ILIGAN CITY (MindaNews/31 December) – Carpenter Fortunato Paradillo lost not only his house and all his belongings but also his address: Bayug Island, the village where he raised his family is gone, wiped out by the December 17 flashfloods.
He also lost his 22 chickens and three pigs but 55-year old Paradillo considers himself fortunate. He, his wife and six children are all alive and after 13 nights in two evacuation centers, they now have a new address, a new home: number 32 in the“tent city” near the bus terminal.
In Cagayan de Oro City, a hundred tents similar to Paradillo’s “shelter box” have been set up in Cala-anan, Barangay Canatoan. When MindaNews visited morning of December 31, the tents donated by Rotary International and assembled by Navy Personnel, were ready for occupancy in what the signage says is “Shelter Box Village.”
On December 29, a bulldozer from a private firm was dispatched to prepare the relocation site in Barangay Lumbia which the Jesuit-run Xavier University donated for the homeless survivors of typhoon Sendong.
The five-hectare land, located three kilometers from the airport and few hundred meters away from a health center and day care center, will be for the relocation of some 500 families, said Nani Pacana, a member of the Infra Cluster of the Crisis Management Committee.
But while the area for permanent relocation is still being prepared, a tent city will be set up in its periphery, also the property of the university, where 500 families from the evacuation centers will be transferred hopefully before school resumes on January 3, Pacana said.
The “tent city” families will then be transferred to the nearby relocation site as soon as the permanent housing structures are finished, said Pacana, who showed MindaNews the relocation site on December 29.
In Iligan City, Paradillo said he finally had a good night’s sleep on December 29, his first night in his new home. Some 50 tents had been pitched in the “tent city” as of late afternoon December 30.
At least 3,945 houses were totally destroyed and 10,680 partially destroyed by the floods in Iligan City, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) said in its 8 a.m. December 31, 2011 report.
Hundreds of families are still in cramped evacuation centers – in churches, gyms and classrooms. Authorities are moving fast to ensure the transfer of evacuees in the schools before classes resume on January 3.
Paradillo recalls the downpour and strong winds evening of December 16 and the power outage by 11. Thirty minutes later, when the waters were starting to rise fast,they made their way out by going to the roof.
From 12 midnight to 2 a.m. his family was on the rooftop while he was perched on branch of a mango tree until 3 a.m., unable to cross to where his family was. One of his sons was swept to the sea but fortunately survived, “wa nay sinina” (no more clothes).
He said in the dark he saw people still in their houses swept away by the strong currents, shouting “tabang” (help).
“Ginoo ako gisampit” (I asked God for help), he said.
Now that he has a home he can return to, albeit still temporary, Paradillo wants to go back to work.
He lost all his carpentry tools to the flood but for the basics he left behind in the construction site where he worked.
When MindaNews visited him late afternoon of December 30, he had yet to open the other packs inside the shelter box although he said he was told it includes basics such as ground sheet, sleeping bags, blankets, first aid kits and cooking utensils.
Although it varies according to need, a shelter box, according to the website of shelterbox.org, could include “basic tool kit containing a hammer, axe, saw, trenching shovel, hoe head, pliers and wire cutters (which) enables people to improve their immediate environment, by chopping firewood or digging a latrine, for example. Then, when it is possible, to start repairing or rebuilding the home they were forced to leave.”
Disaster relief tent
“At the heart of every ShelterBox is a disaster relief tent for an extended family. It is custom made for ShelterBox by Vango, one of the world’s leading tent manufacturers, and is designed to withstand extreme temperatures, high winds and heavy rainfall. Internally, each tent has privacy partitions that allow recipients to divide the space as they see fit,” the website says, adding, “our tents become more than simple shelter, they become homes.”
Although it can be warm at noon, Paradillo says they open the vents and the front and exit “doors.” He says he doesn’t mind the little inconveniences because he is just too happy they have a “home” of their own that they could return to, unlike the cramped evacuation centers at the San Lorenzo Parish and the Ubaldo School.
As of late afternoon on December 30, at least 50 tents had been pitched near the bus terminal.
Alma Manigos, whose tent is near Paradillo’s, says the comfort rooms for the “tent city” residents are being constructed nearby but in the meantime, they have been instructed to use the toilets and bathrooms of the bus terminal.
She said they would be given IDs for presentation at the terminal to avail of the free use of the comfort rooms.
Abner Tayco and Jesus Nicdao of the ShelterBox Response Team (SRT) in the Philippiens arrived in Cagayan de Oro City on December 20 and found many families in need of emergency shelter and lifesaving supplies.
The team, led by Nicdao, a Rotarian and chair and founder of ShelterBox Philippines, linked up with fellow Rotarians and local government units to find suitable safe sites to pitch the ShelterBox tents and demonstrated to volunteers how to set up the tents.
An Army soldier from the 9th Army Artillery in Carmen, North Cotabato said it took them ten minutes to pitch each tent.
Elsewhere in the two cities, however, makeshift tents have been set up by those rendered homeless by the floods.
In Cagayan de Oro City, at least 50 families had pitched their makeshift tents in the plaza fronting the provincial capitol of Misamis Oriental.
Juvy Gimena, 37, her husband Rene and their three children, displaced from Isla Delta, live in a small tent with plastic sheet roofing that Juvy said they purchased for P39 per meter.
Juvy said they heard about the “tent city” but are not sure if they would be among those who will be transferred there.
Rene, a motorela driver, said they welcome relocation either in Cala-anan or in Lumbia, the proposed sites.
Juvy, Rene and at least 50 other families bathe and wash their clothes near the fountain which now serves as reservoir. The water is replenished to ensure they have sufficient water supply. When it rains, the evacuees say they have been allowed to go inside the provincial capitol.
The NDRRMC situation report on the effects of Sendong as said that in Cagayan de Oro City, 7,317 houses were totally destroyed and 12,635 were partially destroyed.
The Department of Education has denied appeals from local governments to extend the use of classrooms for evacuees until February next year. Classes are set to resume on January 3.
A press statement from Oxfam in the Philippines, quoted Rey Magbanua, Response Manager for the Humanitarian Response Consortium, an alliance of local humanitarian organizations undertaking water and sanitation assistance for displaced residents in the two cities, as saying they support the position of government not to disrupt classes and ensure that children’s basic right to education, in the face of disaster, is upheld. But Magbanua appealed to government to “respect the right of evacuees to a dignified transfer to safe and clean shelter as they are trying to make sense of the painful loss they have gone through” and to ensure, among others, that evacuees are represented at every level of decision-making on their relocation to new shelters. (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)