Stories from the Philippines. Please read the introduction HERE.
In 2017 Philippines got hit by the typhoon Vinta, leaving 200 people dead and nearly 16 000 forced to evacuate. The cyclon triggered massive floods and landslides especially in the region of Mindanao, Lanao del Norte. Some of them are still living in the tents and makeshift houses.
It happened just two days before Christmas Eve. Flordelito, who was back then working in Iligan city, Philippines, tried to earn some money after his mother’s death. Suddenly, he received a message. A message no one should ever get. He then immediately took a bus and rode back home. Home which didn’t exist anymore.
This story is told in front of a little shelter made out of debris found from the river. When it rains – and in the Philippines it can happen too often – Flordelito, the inhabitant of the makeshift house, don’t really know what to do. “Sometimes, when the roof leaks, I just sit because I will get wet anyway,” he says.
Lacking the construction materials, sometimes food, his 24-year-old head is still full of memories but most importantly, hopes. “There are days I feel confused and I just stare blankly because I remember our life before the typhoon Vinta. But we are not losing hope because Red Cross is not giving up on us.”
Everything washed away
“The life before” – this is what he said… “It all began in December 2017,” Flordelito starts. He and his family – three siblings, grandparents and other relatives had a little home on the riverside in one of the islands of the Philippines. Even though they were considered to be poor – income only enough for surviving, sometimes simply living out of bananas or root crops – they were rather happy. At least the family was all together.
On that tragic day Flordelito was at work. When checking his phone he unexpectedly got a message. Cold truth. “There has been a flood. Your sister, your grandparents, cousins and nephews are all gone.” He couldn’t believe it. He tried to ignore it. He cried. He got home. “Everything was washed away. Nothing was left.” And nothing much he could do.
Visits to the funeral home then became a habit for this young filipino. Every single day he’d go there in a hope to find the bodies of his beloved ones. His grandfather was found – unrecognizable face, only a tattoo on his arm could tell who he was. His aunt was found – covered by debris. His cousin was found as well – naked and blotted. What hurts Flordelito the most is that his sister and grandmother are still missing.
The life, however, had to go on. At first, there was no place to sleep, no food because all the crops were affected. Living in a tent was too hot. A makeshift house in the evacuation site, built together with his uncle – even with a leaking roof – turned out to be the best option. Motivation, according to him, was mainly gained from the Red Cross and the goods provided. The tool and hygiene kits, food relief and some cash for the house construction. Enough to give back the hope. He then started to look for things to do – finding work was hard.
As Flordelito knows too well how it feels to lose almost everything, he decided to become Red Cross volunteer by himself. Partly because it lessens the pain and sadness, leaves no space for too many thoughts. Partly because he then can help the others, co-beneficiaries.
As for now Flordelito is planting vegetables close to his shelter. All the crops were affected by a recent landslide. He is also trying to fix the leaking roof – however, it’s complicated due to the stop of the delivery of the materials.
“Even though we are still living here, for almost two years already, I’m motivated to rise up again. If only the materials would be available so we could finish our houses,” he wishes and then lists the priority needs:
- Tarpaulins to cover the holes in the roof
because of the leaks
- Improved livelihood: it’s difficult to find work because of the floods, crossing the river to the farm is complicated. It’s also difficult to get food
- Electricity – no constant supply
Flordelito admits that their life is not easy. “But I have a dream. A dream to live in a safe place, have a stable job so that I could help my family and siblings. I simply wish to sleep in a comfortable place without any leaks. I wish to have a beautiful family.”
To be continued…