• ‘Yolanda’ survivor asks: where do I begin?

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    FOR the 43 families now housed at the Jose Fabella Center in Mandaluyong, a temporary shelter for the homeless set up by the Department of Social Welfare and Development, they are determined to live normal lives in Palo, Leyte. But the question is, how and where do we start?

    Currently there are 201 individuals, 13 of them orphaned by Super Typhoon Yolanda in November, who are being cared for by social workers of the government and private sector.

    For Raquel Triqueros, 20 and a mother of four, she is determined to return to Palo, Leyte by the third week of January 2014 to regain a normal life with her children going back to school.

    “We are definitely going home. But we don’t know where to start? Do we rebuild our modest house first? How will we eat there? Where would my children go to school when their school has been completely destroyed.” She posed these endless questions in an interview last Christmas with The Manila Times.

    Along with 43 others, her family is currently staying at the Fabella Center, where they enjoy food packs, therapy sessions and other kinds of assistance from private individuals and groups visiting the center.

    While most of the families moved here days after the typhoon hit Visayas, the Trigueros family came to Manila just before Christmas from Palo.

    She said she had to bring her eldest son first to a hospital in Manila because of a dog bite on the cheek since medical services back home were almost nil.

    Luckily, no one in her family died during Yolanda’s furious surges. Even her mother survived drowning by holding on to the mango tree that was tumbled down by the surge.

    When they return and rebuild their lives in Palo, her husband will apply for a job in Manila since there is practically nothing to work for in copra, with most of the coconut trees downed by the howler.

    Her two children—Sean, 6, and Spencer, 4—keep on asking when they would go back to school. Sean, an honor student in his school in Palo, wanted to receive school items more than relief packs and toys last Christmas so he jostled with other children to get his share of school supplies given by a private group here.

    Both Sean and Spencer want to be policemen when they grow up to ensure peace (with their guns) and to help other people, they said.

    Raquel does not want her children to study in Manila because of the high cost of education, even if tuition fee is free. She is optimistic that her children’s school will also be fixed in time for classes this January.

    Her wish for the New Year is that Filipinos would continue helping each other to speed up the recovery and rehabilitation of survivors of Yolanda, besides her personal wish that her house would be fixed and her children would soon return to school.

    “This can only be realized if we all work together and help one another,” she said.

    The children staying at the center seemed not to mind or show signs of trauma from the disaster they went through last month.

    Most of them continue playing ball games in the center’s basketball court, while others played with toys of all sorts—stuffed toys, cars, board games, a mini-billiards set, even wheelchairs.

    With bright smiles in their faces, they instantly become symbols of hope and recovery after the tragedy, said Eva Villegas, social worker at the Fabella Center.

    Villegas said that when they first arrived at the center, they were staring blankly and were not responding to anything. “It is encouraging that they are smiling now, an indication that they have overcome their setbacks,” she explained.

    She said that while DSWD announced the cessation of relief for Yolanda survivors, the agency still monitors their efforts for rehabilitation through coordination with the concerned local governments.

    As planned, the local governments take care of shelter, education and livelihood of the survivors. “What we can give them are temporary shelters and relief aid in partnership with private donors,” she said.

    In addition, DSWD shoulders the expense of bringing back the survivors to Leyte or other provinces affected by the super howler.

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    1 Comment

    1. Ask the corrupt lawmakers…and the Dept of Agriculture, the Bureau of Custom, and the Romualdez in Tacloban.