Monday, March 10, 2014

My Yolanda (Haiyan) Experience

We, in the Philippines, especially in Leyte and Samar areas are used to typhoons.  We have had weak typhoons and strong typhoons.  We are calamity veterans!

PRE-YOLANDA
Super typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan), however, was different.  It got the President of the Philippines himself to go on TV to warn all the people of the strongest typhoon to hit the country so far.  He said that this typhoon was the kind that could uproot the biggest of trees.  Well, okay, this was going to be a super typhoon.  But, hey, we’ve had super typhoons in the past and we were fine.  So, there was nothing unusual about that.  On the eve of Yolanda (November  7, 2013), people went about their usual thing – shopping, office, spa – the usual.  What was unusual was that the shops were closed by 5:00 o’clock in the afternoon.  But in Ormoc, shops usually close early when a typhoon is coming.

So we, in our family, bought food – the usual.  We had candles – the usual.  We had money – unusual!  Unusual because the Tuesday before the typhoon (which was a Friday) my husband draw his honoraria of three months from the Department of Interior and Local Government  (DILG) as region 8 consultant to its Grassroots Participation in the Budgeting Process (GPBP).  There was money left for emergency and for my daughter’s trip back to Cebu for her 2nd semester classes.

In the same manner, in the 1991 Killer Flood that struck Ormoc almost on the same day, November 5, we had several sacks of rice in our office from our rice farming project which was supported by the Philippine-Australian Community Assistance Program (PACAP).  We were the very first office to distribute rice to our organizations and allies whose families were destroyed by Typhoon Uring.

INTRODUCING:  YOLANDA
In the morning of November 8, 2013, a Friday, my 19-year old daughter was in the bedroom while Emil (my husband) and I were busying ourselves with household chores and office work.  The drizzles that started in the evening of November 7 was now rain carrying with it stronger winds.  At about 8:00 o’clock in the morning Yolanda signified her arrival.  My daughter called:  “Mamaaaa!” and ran downstairs cloaked in a blanket.  I had to go upstairs to check on the east room where my daughter was sleeping.  The rain was forcing its way through the jalousies with help by the strong winds.  It started raining inside the rooms as well (this apartment has two rooms) – the roofs must have given up!  We had to bring containers upstairs for the rainwater until I gave up because water was just all over the place.  We let it fall down and catch the water from below.  The three of us huddled together in the bamboo sofa in the sala of the apartment that is the Pagtinabangay Foundation office.  I was worried about the books and the files.  We kept emptying the water containers.  I could see the galvanized iron sheet roofing of our neighbors blown away by Yolanda. 

For nearly an hour, there was no let up on the winds and the rains.  And then there was quiet.  I peeked outside and saw our neighbor’s kids started picking up the G.I. sheets in front of their apartment.  I got out and told them to go back to the house because the “pagbali” part of the typhoon has yet to come.  This is the part when the typhoon comes around from the west, this time.  We waited…..

And then came back Yolanda with all her fury.  I went upstairs to try to let her out of our jalousies but she swirled our broadband canopy antenna and broke three blades.  I was in the room when that happened and had to hide behind the concrete wall.  I was almost caught by the broken glass!  So I moved out of the room and hid behind the wall where the door is attached carrying with me the clean laundry that was to be ironed that day, Friday.  While hiding there, glass came shattering towards me.  With one whole window without jalousies now, Yolanda slammed all her might on the wall and the door in front of me that it moved a foot away with the door opening outside.  Yolanda was like telling me:  “Get out of there, woman!”  I was frightened and ran downstairs where Emil and my daughter Kristi (now crying hard and shaking) were.  I had to hug Kristi tight throughout Yolanda’s fury of maybe an hour. 

 My husband, Emil is not a praying type, but when I started praying loud with Kristi following me, he also started following my prayers.  Then there was quiet.  We listened, she could come back you know.  After about 20 minutes I opened the door.  Our neighbors opened theirs too.  All sorts of debris were in front of our apartment doors.
Three blades of our jalousies on the left
Were broken by the SmartBro antenna while
All the blades on the extreme right were broken
By a neighbor’s GI sheet that was blown by Yolanda.

We and our neighbors started clearing the debris and cutting all the wires telling each other how unique Yolanda was compared to all other super typhoons we have ever encountered so far in our lives.
All these debris are part of what we and our
Neighbors have gathered within the week
After Yolanda.

