Ignoring peril, Yolanda survivors rebuild homes on sites of ruin

Arianne Merez, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 07 2019 03:58 PM

Mavic Villalino gestures inside her home in Barangay San Jose, Tacloban City. Villalino still prefers to live in the storm’s ground zero despite losing 2 of her children in the area 6 years ago. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

TACLOBAN CITY -- Laundrywoman Mavic Villalino walks home to her seaside shanty after market chores on Sunday mornings, unmindful of danger from future storms, like Super Typhoon Yolanda that wiped out her home and killed her 2 children 6 years ago.

Had she stayed in the government relocation center, the 35-year-old said she would endure a lack of water and electricity and an P80 back-and-forth commute that would eat up half her family's daily budget of P150.

"It's difficult to live there because there is no water and we lost electricity already," she told ABS-CBN News from her home made out of scrap wood with chicken wires for windows.

"All of us returned here. It's much better to live here," she said.

Villalino's plight illustrates the dilemma of storm survivors, who choose to be in the way of potential harm, just to be close to their livelihood.

Families have returned to the sites of their destroyed homes to rebuild new ones from metal scraps and discarded wood after Super Typhoon Yolanda.Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

Families have returned to the sites of their destroyed homes to rebuild new ones from metal scraps and discarded wood after Super Typhoon Yolanda.Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

Families have returned to the sites of their destroyed homes to rebuild new ones from metal scraps and discarded wood after Super Typhoon Yolanda.Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

The government has constructed 125,304 housing units as of September, compared to the target 205,128, said Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles, who heads the interagency task force that is overseeing the rebuilding.

Roughly half or 62,894 of the finished houses are occupied, he told ABS-CBN News. The national government is waiting for the final list of housing beneficiaries from local governments who were tasked to ensure transparency.

"Yolanda victims can expect that the government would complete the construction of all housing units by next year and then we would move forward with community development by 2021," Nograles told ABS-CBN News.

Yolanda (international name: Haiyan) struck the central Philippines on Nov. 8, 2013, triggering storm surges that wiped out entire communities and left 6,300 dead and over 1,000 missing.

Ruth Abad rebuilt her home just 3 steps away from her old one which was destroyed during the onslaught of Super Typhoon Yolanda six years ago, Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

Ruth Abad, 41, said she was not a priority for government housing because her home was destroyed in a landslide, not the storm surge.

Abad's family is one of over 100 others who returned to Barangay 43-B of the Quarry District to rebuild shelters from discarded wood and scrap metal. Her family reconstructed their house on the same site, this time lacking a bathroom and a kitchen.

"After Yolanda, we had nowhere else to go so we just returned here," she told ABS-CBN News.

"We like it here because we’re familiar with the place and we know the people. We have the respect of each other," Abad said.

DIFFICULT NEW BEGINNING

Mavic Villalino does her job as a laudrywoman outside her house in Barangay San Jose, Tacloban City. For now, her family would rather stay on what was ground zero of Super Typhoon Yolanda rather than relocate because this is where they have a livelihood, she says. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

Villalino recalled how water was considered expensive in her former home at the relocation site, at P5 per bucket.

"You’ll run out of money just by trying to stay there," Villalino said.

Construction backlogs from the previous administration delayed the development of the relocation sites, Nograles said.

"We can’t do anything if they abandon the house but it is a waste of government money," he said.

The Yolanda housing program will be completed by 2020, after which the areas will enter a "community development" phase to include the setting up of schools, day-care centers, and health centers, he said.

"What we are after is for these housing sites to become self-sustaining communities," he said. "We want them to be able to live there with access and livelihood."

For the meantime, Villalino said she would only use her government-awarded home as a shelter during storms and heavy rains.

"We won’t survive there. We’ll run out of money. What good is a new house if there’s no way to live there?" she said.