Read When Haiyan Struck at the New Yorker.
Friends and colleagues of Tina Cuyugan, Helen Merino’s employer, have rallied round to assist Helen and her family with cash donations and logistics. According to Tina, a cousin of Helen’s has already made his way to Helen’s parents with rice and goods. The old folk have made a small hut for themselves using GI sheets that had been blown off from some other roof, and are collecting rainwater. Together they made their way to the family land (an hour’s walk away), and saw how every single tree on it had been beheaded and flattened (“parang posporo na nakakalat”).
Helen’s parents have decided to migrate back to Davao yet again. (Helen’s family is originally from Leyte. They fled to Davao to avoid the NPA. Later they fled back to Leyte to avoid the MNLF. They are the definition of ‘displaced people’.) They will stay in Davao for some months at least, accompanied by the cousin. Helen will buy a young pig for her mother to raise with part of the cash donations, for income and also to keep her from dwelling on the disaster and the trauma. They will be in the Davao house which Helen had built for them with Tina’s help some years ago.
Tina has advised Helen to tell her family to keep in mind international efforts to assist in recovery and rehab. They may yet be able to rebuild and reclaim in Leyte, but for now it’s too much for the old folk.
Our friend Leo Abuda has returned from his trip to Guiuan. He sent this update:
After a four-day journey, I am back in Manila and happily reunited with my family. My journey took me to Butuan City, where I picked up relief goods that had been procured and positioned there through the generosity of relatives, friends and clients, and packed by volunteers of the People Power Volunteers for Reform (Big thanks to Tito Fred and Tita Chit Asis, parents of my law partner Jehri Asis).
From Butuan, we proceeded to Placer, Surigao del Norte where we loaded the relief goods onto a fishing boat provided by Ramil and Myrna Luna (friends of my wife). From Placer it was a 22-hour boat ride, mostly across portions of the Pacific Ocean, that took us past the islands of Hinatuan, Dinagat, Suluan, Homonhon and finally to Guiuan. We had a bit of a delay entering Guiuan because it was low tide, and this being the boat captain’s first trip to Guiuan, we had to watch out for the many coral reefs that dot the channel leading to Guiuan proper.
As it was already late in the afternoon by the time we were able to dock, we quickly unloaded the relief goods and sent them by army truck to our makeshift barangay hall for immediate distribution to the waiting recipients. Initially there was a bit of confusion as people all wanted their names to be called first. However, the barangay officials quickly restored order and we assured everyone there were enough goods to provide one pack for each household. After that, the distribution went relatively smoothly and the people obediently, patiently stood in line and waited for their names to be called.
There was none of the chaos that I had seen on TV news footage of Tacloban; no shoving, elbowing, pushing, jostling or shouting, other than people’s names being called so they could step forward and pick up their goods. By nightfall we had completed distribution of 1 relief pack (5 kilos rice and assorted canned goods) and a half-gallon of water per household in the entire barangay, as well as relatives and residents from other barangays who came to the house. By early evening, before the daily curfew set in, we had pretty much completed the distribution and were able to sit down for dinner and some (literally) dark but quality time with the family.
I cannot find the words to express the happiness reflected in the dazed but grateful eyes of the people as they made their way home, clutching the bags of goods and bottles of water that could very well have been their most prized possessions, next to the lives of their loved ones who were fortunate to have survived the worst of Yolanda’s force. Never before have I heard the words “Thank you” uttered with such sincerity. It was only when I was heading back to the house that I realized there were tears in my eyes. I let them fall, and went home with a renewed sense of purpose and a deeper appreciation of the value of life and living it in the most meaningful way.
Dear friends, thank you all so much for your generous contributions. Without you we would not have succeeded in our modest efforts to reach out to our fellow Guiuananons, who continue to struggle to come to terms with the reality that Yolanda has irreversibly altered the course of their lives. We continue to look to you for support in our ongoing efforts to help in rehabilitating Guiuan (and hopefully other places similarly situated) and to give our fellow Guiuananons a renewed sense of direction as they try to pick up the pieces of their shattered lives.