Debris and wires cleared so far, Emil and Kristi went out on a motorbike that Yolanda brought down but, which miraculously still worked!  With Emil driving, Kristi took photos of the aftermath of Yolanda.  There was no sign of government doing any clearing work.  A private medium backhoe was the only one seen on Real Street, the city’s main street connecting to many municipalities.

This is San Joaqguin St. where our compound is located.
Entrance to the compound is right behind that gray van
On the left.



                          This electricity post was cut two times     Yolanda-battered Milagrina restaurant

                                                              A pediatric clinic, roofless


    
100 million pesos and more of the Ormoc “modern” market.  Yolanda must have been so mad at the allegedly corruption that went with the construction of these buildings that she went ballistic.


    
Another allegedly corruption-laden infrastructure – Ormoc’s new 500 million peso City Hall is no match to Yolanda.



    A whole block of small houses that were probably eyesores to Yolanda…. Imagine how the people in those shelters were and are coping….


See how resilient and enterprising women are?  This was in the afternoon of
November 8, 2013 – right after Yolanda’s fury.  Give her something to put
The lives of her family together again, and she’s okay.  No need for dole-outs!


We had to cook all the frozen foods in such a way to last us a few days.  “Humba” was the best option all ingredients of which was available in our kitchen that day.  It lasted a week.

We set up our sleeping quarters cum dining and receiving room in the small office of Pagtinabangay Foundation in the same apartment where we live.  I took our signage that Yolanda brought down, cleaned it, and was our dining table and which also served Emil’s “bed”.  I slept - and am still sleeping - on the bamboo sofa in the office.  We still have to buy mattresses for the rooms.  Yolanda saved Kristi’s sofa-bed so that was her bed.  Emil mounted the signage in between a bamboo side table and a chair.  Yolanda was kinder to us, in a way.  All our clothes, pillows and blankets and books (!) were dry.  The holes on the roofs were leaking in “safe” places.

On Thursday, November 7, Emil had a slight fever.  In the evening of November 8, Emil was suffering from an arthritic foot.  Despite that, he played with his harmonica.  That was de-stressing.  Kristi and I started jamming with him using our voices.  Thank heavens, there was no rain throughout that night.  We slept well.

POST-YOLANDA
The very first store that opened was Mercury Drug.  It was there that Kristi and I bought medicine for Emil’s arthritic foot and some groceries.  That was in the morning of November 9, a Saturday.  Enterprising individuals were already selling almost anything.  That was the first time I ventured out and saw the damage that Yolanda brought.

Compared to the 1991 Killer Flood of Typhoon Uring, where more than 6,000 lives were lost, Yolanda was kinder – in a way.  It took a week for the people to clean their houses of the mud.  There were no international humanitarian NGOs then, no United Nations agencies, yet on the second week after Uring, Ormoc was cleared of the mud. 

In Yolanda, I could not see government garbage trucks.  Were the trucks destroyed by Yolanda?  I don’t think so.  Was the city mayor waiting for the international humanitarian organizations?  I’d say definitely!  Why?  Because, even if the Uring killer flood devastated all of us in the city, the government was still intact.  But in the case of Yolanda, where was the city government?

There were several relocation sites established by the City Social Welfare and Development Office (CSWDO).  Volunteering with Oxfam, we went to two of these.  In the biggest school (Ormoc City Central Elementary School), 1,000 families were attended to by CSWDO.  In the evacuation centers, the families were more taken care of than those who chose to stay in their devastated houses.  Relief supplies were regularly given in the evacuation centers.  Whereas, in the barangays (villages) people’s, especially women’s adrenalin levels went ballistic as the village leaders tended to favor their party-mates.  The CSWDO depended on the village councils for relief distribution.  There was even talk that the Department of Social Welfare and Development (national government agency) relief goods came complete as listed by DSWD.  Each relief pack would have included: 25 kilos of rice, several cans of sardines, several packs of noodles and many more, but at the village level each house hold (one household would sometimes have 2-3 families living together) got only one and ½ or two kilos of rice, 2 cans of sardines and 2 packs of noodles. That’s it.  In one instance, we received two bottles of drinking water and nothing else.  At another instance we received only two kilos of rice and nothing else.  What happened to all the flood of relief goods, everybody knows but nobody cares.

