Posted by Waray Bayaay: Relief and Donation Drive for Leyte on Facebook
17 Nov around 11 am
Dear friends, yesterday we met and talked to six survivors, not including my husband, who only had to survive the aftermath. In truth, for all the images we see here in Manila, all of them say that we cannot fully comprehend the extent of the devastation unless we see it with our own eyes–or smell the stench of death that sticks to clothes.
“The storm only lasted for 5 hours,” my cousin Tessa said. Her home, situated in front of Robinsons Place Tacloban and MS grocery, suffered minor damage. After going out to survey the damage, she only understood the severity of the situation when everywhere she looked she saw people walking dazed, frantic, and calling out for loved ones. She is a Red Cross volunteer, so she walked to the city hall to help out the local government, saw bodies lying by the side. She and other volunteers, she says, repacked goods during that first couple of days. It was also understood that they would be given a pack each. “We saw it loaded in a truck, the truck drove away, and we never saw it again,” she remembers. “The volunteers were also not given anything.” (Note: THe relief op was not headed by Red Cross)
Day One, she says, people waited patiently for help. By the end of Day Two, people became frantic. (Imagine finding your family members dead, your house completely damaged, no water and electricity, all compounded by no food.)
The first “looting” at Robinsons grocery was relatively peaceful, says another survivor who does not want to be named. People helped themselves and each other. “They were friendly, you can ask people where the baby food aisle is and they’d even help you go there,” says the survivor. People only took what they needed.
“It only became violent in days three and four, when people had been going for days without food or water and the bodies were still in the streets,” adds Tessa Pang Sachse. Another grocery right beside Robinsons Mall, Market Savers, which is set up like Makro or S&R (warehouse style) stationed 7 armed men in the entrance protecting already-damaged goods. For 3 days, people ignored it. And then because starvation can make you do desperate things, on the fourth day, the guards were overpowered by a hungry, angry mob. There was gun fire, which left a few people dead.
“People have been neglected without nothing to eat for almost a week, their family missing, and you didn’t see any semblance of government,” says Tessa. Save for the organized criminals who attack the stores with guns and trucks, the ordinary looters only went in the stores DAYS AFTER INACTION from the government, and only got what they needed. Another store, a corner mom and pop operation, was also looted, but the owners decided to just distribute the goods by “throwing” them from the second floor of the building. To be fair to the businessmen of the city, they gave away what they had. Another cousin of mine who owns gas stations gave away their gas before heading to Manila. Tessa also told a local official that somebody should go around with a megaphone to announce the schedule of the delivery of food, to calm the masses. “In one ear, out another, ” Tessa says.
There’s no use sugarcoating this: the government BUNGLED the operations. The local government of Tacloban is ill-equipped; the national government’s attempt are half-hearted at best. I chatted on FB with the wife of the highest official of Tacloban and she believes the help did not come because of “POLITICS.” She laments, “They are so evil, they are so mean.” “They” refers to the national government. I shiver to think that President Aquino would intentionally neglect the people of Tacloban because it is a Romualdez baluarte. But, guess what, I wouldn’t put it past him. Pakabili po siya ng empathy at sympathy, dahil wala po nun ang presidente natin.
Still, because it is human nature to move forward, you can see the first signs of life in Tacloban. Some stores are already opening–yesterday, too, some businessmen who are now in Manila met to discuss the economic future of the city, yet some will be forever boarded up. How can you recover when the chain of supply and demand was broken? The businessmen in the city lost their stocks, which amounts to millions. They have suppliers they are answerable to. Some of these goods were purchased on credit. In one fell swoop, all they worked hard for in their lives are gone, just like that. And then there are ordinary employees who now have no work and no means of income, because the offices will not be open in at least a couple of months. No house, no food, no money. There are those retirees who spent all their retirement money to finally purchase their own modest houses, and now they have nowhere to live.
Mr. President, people are not statistics. It only took one day—sorry, I meant five hours—for everything to change for them. Waraynons are naturally courageous and resilient, our ancestors after all are warriors, but we need help rising up from the rubble. You don’t think we’re even worthy of one day worth of your attention. You have not stayed even one full day to assess the damage.
Only 29 towns have been given relief—Leyte has more than 40 towns—7 days after the typhoon. The situation may be getting better, but not nearly fast enough for the millions of people at the mercy of a President who may care, but not nearly great enough.