The stories of 25 women (part 1)

It has been six months now since the Filipino province of Estancia, Iloilo was overwhelmed by SuperTyphoon Yolanda. The immediate trauma of the cleanup and the loss of loved ones is now replaced by the daily reality of trying to restore a home and livelihood.

I watched from the mountain as my home was destroyed by the high tide and the rising water, it was then I realised that my husband had disappeared …

I was fortunate to meet a group of 25 women who allowed me to interview each of them briefly so they could tell their own personal story. All of these women live (or were living in the Barangay Botongon) which was not only devastated by the typhoon, but the shoreline was inundated with over 200,000 litres of bunker fuel and 3,500 litres of oil as Powerbarge 103 was dislocated from its mooring site and swept aground.

Now living in makeshift homes from debris and rubble, having also lost their livelihoods (and some lost their husbands and family members too), these women are volunteering in the community to provide emotional support to other typhoon affected families as well as bravely filing claims against Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corporation responsible for the oil spill.

I met the ladies a community meeting which was was called to introduce myself and another Australian volunteer, Matt Kennedy to the needs of these women and look at ways of working together to create a joint community-based income source for themselves as well as their families.

Read their stories … take notice of the warnings in the video posted below and the symptoms listed in their stories.

Tessie R. Bartes: 61 years
Before the typhoon her family had 2 x fishing boats which are now unable to be repaired. She lives with her grandson as she is his guardian. She wants to make curtains and other home wares but has no sewing machine. She makes some money by buying and selling: she borrows money then buys goods to sell to others. Since the typhoon she is always coughing, dizzy and nervous.


Ceres B Bejo: 66 years

Her house was hit by the power barge and completely destroyed. She now lives in the house of her daughter. She has a sore throat which is always itching and she is coughing all the time. Her health was not like this before the typhoon.

winnonoah-yolanda-victimWinnonah Aclaro: 59 years old
She lost her home in Typhoon Frank in 2008 and now again in 2013 during Typhoon Yolanda. She is currently staying with her sister-in-law. She needs to support her granddaughter and grandson as he own son died. Her family has no income now as her husband lost his fleet of fighting roosters during the typhoon. Now they have nowhere to raise roosters or the money to purchase stock. Since the typhoon she always has headaches, dizziness and an itchy cough.

erma-yolanda-victimErma Alcasa: 59 years old
Her house was totally destroyed in the typhoon and she is currently living in a temporary shelter from collected rubble and debris. She has no income as her husband died on December 17, 2013 one month after the typhoon. Her husband was one of a group of five men who were working in the oil spill clean-up area who were in excellent health prior to the typhoon. He husband was the first official death attributed to the oil spill. She supports a son and 2 daughters by using collected relief goods. She has stored the goods and budgeted them out very sparingly. She does not know what she will do when the relief goods are gone.

Annette Cruartes: 60 years old
During the typhoon she was in her house with her mother who is a senior citizen. The house was totally destroyed and she is currently still living in the oil spill area in a makeshift shelter comprised of debris and collected rubble. Before the oil spill she dried fish and sold it. The typhoon took all her stocks and equipment for drying. Now she buys dried fish and resells in the market. This has greatly reduced her profit margin now she only has enough money for food and nothing to put away as capital so she can improve her circumstances.

Thelma Casipong: 57 years old
Before the typhoon she had a Sari Sari Store and her husband had a fishing boat. At 10am on November 8, 2013 she and her husband abandoned the house and climbed the mountain and watched as the high tide destroyed their home under the rising water. During the storm surge she was separated from her husband and she spent 2 hours with nowhere to take refuge. She was exposed to the strong winds and rain until finally a neighbour found her and gave her shelter until 9pm. As she was coming down the mountain she found her husband again. She tells me it is the “love story” of Typhoon Yolanda as she never expected to see him again. They built a small hut from the debris and lived there until the Mayor of Estancia declared their home site was unsafe. They were forced to live in the tent city for 2 months before they were forced back to the home site again in the oil spill area. They are still rebuilding their home, they wear clothes given to them by family and make money by buying and selling drinking water.

There are 19 more stories to follow, each with a joint theme of loss, resilience and will to improve their circumstances. If you would like to assist any or all of these women please get in touch.