First Person

“We will find a way to get through this”

Posted by
Emelia Tiongzon and her son. Photo by Jane Beesely/Oxfam

Oxfam’s Jane Beesley has been visiting areas affected by typhoon Haiyan, talking with survivors to find out how they are coping. She visited Mancilang, on Bantayan Island, where she interviewed Emelia Tiongzon (35), who describes how she and her four children, sister, and husband are coping since their home was badly damaged in the storm, which people in the Philippines call “Yolanda.”

“Our house has been totally damaged. It wasn’t destroyed directly by the typhoon but by a coconut tree falling on it. We now have to sleep in my kitchen. It’s a very small space.I call it ‘my dirty kitchen’!

“We built the house eight years ago. It’s a concrete house so we thought it would be safe in typhoons but we didn’t think that a coconut tree would fall down and destroy it. The typhoon took our roof away and many of our things were either washed away or ruined in the wind and rain…

“All our remaining things were damaged or wet through and muddy. When I saw what was left of our home my heart really ached. I thought, ‘How are we going to start again? Where do we start?’ It had taken us so long to get established and now it had all gone in just a few hours.

“But I’m so lucky because no one in my family was hurt. Not my children, not my husband, not my mother – no one in my entire family were hurt. I’m lucky because they are all alive while there are so many people who have lost their lives, and lost their loved ones. My husband still has a job [at a poultry farm] and can go to work, while so many people have no jobs to go to because ‘Yolanda’ destroyed everything.”

Falling trees and heavy winds almost completely destroyed Emelia Tiongzon's home on Bantayan Island. Photo by Jane Beesely/Oxfam
Falling trees and heavy winds almost completely destroyed Emelia Tiongzon’s home on Bantayan Island. Photo by Jane Beesely/Oxfam

“Right now every day I am washing, washing, and washing clothes because they were all wet and muddy from ‘Yolanda’. Living in these conditions the children are getting dirty very quickly. So I’m always washing – every day washing.Before ‘Yolanda’ we used to have running water in the house but not now. Every day I have to go and fetch water from a nearby well. Washing is much harder work than before and it takes so much time. My husband’s employer is giving us mineral water so we have good water to drink.

“When I’m cooking the rain often pours in through the corrugated sheets we have put up as a temporary roof over the cooking area. They are damaged so when there is heavy rain it pours in.

“My children are helping me to get through this bad time. When I look at them I think we will find a way… My husband is very supportive. Every night we sit down and talk about our daily survival. He always reassures me and says, ‘We will cope. Every day we will improve little by little and we will get there.’The loss of our house and the loss of everything else has not cost us our relationship. In fact we are much closer now. We talk about everything – all our worries and concerns and what we can do to survive.”

Help Oxfam scale up our response in the Philippines: Donate to the Typhoon Haiyan Relief and Recovery Fund. Facebook Twitter Instagram YouTube Google+