Exodus to Manila, Pilgrimage to Tacloban

675 refugees aboard a USAF-C17 flee Tacloban

As people continue to leave the typhoon-stricken city of Tacloban, many more people come in either trying to look for their loved ones or just simply trying to help. Docks and ports have been brought to its breaking capacity as trucks and other aid goods arrive, boarding Ro-Ros and light amphibian vehicles.

“We’re using everything we’ve got. Boats, submarines, bancas – as long as it can traverse water, we’ll use it,” says Sorsogon Mayor Sally Lee.

“This reminds me that if we only pushed through with our planned undersea tunnel connecting Matnog to Allen, much like the famed Channel Tunnel connecting Kent to Pas-de-Calais, all of these difficulties could have been avoided.” (the Channel Tunnel is an underwater tunnel beneath the English Channel connecting UK to France) “Alas, hindsight is 20-20,” deplored the Mayor.

the Euro Star, a high speed train going through the Channel Tunnel
a view inside the Channel Tunnel
from UK to France, through the English Channel

Asked further if there were even funds available to make such a project a reality, the Mayor answered, “Are you kidding me? Of course funds are always available. Our motto in government is: if you can think it up, the citizens can fund it,” the Mayor said without batting an eyelash. “So of course there’s always funds available for projects such as these. It’s just that sometimes there are other projects that are prioritized,” she added. Asked what these were, she said cryptically, “Oh you know, the usual.”

On the way to Tacloban (aboard a Huey) this reporter met Ms. Anne Tong Hors, a Filipina German who was part of the Red Cross contingency; and was told that she was making this trip as a pilgrimage of faith.

“Others are sending money, goods, clothing, canned goods. Well, I am sending myself. I think that beats all doesn’t it?” she asked rhetorically. “There, on top of dead bodies and debris, I will offer myself to the Lord, spiritually, mind you, and give homage to His wisdom in allowing this event to happen.”

Prodded further on what she meant by this, Tong answered, “Well, it’s obvious isn’t it? This is God’s will and if it is God’s will, then that means this tragedy is a blessing. We’re all so lucky to have been blessed by God,” and as if providence commanded, lightning streaked across the sky, barely grazing the Huey we were riding.

Meanwhile, as reports come in that a deluge of refugees will soon be arriving in Manila, local governments in the nation’s capital have prepared both jobs and housing for the poor refugees. Former Quezon City Rep. Annie Rosa Susano even texted Neal H. Cruz of the Philippine Daily Inquirer assuring him that she’s offering 10 hectares of her family’s property in Montalban Rizal as a site for temporary tent cities or bunkhouses. Market stalls for use in livelihood are also awaiting the refugees, free of charge!

Christmas it seems, have come early to Taclobanons, courtesy of Yolanda.

Hearing the news, informal settlers in Quezon City were disappointed.

“Sana kami na lang yung binagyo. Nabigyan pa sana kami nang matitirhan at mapag-kakakitaan,” complains Mang Isko, a long-time informal settler in the city. (I wished it was us that got hit by the typhoon. Then perhaps we would have been given a place to live and a source of livelihood, too)

Others, seeing opportunity where there was ruin, have begun packing their bags and breaking up their shanties. “Dito walang pagkain, doon meron,” says Hawa Isyatato, one of Quezon City’s hundreds of pauper princes. [Here there is no food, there (Tacloban), there is]

So as the exodus to Manila begins, so does the pilgrimage to Tacloban start.

photos courtesy of US Air force, dailymail.co.uk, wonderopolis.org, and okeanosgroup.com, respectively. no copyright infringement intended. pls message me for takedown.

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Urban Poor in Neighboring City of Tacloban Complains of Too Much Relief for Tacloban

“How about us?”

A week after Super Typhoon Haiyan (local name Yolanda) devastated the city of Tacloban, Urban Poor groups in neighboring city of Ormoc have begun complaining to local officials that both the national government and foreign aid workers are giving too much attention to Tacloban. Says Mr. Ingge T. Ro, “Sila, sila na lang lahat! Lahat na lang sa kanila! Pwede bang kami naman? Porke ba sa sila ang pinaka na-grabe eh sila na lang lahat ang bibigyan? Eh pano naman kami dito?” (Them! It’s always them! Everything for them! Can it be us for a change? So because they’re the hardest hit they deserve to get everything? How about us?)

Local officials have been hard put to argue the case. Meanwhile, national government spokesperson Abigail Valte says that the government is not playing favoritism.

“We’re doling out aid based on need. A lot of relief goods is sent to the cities most in need of it, while just a smattering will be sent to those who don’t need it too much,” said the spokeswoman, adding, “In fact, we have classified releasing of aid relief into three categories based on the severity of damage and severity of need.”

According to Valte, the categories are as follows:

Category 1 Aid (Bugbog Sarado) – areas most badly affected and most in need of aid will be sent 80% of all relief goods collected

Category 2 Aid (Pahapyaw) – areas moderately affected and moderately in need of aid will be sent 9% of all relief goods collected

Category 3 Aid (Suntok sa Buwan) – areas spared will not be sent anything. Not even a blind cent (kahit ni singkong duling)

DILG Secretary Mar Roxas, eager to clarify the matter, added his own statement to support Valte’s.

“So as you can see, there is no favoritism at all. Help is given to everyone equally, as needed.”

Meanwhile, grumblings from poor towns in Bicol such as Sorsogon and Legazpi have also been heard. One lady by the name of Ara said she’s just wondering why so many trucks of food have been passing through her town while her family is starving.

“Akala ko ngani po maaambunan man lamang kami maski dikit. Naghagad ngani ako duman sa sarong drayber, sabi sako ‘sori po mam, for Yolanda Typhoon victims only.’ ” Ara says, almost in tears. “Kun siring palan, kaipuhan pa kaming tamaan nin bagyo para tabangan? Gutom naman palan kami.” (I thought we would at least be graced with a little food. I asked food from one driver, he said ‘sorry mam, for Yolanda Typhoon victims only.’ “ “So in essence, we need to be hit by a typhoon before we receive help? We too are hungry. ”)

image courtesy of: globalpost.com (taken without permission, message me for takedown)