One by one, banks opened starting on the second week after Yolanda.  Electricity was restored starting with the hospitals, banks and city government offices.  In our compound, we had electricity on January 6, 2014 exactly 59 days after Yolanda (I maintain a Yolanda journal).  We’re ahead than still many households.  Our electric wires were not damaged, our electric post was not downed and the transformer was still intact and not stolen.  Until now, as I write this report (February 2, 2014), many streets are still in the dark.

In Ormoc water is everywhere – we have flowing water in the north (near Cogon Elementary School), this is the main street of Ormoc connecting us to several municipalities.  Another flowing water west of Ormoc and in the south which we call the Agua Dulce (sweet water) serve all of Ormocanons.  Even at the heart of the city there is one flowing water near the bus terminal.  So, water is no problem although our household connections were restored on the second week.

THREE MONTHS AFTER YOLANDA

At left is where we gathered all the debris we collected inside the compound.  I is cleared now and our motorcycles are up and running.  In the middle photo, our jalousies are done.  The middle photo shows our street – San Joaquin.  These  were taken at 3:30 in the afternoon of February 2, 2014.


I am regularly attending the meetings of the Protection and Early Recovery Clusters of the United Nations Office of Coordination for Humanitarian Affairs (UN-OCHA).  Homes and lives are yet to be rebuilt.  Some international NGOs are distributing “shelter kits” to replace the tents that they have distributed.  The government built two bunkhouses that I have yet to see.  The cold days and nights two weeks ago claimed 8 senior citizen lives as reported by one of our local NGOs.  It was no longer cold last night (February 1, 2014). 



Livelihood assistance has yet to happen to more than 40,000 landless households in the sugarcane fields (even as I post this, March 11, 2014) that bear the brunt of Yolanda and the thousands of landless coconut farm laborers.  Coconuts take 7-10 years to grow and bear fruit again.  Meanwhile, what will these farm laborers do?  The Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) is helping coconut farm owners to re-grow their coconuts.

Friday, April 12, 2013

SISTER-FRIEND!


Dedicated to Wilma “Weweng” Pescadero
Our sister, our “organic food” inspiration.













O! What grief comes to a season
Enveloped by warmth, searing triumph
Us walking to a rising sun
The battle is never done
Sister-friend!

Woman!  Rise up and lend a hand, carry this load
Enthuse us through this winding path
Never leave, never dream, never hope
Never run, never waiver, never doubt
Mottled demons do not end
Woman rise up!  Rise up!

Seeds go on nurtured
The reaping may come, no worry
Desires despite the mockery
Adventures despite the perfidy
Sister-friend!

Love, yearning, passion
Our toil go on and never done
Sister-friend!


Jean Justimbaste
Ormoc, Philippines
April 13, 2013

our dear friend and sister Weng passed on yesterday afternoon, April 12, 2013
this is my way of saying GOODBYE to a dear friend and sister. 

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Bye Nanay

January 12, 2012

5:55 AM

Cataag cmpd., San Joaquin St.

Ormoc City, Philippines

A call from my cousin in Cebu came at 4:23AM. My grandmother, Nanay Basilisa (Sisang) Lobitaña – Corbo just died. She would be 97 tomorrow. I was to go to Cebu to join my mother, aunt, brothers and cousins to celebrate her 97th birthday. Another aunt who is in Melbourne can’t make it home.

Another call, this time from my mother, came in at 4:49AM telling me not to come to Cebu anymore because they will be bringing Nanay to Tabogon, Cebu to bury her beside her dearest husband - Tatay Olgin (Olegario Corbo) on Monday.

Her life was never a squander. She has lived it to the fullest and with contentment, I’m sure. She has been a good, very thrifty wife, an excellent mother to her 3 daughters and the BEST grandmother of all!

She was my Life Skills Mentor. I practically grew up founded on her wisdom and guidance, I am the eldest of her grandchildren thus I was the apple of her eyes, that’s until my second brother lived with them.

I remember when I was 12 years old; she pointed to me a 7-year old girl who was washing her family’s clothes. That made me so ashamed of myself not knowing how to wash even my own clothes being a 12-year old. The next weekend, I was washing my own clothes.

I really miss those years I had with her. Bye, Nay. See you when my time comes.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

UN WOMEN PRESS RELEASE

UN Women Celebrates Launch as Powerful Driver of Women’s Equality

Press contact: Gretchen Luchsinger, Media Specialist, UN Women Headquarters, +1 212 906-6506, gretchen.luchsinger[at]unwomen.org

New York, 24 February 2011 — The UN today celebrates the historic launch of UN Women, its newest organization, with an evening including luminaries from the worlds of politics, entertainment, business, the media, music and film in the UN General Assembly Hall.

