mayor Jorge V. Veloso says. “The mountains had been stripped of everything. Everything was brown and muddy.”

Villaba Mayor Jorge V. Veloso
Villaba Mayor Jorge V. Veloso

“Almost all of the houses were damaged. Debris, trash and mud were everywhere. When the people saw that their houses were damaged, they either cried or screamed out in despair,” Gino added.

Evacuations

The DSWD office is situated within the civic center, which served as an evacuation center during the disaster.

“Those who evacuated there hid under the bleachers when the strong winds stripped the roof away, piece by piece,” Mayor Jorge added.

Afterwards, local staff used tarpaulins as makeshift shelter. Often, it would first rain, then flood. However, until repairs could begin, they could only make do in the terrible conditions.

Rebuilding, repairing, recovering

The municipality would receive assistance from a number of local government and international aid agencies.

“Our municipal building, market and (civic center) were repaired through the RAY DILG fund,” Mayor Jorge explains. “Once the roof and ceiling of the civic center was repaired, it could again function as it once did.”

The newly-rehabilitated Villaba Municipal Hall - July 2015
The newly-rehabilitated Villaba Municipal Hall – July 2015

The civic center provides a vital venue for local community and government activities. “We use it for our fiesta activities and for basketball tournaments. Our schools are also using it for their induction activities and high school orientation programs. For us in DSWD, we use it as our venue for our trainings and orientation seminars,” Gino says.

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

We are making progress

As Myrna explains, “we are still recovering.”

“Many people continue to experience trauma, since Yolanda,” she says. Then of course, Typhoon Ruby arrived. As soon as we heard, many were scared: after all, we were still recovering from Yolanda at the time.”

Yet in the year since Yolanda, attitudes towards preparation, evacuation and post-disaster relief had changed considerably. “When we heard about Ruby, we instantly secured our belongings. We wrapped everything in plastic especially the documents in our office,” Gino says.

“I estimate that around eighty percent of the people here have now since recovered, after Yolanda and Ruby,” he adds. “Yet some are still fixing their houses, and making efforts to improve their livelihood. It’s not an easy recovery, because most of the people doesn’t have money to repair their houses completely. It will still take time, but we are making progress.”

Tunga

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.

Tunga Municipal accountant Lea C. Requiez
Tunga Municipal accountant Lea C. Requiez

“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.

Tunga market vendor Nelson Arguilles
Tunga market vendor Nelson Arguilles

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.”

Market vendors gather for a photo together in the newly-rehabilitated Tunga public market - June 2015
Market vendors gather for a photo together in the newly-rehabilitated Tunga public market – June 2015

Tanauan

Facing the San Pedro Bay, the small coastal municipality of Tanauan is more commonly known as the skimboarding capital of the Philippines.

Yet, as the enormous devastation wrecked by Super Typhoon Yolanda became known, the municipality alone would account for some 1,376 of the total 6,193 casualties.

Many of those killed would be buried in mass graves. Mayor Pelagio Tecson Jr. asked a priest to bless them, honoring a custom that as a man owes it to himself to live a decent life, so, too, does he deserve a honorable burial.

Tanauan Mayor Pelagio Tecson Jnr
Tanauan Mayor Pelagio Tecson Jr.

Local infrastructure destroyed

Houses of more than 1,200 families in communities along the coast were also wiped out.

Sheree Ann Y. Bayadog, of Tanauan School of Craftsmanship and Home Industries (TSCHI), a high school and vocational school, shared that they were badly affected when their civic center was damaged by the typhoon. They usually hold their practices, activities and flag ceremonies in the facility because it can accommodate a huge crowd.

Sheree Ann Y. Bayadog of Tanauan School of Craftsmanship and Home Industries (TSCHI) with Tanauan resident Mary Ann N. Abarracoso
Sheree Ann Y. Bayadog of Tanauan School of Craftsmanship and Home Industries (TSCHI) with Tanauan resident Mary Ann N. Abarracoso

“When we use the civic center, we would just do one announcement for all: rather than going to each classroom to inform each group of students about school announcements. It delays the communication process. It is also the usual venue for barangay programs,” Sheree adds.

