Homeless at Bantayan Island in Yolanda's aftermath

Three-year-old Me-An was not feeling well and she was feverish the past few days after calamity struck their region.

Her grandmother, Anita Paciño, explained that Me-an had been exposed to the rain and sun, and hadn't been fed well. Anita narrated how the child had cried heavily when Super Typhoon Yolanda (international name Haiyan) made landfall on the cluster of islands at the northern part of Cebu province.

Only a few boats are left on Bantayan Island, most were destroyed during Yolanda's fury.

The Paciños lived in Botong, one of the small islands in the municipality of Bantayan, Cebu. Bantayan is known for its pristine beaches frequented by tourists.

On Thursday, local officials made its rounds to ask residents living in the tiny islands to evacuate to Bantayan’s gymnasium. Huddled in this gym were thousands of families, including the 113 from Botong Island. Anita’s husband, Melchor, and four other men stayed behind Botong to watch over their homes and livestock, including the two pigs raised in their backyard.

By Friday, strong winds came, destroying portions of the gym’s roofs and creating havoc to the structures outside. It was the most frightening day for Anita and her family.

Houses were reduced to rubble, roofs and walls ripped & strewn throughout the island.

“My granddaughter was crying,” she said, “begging us to go home because she was afraid of the wind.”

When Yolanda’s fury subsided and the families made their way back to the tiny island, they were shocked by the scene that welcomed them. What was once paradise to them had been reduced to rubble. Wood, leaves, GI sheets, and all their belongigs were strewn everywhere. Their boats were destroyed, preventing them from going out to fish and earn their keep.

Without a boat, and with everything lost from the typhoon, the families could not afford to buy construction materials and nipa leaves for a new house.

The men had to gather bits and pieces of whatever they could find to put together into something that might resemble a liveable abode. For three nights the families slept under the sky with their wet clothes on, protected only by flimsy blankets as the rain poured down.

During the day, they had nowhere to hide from the scorching sun since there was no shade on the island.
Victor Giducos gathered materials he could find to rebuild his home. He also utilized the donated shelter kit as an improvised roof.

When groups from Habitat for Humanity Philippines came, giving them emergency shelter kits donated by UK Aid through HFH Great Britain, the families found a sense of hope. They installed the materials and used them for roofing and to build the walls of their new homes.

The rest of Bantayan had over 11,000 houses that were severely damaged, while over 5,000 more suffered minor damage.

“It was a big help. We were able to sleep soundly at night even when it rained. We can now also work indoors tying together sea weed that we will later put out to sea,” Felix Nipangge said.

Apart from fishing, the community also grows sea weed which they harvest each month and sell at about P10 a kilo for raw sea weeds, and P50 a kilo for dried ones.

Smaller, improvised houses used materials from the shelter kits for their walls & roof.

He looked at the roof and asked me how long the material might last.

When I told him that it could sustain them for a few more months up to even a year, Felix smiled with relief on his face. He looked at his family as they carried the sea weeds bound together, making their way to the shore.

Maybe in a month’s time, they would be able to harvest from what little they had salvaged and start their lives over again.