UN Women, formally known as the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women, combines four previous UN bodies and represents the United Nations’ most ambitious effort ever to accelerate actions to achieve gender equality. Around the world, supporters of women’s rights have heralded its debut.

“With the birth of UN Women, we welcome a powerful new agent for progress on gender equality and women’s empowerment,” says UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. “The challenges are great, but I believe that with the new energy, the new momentum and the new authority that UN Women brings, these challenges will be met. True gender equality should be our shared legacy in the 21st Century.”

The Secretary-General appointed former Chilean President Michelle Bachelet to be the first Executive Director of UN Women. Calling the launch the first of many important milestones in the global pursuit of gender equality, she emphasizes that the decision to establish UN Women reflects ongoing frustration with the slow pace of change. UN Member States unanimously agreed to create the new organization, following longstanding advocacy by women’s activists.

“Think of how much more we can do once women are fully empowered as active agents of change and progress within their societies,” Ms. Bachelet says. “Historically, we are at a point of great potential and change for women. Now we must seize that opportunity.”

She adds, “My own experience has taught me that there is no limit to what women can do.”

UN Women will support individual countries in moving towards gender equality in economics and politics, and ending the worldwide phenomenon of violence against women. It will assist in setting international standards for progress, and lead coordinated UN efforts to make new opportunities for women and girls central to all UN programmes for development and peace.

UN Women Goodwill Ambassador and Academy-Award winner Nicole Kidman describes personal experiences of seeing women change the world. “There are incredible testimonies of resilience, strength and dignity — and ultimately of hope,” she says. “This is why I say that the women and girls I have met are my personal heroes. It is my pleasure and pride to be with UN Women, the new, strong voice for women around the world.”

H.R.H. Princess Cristina of Spain, in her capacity as President of the Institute of Health of Barcelona, urges broader understanding of how an investment in women is an investment in families, communities and nations. Citing uneven progress on aspects of the Millennium Development Goals such as reduced maternal mortality, she calls on“all stakeholders and champions — governments, foundations, the private sector, civil society, academic institutions and individuals — to invest in women’s empowerment as an instrumental strategy to achieve the MDGs.”

Ms. Juju Chang, news anchor for ABC’s Good Morning America, serves as emcee of the celebration. Other speakers include UN General Assembly President Joseph Deiss; the President of the UN Women Executive Board and former Foreign Minister of Nigeria, Ambassador Joy Ogwu; Nepalese activist Bandana Rana and former Commander of the all-female Formed Police Unit in Liberia Rakhi Sahi.

CNN founder and Chairman of the UN Foundation Ted Turner urges men and the private sector to get involved in achieving gender equality. Actress Geena Davis highlights the role of the media in promoting positive images. The singer Shakira has offered a special message emphasizing the importance of education.

The programme concludes with the performance of the song “One Woman,” which was written for the occasion, with lyrics by Beth Blatt, and music co-composed by Graham Lyle and Clay.

The celebration of the launch of UN Women can be seen via webcast athttp://bit.ly/unwomenlaunch

Monday, January 10, 2011

Christine Inspires Ormoc High School Kids


This morning seventy-five kids who are “Kiddie/Youth Savers” of the Ormoc Community Credit Cooperative, Inc. (OCCCI) including 10 special kids (deaf-mute) listened to Christine Della Vedova, of Business and Professional Women’s Club, Belmont, Western Australia.

Christine is in Ormoc with Carol Hanlon who facilitated the donation of 2 container vans of electric sewing machines and materials from Perth in 2006 and 2008.

She spoke to the kids of her experiences being a self-starter and volunteer. Speaking before them to become good citizens by helping others without thinking of returns, Christine motivated the kids who listened intently to her talk, become a self-starter and practice volunteerism.

While an English teacher in Korea, Christine encouraged kids of very rich parentage to come down from their pedestals and share their talents, time and effort to reach out to poor school kids in government schools and she succeeded in making them do volunteer work.