“We are just waiting for the project to be completely finished so that it can be turned-over and benefit the whole community,” local resident Mary Ann N. Abarracoso says. “We are very excited to use it, especially for town fiesta. It is more beautiful and comfortable to use because they installed insulation that protect visitors from the heat.”

“Because of our terrifying experience with Typhoon Yolanda, the community is more prepared than ever before. The local government now regularly conducts fire and earthquake drill and seminars regarding disaster preparedness,” she added.

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

 

Tabontabon

The municipality of Tabontabon experienced widespread destruction during Super Typhoon Yolanda.

Among these, the destruction of the local public market saw devastating impact upon local vendors and patrons who rely heavily on the market to sustain local food supplies.

This would include Evelyn C. Carola, a local fish and vegetable vendor for more than twenty years. This is her story.

Tabontabon public market vendor Evelyn C. Carola.
Tabontabon public market vendor Evelyn C. Carola

I was here when Yolanda happened.

It destroyed our house, my stall and our entire market. Everything was damaged from our municipal hall, to the barangay hall, our gymnasium: even the evacuation center.

We were informed about the typhoon. The announcement came from the municipal officials: even from our barangay (officials). My family prepared for it, but some of the people didnt believe it, and underestimated it.

But that was a very strong typhoon. I didnt expect that it would be so terrifying.

Since our market was washed out, I had to stop from selling. I also didn’t have the money to use as capital.

 It was also difficult for me because I am selling fish and after the typhoon, people were scared of eating fish and other seafood products.

Some of my co-vendors still continued selling but they would either sell in front of their houses or wander around the town, just so they could continue their livelihood.

Slowly, we are recovering with the assistance coming from NGOs. Then, RAY DILG repaired our market.

Its very different now. Before Yolanda, it was made from light materials and wood. Now, more posts were added and they reinforced it using cement and sturdier materials.

The newly -rehabilitated Tabontabon Public Market- July 2015.
The newly -rehabilitated Tabontabon Public Market- July 2015

Once I have enough money to start my business, I will return to our newly repaired market. It is still challenging because of financial concerns, but I will definitely go back and occupy a stall.

Before, we were around eighteen vendors in the old market. I am looking forward to seeing more vendors arrive, more economic opportunities, and to see our market active once again. Most of all, Im looking forward to seeing our municipalitys complete recovery.

Tabango

Located on the northwest coast of Leyte province in the Tabango municipality, Tugas had seen no teams prior to our arrival to their barangay on day 19 after Typhoon Yolanda. Somewhat isolated due to road condition and lack of motorized vehicles, their water supply is currently not functional and water is being carried on foot by residents a total of 16km for access. Population is 1,700 individuals with 386 households 18 individuals are still in the evacuation center and 1,100 individuals are with host families with total loss of their homes reported. 70% of structures are totally destroyed and uninhabitable, with 30% damaged but inhabitable.

            –        Report:

                        Typhoon Haiyan [Yolanda] Rapid Needs Assessment Report
                        9 Municipalities in Leyte Province
                        UNOCHA (United Nations Office for the Coordination                                                              of Humanitarian Affairs)   
                       25-30 November 2013

Damage to the Tabango Civic Centre, following the devastation of Super Typhoon Yolanda (II)
Damage to the Tabango Civic Center, following the devastation of Super Typhoon Yolanda 

The municipality of Tabango was among those hardest hit by Super Typhoon Yolanda.

Here, Loreta E. Daloso, a local market vendor, remembers her preparations in haste for the coming of the typhoon.

Tabango local market vendor Loreta E. Daloso
Tabango local market vendor Loreta E. Daloso

We were told that that the typhoon was on its way, so I placed all our things inside plastic bags. Our home was damaged, and I was even more surprised when I saw the devastation in our market. No roofing was left, even the steel bars were bent.

