First Person Blog

Voices, video, and photos from Oxfam's fight against poverty

“It will take us a long time to get back to where we were”

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Oxfam emergency response staff Puspasari Indra and Vincent Malasador meet with members of fishing community on Bantayan Island. The women and men of this village, who rely on fishing for their income, say their most urgent needs include food, shelter, and water. Photo: Chee Chee Leung/Oxfam

Oxfam’s Jane Beesley has been visiting areas affected by typhoon Haiyan, talking with survivors to find out how they are coping. On Bantayan Island she met Victor Villaruel, 40, a fisherman and father of four. His boat and home were both destroyed in the typhoon, which he and others in the Philippines call “Yolanda.”  This is Villaruel’s story in his own words.

Before ‘Yolanda’ I used to go out fishing twice a day from 4 pm to 6 pm and from 3 am to 6 am.  ‘Yolanda’ destroyed most of my fishing equipment so now I can’t make a living and care for my family, though I am trying. Now we are seeing that aid is coming in, we’re all much happier and that’s why you are seeing us smiling. We didn’t know that any relief would be delivered and we were worrying about how we would cope.

My boat was badly damaged and now I’m hoping to repair it so that I can start to earn a living again.  At the moment I’m fishing with a small net, a ‘pukot.’. I wade into the sea up to my chest and then scoop the ‘pukot’ and hope I can catch a few fish.  But I’m spending most of my time now trying to find materials to build a shelter for my family, and eventually a home.  At the moment we are all sleeping together under some plastic sheeting; it’s only partially roofed and there is no privacy.

It’s very hard for me to accept what has happened.  Our house was destroyed and I could do nothing to save it. I know it was a natural disaster but I still feel bad that I couldn’t prevent what has happened to our home and livelihood.

What I need now is to start earning a little cash so that I can start rebuilding my house. I don’t know how long it will take for us to start living normally, maybe in two years. My income is normally very low, so we will recover very slowly, just a little at a time.

My priorities right now are food, schooling for the children, and rebuilding our home fully, though right now we will cope with sleeping in this small space.

What we need now is any help people can give because…it will take us a long time to get back to where we were.  We need materials to build our homes again. We don’t need labor because we can do that all ourselves.

Support families working to rebuild. Help Oxfam scale up our response in the Philippines: Donate to the Typhoon Haiyan Relief and Recovery Fund.

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