Taking action against injustice: the stories of 25 women (part 2)

Despite being dissuaded by local government from taking action against Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management(PSALM) Corporation, a group of brave residents in the Barangay Botongon (Estancia, Iloilo, Philippines) is filing action after Powerbarge 103 slammed into their homes at the height of Typhoon Yolanda.

Before the typhoon I had a small Sari Sari store but it is now gone. To eat, my son gives me squid from the sea.

I met a group of twenty-five women who are amongst 500 residents filing claims following the oil spill. The residents are being assisted by local members of the Bayan Muna Party. The Bayan Muna (People First) is a national political party committed to the politics of people empowerment and social change. Through their efforts the National Union of People’s Lawyers (Iloilo chapter) are representing the people of Estancia pro bono.

Read some of their stories here …

Lani Smilla: 56 years old (widow)
Before the typhoon she had a small business in the market selling coconut milk and vegetables. She had a coconut grinder which was rendered useless by the salt water. She is unable to raise enough income now to enrol her two children in elementary school and college. The house was destroyed and rebuilt using rubble and currently has just enough shade to shelter her from the hot sun. She gets vegetables from the market to sell.

Roma Joyce A Borres: 39 years old
Her house was gutted by the storm surge but is still liveable, luckily the roof and walls remained intact. She had a buy and sell business before the typhoon and the rising salt water destroyed all her stock. Her husband was a tricycle driver before the typhoon, now he is on the work-for-food program so currently not bringing in an income.

Ma Te Yanong: 48 years old
She had heard there would be a storm but had no idea until during breakfast strong winds began to arrive. Neighbours came to her house for refuge along with a small child. During the typhoon and while she was comforting her grandchildren the roof blew off her home and a large tree blew in and nearly landed on her daughter. After the storm they used bamboo to repair the house. Her husband is a fisherman is has been able to work again, but fish behaviour and stocks have changed since the typhoon so their income is reduced.

jennifer-yolanda-victimJennifer Cortez: 39 years old
Her husband had a fishing boat before the typhoon which is now missing. She does not know if it was destroyed by the storm or stolen by looters. The house was totally damaged and luckily her husband is a carpenter so he repaired the house using debris and tarps. They received a boat but they don’t have nets or other fishing equipment like hooks and lines, so earning a living is still very difficult.

Nerita C Diata: 66 years old
Was a patient in Iloilo Hospital having an operation when the typhoon hit so she did not personally experience the storm. Her son and a friend were taking care of the house which was totally damaged. Her son and husband rebuilt the house. Before the typhoon she had a small Sari Sari store which is now gone. To eat, her son gives her squid from the sea.

lucie-yolanda-victimLucie Sabia: 49 years old
She has five (5) children who all require schooling. Her house and Sari Sari store were both destroyed in the Typhoon. Her husband is a tricycle driver and her son is a fisherman and labourer who provide what they can. Commodities have risen in price since the typhoon. Rice used to cost 1,800 pesos per sack, now a bag of rice costs more than 2,500 pesos. She is sad because her nephew (along with four (4) other men) died after cleaning up bunker fuel and oil following the grounding of Powerbarge 103. Her nephew was only 26 years old.

maryly-yolanda-victimMarilyn Dila Cruz: 53 years old
She knew about the typhoon but had no idea that it would be that big. She was shocked by it’s strength. A coconut tree hit the house and destroyed the kitchen as well as her Sari Sari store. Repairs were made from the rubble and debris. She has borrowed money at high interest to rebuild a new store. The loan, known as a 5/6 loan operates at  crippling 20%: she borrows 5,000 pesos and repays 6,000 within one month. It is hard to send the kids to school and her daughter needs to be enrolled in college so she surrenders her life to the loan sharks.

The video below shows some footage of when the ladies invited me to visit their homes (some were just debris) and to lunch on the vegetables they are growing together as a community.

This video outlines some of the issues the ladies of Botongon face being in the oil spill zone.

The videos below show some examples of women’s community consultative meetings post Yolanda.