PANAY, Capiz: Rainwater kept 57 families of remote sitio Baybay in Barangay Bantigue here from dying from dehydration and severe famine for 25 days since Super Typhoon Yolanda struck on November 8 and before aid finally came on Tuesday.
The aid came from them Switzerland-based HEKS, an inter-church aid group, together with Task Force Mapalad, a local non-government organization, who reached this sitio by car 40 minutes from Roxas City and another 25 minutes by boat crossing the Panay Gulf to provide relief to the community.
William Villareiz, a teenager said his family was already suffering from severe hunger and lack of potable drinking water, which they tried to address by collecting rainwater to escape death.
He said he and 56 other families depended on rainwater, which they shared among themselves. The much-awaited rains did not come such that they were down to the last container to stretch among themselves until the next rain falls.
Luckily, their prayers for food and water were finally answered with the arrival of HEKS and Task Force Mapalad to their impoverished community.
There were times, he said, they had to sail to the next barangay to buy the precious water for P10 per container. They also had to beg for food from relatives living outside the village. Once supplies came from one of them, these would be shared with everyone. Some resident had to buy food in the town proper.
As expected, some died because of famine and dehydration, he told The Manila Times.
When relief workers came, everyone in Sitio Baybay could not contain their gratitude and kept saying thank you that help finally came from outsiders.
“Nagpapasalamat kami sa kanila at sa Diyos at hindi kami pinababayaan [We are thankful to them and God for not abandoning us],” Rosalinda said. “Masayang-masaya kami [We are very happy].”
But grief overshadows the joy that the Villareiz family feels in receiving relief aid because they lost two relatives—eight and 10 year olds—who were taken away by storm surges of up to 10 feet high that turbulent night.
Their grandfather was holding on to the poles of bamboos from their ruined house at the height of the storm’s fury, while the kids held their grandfather tightly. They even cried, “Lolo, huwag n’yo po kaming bibitawan [Lolo, hold us tight], but the giant waves just grabbed them away.
Another old male resident said the evacuees inside the village church, including himself, had to climb up the roof due to storm surges twice their height that flooded the inside. They held on to the roof and to each others hands just to endure the very strong winds that blew over them.
A total of seven people died here. Four of them were children—the youngest was five while the eldest 10—and the rest were adults.
Yet, they fervently believed that after that powerful storm, hope blossoms.
Moreover, the group also gave food packages to 34 families of Sitio Patibungon still in Barangay Bantigue, and to 183 families of Barangay Manapao in the town of Pontevedra.
These packages consisted of 25 kilos of rice, two kilos each of mongo and dried fish, one kilo of iodized salt, and five cans of sardines. Each pack could last for two weeks, compliant to international standards for humanitarian aid.