Rising from the Rubble: Yolanda Survivors

Rising from the Rubble: Yolanda Survivors

 

From Jan. 24 to 25, 2014, some 12,000 people filled up the basketball court of the Eastern Visayas State University to form an alliance dubbed “People Surge” or dulukhankatawhan in Waray-Waray language. 

It means an empowered people indicting the Aquino administration for its gross negligence that resulted in thousands of deaths and damage to lives and properties of the people.

They used the metaphor “people surge” to describe the swelling of the people gathering their strength, rising up, and flooding the streets to “exact justice from an inept government”.

dr. darby story 2People Surge is a broad alliance of Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) victims, survivors, organizations joined together in the common goal of helping the typhoon victims and minimizing, if not preventing, the risk from similar human-made or natural calamities.

The people, who came from different towns of Samar and Leyte, demanded justice for the victims of Typhoon Yolanda and brought to fore some pressing issues plaguing survivors like food, housing, livelihood, and health.  Among their specific demand is the provision of P40,000 immediate financial relief to every affected family.

The computation is based on the framework that “relief distribution has been insufficient, and rehabilitation plan is uncertain.”  The amount is estimated to provide for the barest essentials of a family with six members for two months in Eastern Visayas.

In the assembly, speakers who themselves were affected emotionally described their misery after the typhoon struck.  Amid tears, the audience felt the speakers’ exhortation to rise up from the rubble and demand the government to do its part in providing immediate and strategic assistance to every affected family.

They also exposed the existing “no-build zone” policy being imposed by the government which bars residents from rebuilding their shelters along the coastlines of Samar and Leyte.

“How can the government prevent us from building our homes along the coastal areas when our main source of livelihood comes from the sea?” one speaker said.

“They hold us from rebuilding the lives our forefathers taught us to live and not provide clear plans as to how the government will concretely support us,” a resident from Tacloban tearfully said.

dr. darby story 1The People Surge Alliance sharply pointed out that the “no-build zone” policy enforces outright land grabbing, effective demolition, and eviction of the victims from their homes and livelihood.

Rosalinda Tablang, president of the non-government group Samahang Operasyong Sagip said the policy “paves the way for the entry of big business interests and will work in big businessmen’s favor rather than the majority of the affected population”

Meanwhile, Aquino-appointed rehabilitation czar and former Senator Panfilo Lacson said the government has established a multi-donor fund from overseas Filipino workers and private foundations to be managed by the private sector.  Lacson said the Board of Trustees was likely to be made up of officials of ABS-CBN, GMA 7, PLDT-Smart, Globe Telecom, and SGV & Co. founder Washington Sycip.The Philippine Daily Inquirer (1/28/14) reported that several billionaires have  volunteered to be “co-shepherds” in the 24 areas identified for rebuilding, including Manuel V. Pangilinan and Enrique Razon for Tacloban City; George S.K. Ty for Palo; Injap Sia for the rest of the first district of Leyte; Gabby Lopez for the second district of Leyte; the Aboitiz family for Ormoc, Cebu and  Eastern Samar and parts of Leyte; the Yuchengco Group for the fourth district of Leyte; Manny Zamora for Eastern Samar; Edward Gaisano for the third and fifth district of Cebu; the Ayala family for Negros Occidental and Aklan; John Gokongwei for the Fourth District of Iloilo; Henry Sy and Lucio Tan for education; and San Miguel Corp. for housing.

“The big businessmen are dividing Tacloban among themselves, which may eventually leave the people with nothing in the end,” Tablang added.

However, Tablang said the people, through the People Surge alliance, would not take things sitting down. The formation of the alliance is just the beginning of the people’s assertion of their rights and their timely call for the indictment of the Aquino administration for its negligence to the victims.

[pq]SOS is in solidarity with the alliance formation in Tacloban.[/pq]

 

It put up a health station that served about 90 to 100 individuals who sought medical consultation and had their blood pressure checked.  Most of the reported cases included cough, colds, diarrhea, hyperacidity, headache, high-blood pressure, skin problems, and one case of wound/cut.

Ruth Elio, volunteer nurse and staff of Health Students’ Action summed up the people’s morale that day: “I was attending to a woman who felt nauseated probably because of the noonday heat. I advised her to take a rest in our health station to regain her strength, to which she quickly replied, ‘I cannot rest while my colleagues are out there marching for our rights.’ After a short while, she got up to her feet and joined the 12,000 people march.”

 

– Dr. Darby Santiago

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