We placed temporary tarpaulins as roofing and used tables outside the market as our temporary stall.

Luther S. Suano, a municipal planning and development coordinator (MPDC), explains the ‘unbelievable’ nature of Yolanda, as it made landfall:

Municipal planning and development coordinator Luther S. Suano
Municipal Planning and Development Coordinator Luther S. Suano

It was like the end of the world. In all my life, it was the worst typhoon I have ever experienced.

We usually experience typhoons here, but Yolanda was really the strongest.

After the typhoon, our (municipal hall) lobby served as our office. Some of the employees transferred to the library and other structures that survived just to have temporary offices.

Ma. Corazon E. Remandaban, Tabango’s municipal mayor also remembers:

Tabango Mayor Ma. Corazon E. Remandaban
Tabango Mayor Ma. Corazon E. Remandaban

Two days before landfall, I convened the MDRRMC. Our MDRRM officer informed our barangays to prepare and advised the people to evacuate.

The following day, some local people were preparing, but others were hesitant since the weather was fine.

But the typhoon brought strong winds, and this is what caused the devastation.

Afterwards, everyone was busy with their families. We waited for one day for the local government officials and key persons to attend to their families, then gathered together to plan our recovery.

With support from RAY DILG

For market vendor Loreta, the repair of the local public market sees the return of regular patrons, and a return to daily market routines.

Tabango public market - July 2015
Tabango public market – July 2015

“When our market was repaired, we were comfortable again, in our stalls,” Loreta says. “Selling outside was a struggle and sacrifice especially when it rains.

“Since it is now more convenient for vendors and marketgoers, we’ve seen an increase in business.”

Nearby, at the local civic center, repairs have improved the wellbeing of the community.

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

“We’ve begun using the civic center for community activities again,” Luther says. “(The venue) also generates income for the local government from rent of the facility, and from the stalls outside.

Now, we have new offices that are more resilient than before,” he adds.

Learning and Challenges post-Yolanda

Despite continued disaster risk reduction and preparation efforts, there remain ongoing lessons and challenges in Tabango, post-Yolanda.

“After Yolanda, the people participate and cooperate with our MDRRMO,” Mayor Corazon says. “This was evident during typhoon Ruby.

Yet we still need to teach our people about discipline and cleanliness, especially when they stay in the evacuation centers. During Ruby, I visited the evacuation centers and told them to maintain the cleanliness of the classrooms we used as evacuation centers, since we are just borrowing it.”

“It is still a continuous challenge,” Mayor Corazon added. “We haven’t perfected it yet, because this is not yet part of our norms. That is why we teach our people and include these efforts as part of our community preparations for future calamities,” she says.

The newly-rehabilitated Tabango Municipal Hall - July 2015
The newly-rehabilitated Tabango Municipal Hall – July 2015

Santa Fe

The municipality of Santa Fe, located 12km southwest of Tacloban City, was among those hardest-hit town by Super Typhoon Yolanda.

Reports from international aid groups suggested that almost a third (some 30%) of those in the municipality were displaced by the typhoon.

Screenshot of the damage wrought to Santa Fe during Super Typhoon Yolanda - 2 December 2013. (YouTube)
Screenshot of the damage wrought to Santa Fe during Super Typhoon Yolanda – 2 December 2013. Courtesy: YouTube

Damage to crops and farmland placed enormous pressure on local families, with many in need of food aid and relief supplies in the typhoon’s immediate aftermath.

Local infrastructure, including the municipality’s civic center, were also destroyed.

“Our civic center was sufficient for us, and we usually use it for all our activities,” Videl N. Apurillo, resident of Santa Fe shares.

The newly-rehabilitated Santa Fe Civic Center - August 2015
The newly-rehabilitated Santa Fe Civic Center

The facility sustained significant damage to its roof and roof framing because of the strong winds.

“With the installation of new roof and the repairs done in our civic center, it is once more beneficial to the members of the community,” Videl says.