The trees outside the Santa Fe Municipal Hall used to reach about seventy metres high and were covered in green foliage. Now they are barren sticks jutting out of the earth like elderly sentries, marking the entrance to what is now a disaster relief command centre. One month ago Typhoon Haiyan, known locally as Yolanda, ripped up trees by the roots on this island and left those still standing largely denuded.
The powerful winds also brought down power lines and mobile phone masts. Thousands of homes were destroyed or badly damaged – metal roofs torn back like the top of a can of sardines.
The mayor of Santa Fe, Jose Esgana, said it was as if Bantayan had been set back thirty years in a matter of minutes. But he is determined to restore the island as fast as possible.
‘I will not give up’
‘I will not give up,’ Jose told a ShelterBox Response Team (SRT) working on Bantayan. ‘I will fight this.’
Video by SRT member David Hatcher, Bantayan, Philippines, December 2013.
Mobile phone signal has already been restored in Santa Fe and some building materials are arriving to allow people to repair their shattered homes. ShelterBox is targeting the most vulnerable within the affected communities, ensuring a safe, dry and dignified existence while the rebuilding work gets underway.
Christine Mae Ofiasa and her fourteen-day old baby, Rona Mae, are among the recent recipients of a ShelterBox tent. They used to live in a one-room wooden extension to Christine’s mother’s concrete home. But the main house is now without a roof and part of a wall. All that remains of the extension is a pile of debris.
Tent will provide protection
Christine and baby Rona were living in a leaky makeshift shelter of salvaged wood when a ShelterBox team arrived. Rona’s head was covered in mosquito bites. The family’s new tent will provide protection from both rain and insects.
Local volunteers known as Bverts (Barangay Volunteer Emergency Response Teams) are helping the SRT to identify those most in need, including senior citizens like Victoria Cabrera. At 84 years old, she has many children and grandchildren – the youngest just 18 months. Victoria plans to share her new ShelterBox tent with at least some of her extended family:
‘Perhaps six or so,’ she said smiling. ‘Thank you, thank you.’