In Peru a person with HIV/AIDS is considered dirty and has to be avoided. That was the general understanding. So, while teaching English to rich kids in Peru she volunteered with an HIV/AIDS NGO. But because she couldn’t understand nor speak a word of Spanish and concerned that she couldn’t help, she brought 5 people living with HIV/AIDS to a small group meeting and let them talk about their affliction. That wonderful initiative of Christine enlightened the group about HIV/AIDS that made the word spread out to other people in Peru.

An important person in her life made her go back to Australia. She returned to Australia and taught English at the Australian Islamic College for four years. Relentless of her desire to do volunteer work and help other people, she volunteered with Textile Clothing Footwear (TCF) after meeting Carol Hanlon through the Business and Professional Women Belmont.

At the TCF she helps teach women from Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Somalia how to sew and teach them how to start their own business.

She now teaches English to kids 8-12 years old. But on the side, she volunteers as Secretary of BPW Belmont.

Founded by Dr. Lena Madesin Phillips in 1930, Business and Professional Women Clubs are present in 80 countries, in 5 continents. It provides trainings and help women build their own businesses. In Italy alone, BPW has 7,000 members. Christine is an Italian-Australian.

Christine Della Vedova arrived in Ormoc with Carol Hanlon 8 January, a Saturday. While in Ormoc the two have a hectic schedule.



Jean V. Justimbaste

Member, BPW Belmont

Coordinator, TCF Ormoc

January 10, 2011

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Codilla Administration Shuns own Development Plan




In an exchange of posts on the social networking site FACEBOOK, Ormoc CPM

and Felix Codilla III made it known that the city government of Ormoc is not keen on implementing its own ordinance.

Ormoc CPM posted in its Facebook page that the Ormoc City Government should now implement the city's Master Development Plan, Comprehensive Land Use Plan and Zoning Ordinance. Felix Codilla III responded by saying that urban planners are not to be believed and that they're not really experts in their field.

I take this matter seriously because if a Local Government Unit cannot abide by its own Ordinance, why should we, ordinary residents and good taxpayers respect these local government officials and obey the ordinances they craft?

Let's start from the beginning.


In the year 1998, the administration of Mayor Eufrocino Codilla, Sr.,
father of the current mayor, contracted the services of Urbis Philippines, Inc., an urban planning firm to prepare the city's Master Development Plan, Comprehensive Land Use Plan and Zoning Ordinance objectives of which are 3-pronged:
1. The optimisation of the economic growth potential of Ormoc City in a manner conducive to a sustainable environment;
2. The implementation of a CLUP that will serve as a basis for the City in considering their investment plans and decisions; and
3. The identification of investment opportunity and the formulation of a phased program of action.

Who would not want these objectives to be materialized? The Codillas and their colleagues themselves have been in the administration and majority in the council since the approval of the plan. Just like Felix Codilla III, Editor-in-Chief of the community paper West Leyte Weekly Express and a relative of the mayor, these government officials shun the plan.

"Bahala uroy way land use plan..." That's it.

Back to the plan. Completed, it was submitted to the Ormoc City Council for Adoption. Under then Vice-Mayor Celso P. Adolfo, the city council passed Resolution Number 2000-021 entitled "A RESOLUTION ADOPTING THE MASTER DEVELOPMENT PLAN/COMPREHENSIVE LAND USE PLAN, THE VISION OF WHICH IS TOWARDS SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT WHICH IS SOCIALLY SOUND, ECONOMICALLY FEASIBLE AND ENVIRONMENTALLY FRIENDLY AS RECOMMENDED BY OUR CONSULTANT AND APPROVED BY THE CITY DEVELOPMENT COUNCIL (CDC) PER RESOLUTION NO. 2 S. 1998.

The City Councilors present then were Majority Leader Nepomuceno P. Aparis, Assistant Majority Floor Leader Dennis Capuyan, and councilors Mariano Y. Corro, Sotero N. Pepito, Alfredo F. Capahi, Eduardo P. Tan, Jose C. Alfaro Jr., Claudio P. Larrazabal, League of Barangays Chairman Fernando P. Parrilla and SK Federation President Chiqui B. Labagala.

The Zoning Ordinance was adopted by the same set of government officials on June 15, 2000. It was promptly approved by the Regional Development Council in Palo, Leyte for endorsement to the Housing and Land Use Regulatory Board (HLURB) on June 26, 2000.

It is a legal document that cannot be taken for granted. The City Government of Ormoc is liable for its non-implementation.

NEXT POST: How the Master Development Plan is organized by Urbis.