Published December 29, 2019, 11:41 AM
By Marie Tonette Marticio
Manila Bulletin

CAIBIRAN, Biliran – It’s going to be a bleak New Year’s celebration to some 4,000 families here whose houses were washed out by storm surge and damaged by the pounding winds and heavy rains brought by Typhoon ‘Ursula’ on Christmas eve.

Some locals made makeshift houses from the debris in order to have temporary shelter.

Allan Almen, 56, a father of 10 from Brgy. Victory was trying to remove nails from the wood of his nephew’s house washed out by a 4-meter storm surge.

Allan Almen (Marie Marticio / MANILA BULLETIN)

Brgy. Victory was one of the worst-hit when ‘Ursula’ landed in its adjacent town of Cabucgayan. Based on the local government unit’s initial assessment, about 622 houses were partially damaged, while 130 were totally damaged. Some sitios remain isolated because of a damaged footbridge.

Almen said he will use whatever he could salvage so he could make a temporary shelter for his children.

He earns around P100 daily from fishing and now that his boat was also destroyed, he said, that it would be difficult for him to feed his family because they consume at least a ganta of rice a day.

According to him, despite having 10 children, they were not able to avail themselves of a unit in the Yolanda housing project of the National Housing Authority (NHA).

“Kung nabigyan sana kami ng pabahay hindi namin mararanasan ang mabagyo dito,” he lamented.

Mayor Rhodessa Delante Revita said they have initially recorded P38 million worth of damaged houses in coastal areas and upstream villages.

They have an initial report of 3,300 partially damaged and over 500 totally damaged houses in Brgys. Victory, Palengke, Asug, Binohangan, and Uson.

“The problem is that there are Yolanda victims who failed to receive housing units and they are staying in our evacuation centers in the meantime. We are still arranging that they be allowed to occupy empty units in the NHA’s Yolanda housing project,” Revita said.

Noel Beltran, 46, said they were able to avail a housing unit but was also damaged by the typhoon. They settled with a makeshift house where their old house stood and placed a mat on the sand for his family of six to sleep on.

Noel Beltran’s makeshift shelter (Marie Marticio / MANILA BULLETIN)

He said that they just try to fit themselves in the mat sardines when they feel sleepy.

“Wala kaming nasalba dahil lumikas lang kami sa munisipyo noong mataas na ang tubig. Tiis-tiis lang muna ngayon dahil wala naman kaming magagawa. Nasira ang bangka namin. Ayaw kong humiwalay sa dagat dahil nandito ang kabuhayan namin. Dito na lang kami maski ganito ang kalagayan namin ngayon,” he said.

He said that it was the first time that they have experienced such wrath by a typhoon. Their house was not even damaged by Yolanda in 2013.

“Makabili lang sana kami ng sliced bread para may mapagsalu-saluhan kaming mag-anak,” he said when asked about their plans for the New Year’s celebration.

Ambrosio Corpin, 63, a father of 7 was emotional as he shared that his 6 fishing boats, 4 pigs, and 2 houses were destroyed by the typhoon. He said he is having chest pains and difficulty in breathing since the typhoon happened.

Ambrosio Corpin (Marie Marticio / MANILA BULLETIN

Corpin said he invested everything he had in those houses and fishing boats. He was, at least, thankful that no one in his family was hurt.

He now lives with one of his children in a small house in the town proper. Like most of the typhoon victims, Corpin hopes to be able to rebuild in Brgy. Victory. He is not keen about moving to Manila to be with his wife and other children.

“Humihingi ako ng tulong sa kung sino man ang makakarinig sa amin. Dito lang ako sa Caibiran. Gusto sana namin maibalik ang bahay namin at ikinabubuhay,” he said.

If there is a lesson that they have learned from the typhoon, he said that they would evacuate as soon as there in an advice of an impending storm.

He recalled that the water was already knee-deep when they decided to run to the town proper. There were flying and falling debris around and they just used helmets for safety.

Mayor Revita said they have already declared a State of Calamity in their town with P18 million damage on infrastructure and P28 million on agriculture and fisheries recorded.

“We really need help here in Caibiran because our quick response fund is not enough. We still have relief goods left after ‘Tisoy’ but we still need to purchase more,” she appeals.

She also called on the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources to help the fishermen who lost their boats because fishing is their main source of livelihood.

“May isang Tatay na lumapit sa akin ang sabi maski hindi muna sila mabigyan ng pabahay ang importante makabalik sila sa pangingisda para may maipakain sila sa mga anak nila. Sana matulungan talaga kami,” she said.

She also urged her constituents not lose hope because their officials and the provincial government of Biliran are doing their best to help them.

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