A wide stretch of white sand beach will enthrall first time visitors in this part of Salcedo, Eastern Samar. There is, however, a grim story behind this new “paradise.” Before super typhoon Haiyan, the landscape was dotted with tall coconut trees and several houses. Some houses were made of concrete. No house was left undamaged.
Lives, too, were not spared. An old couple brought their grandchildren to the evacuation center. The grandfather returned home to get more things and was followed by his wife when he did not return soon enough. Both perished during the storm surge. Members of a household living in a concrete house thought their place was strong enough to withstand the storm. They were wrong, two died.
The two villages, where the beach can be found, were the worst hit in Salcedo. Of the town’s 29 total casualty count, 21 came from the two villages. On the beach, one will find what has been left of the coconut trees washed away by the seawater—roots. One will also find what was once an asphalt road now completely covered in sand.
Similar stories of lives and livelihood lost are shared by Salcedo’s neighboring town of Giporlos, where 12 died.
Both are partners of the Zuellig Family Foundation. With funds from the US-Philippines Society (USPS) and the California based group Direct Relief, they received relief packs of hygiene kits, rice, noodles, canned goods and water. The first wave of distribution occurred between November 24 and 25 and benefitted over 4,000 families. Another batch of more than 4,000 relief packs for the two towns plus General MacArthur municipality will be distributed within the week.
Salcedo Mayor Melchor Mergal is grateful for the aid given to their town. He knows, however, that his town faces a tougher challenge ahead. Ninety-five percent of his town was affected by Haiyan. With acres of coconut trees devastated, majority who are into copra have lost their source of livelihood. Mergal says it will take at least five years for coconut to grow and bear fruit.
Fishermen in his town and in Giporlos also lost their gears and the motors of their boats. Farmers have been asking for seeds and fertilizers so they can start over.
Rural Health Units in both towns are in ruins, forcing both to treat patients in usable spaces in the municipal offices and making do with available equipment and medicines.
ZFF acknowledges the need to support the health and other needs of these local government units; hence, it has started making assessments. Like the help it got from the USPS and Direct Relief, ZFF hopes to mobilize resources to help rebuild lives of Haiyan victims.
The USPS is a non-profit organization based in Washington D.C. It aims to elevate Philippines’ profile in the US through its various programs on trade and investment, culture and education and community outreach. Direct Relief is a California-based non-profit organization that principally “provides medical assistance to people affected by poverty, natural disasters and civil unrest.”
ZFF has ongoing recovery programs in Eastern Visayas (see related video here). To help in these efforts, please get in touch with Sealdi Gonzales,email@example.com, or call her at (632) 8213329 local 117.