My deepest apologies for not being able to keep in touch with you while being here on the ground. Our communication is very limited and transportation is a challenge. Our first ground assessment started on November 12, 2013. We could only move in the airport. The condition is dire and it was a logistical nightmare.
Haiyan left Tacloban into a city of debris. Trees, mud and dirt devoured the city. Arriving in the city four days later after the storm, my sight saw only debris over debris and I couldn’t tell how the city would recover from the catastrophe. Relief can only help for a few days. How to go on and move forward is the most daunting task.
I left Tacloban Airport on November 13 with a mission to come back to immediately respond to the urgent needs of local media colleagues who for sure are severely affected by Super Typhoon Haiyan.
Coming back on November 17, I was accompanied by Pecojon Visayas Representative Julius Mariveles. There’s an 8pm to 5am curfew and it was highly advised not to stay out after sunset, we could only start working on November 18. On that day, we had to walk for about an hour to get to the city center, under the heat of the morning sun.
Later, Mr. Red Batario of the Center for Community Journalism and Development arrived on November 19, 2013. With Sir Red, we moved from Tacloban City to Catbalogan and further to Giuian in Eastern Samar. The drive was long and painful. All through the coastal road, we saw devastation over devastation, over devastation.
The areas of Northen Leyte, Southern and Eastern Samar have been severely devastated by the typhoon. Almost 100-percent of the areas were damaged and destroyed. Coconut trees were uprooted. Houses flattened – left into skeletal structures and desolation. The sad thing right now is that it is raining and with every rain and wind, people are recall the ordeal of that fateful day.
In these areas, radio stations, television stations and local newspapers were totally damaged by the typhoon.
Jazmin Bonifacio of Radyo Diwa shares her near death experience. She was on-board that day. The storm is expected to hit Tacloban at 8am, the night before, the calm had an eerie feeling. When the storm came, it did not come with rain but it came with a wall of dark and black water – about 15 feet high – hitting tacloban like a tsunami. They were inside the station when it happened and the station was flooded up to the ceiling. They had to stay at the ceiling until the water subsided about an hour later.
We met with fifteen media workers in our rounds. We gave them initial financial support. Some we helped by providing temporary work with the international press. The initiative hopes that being a local guide/fixer/stringer could help them emotionally recover from the trauma of the typhoon. Some we are working on to have temporary work with aid agencies. Although temporary, we hope that it could augment the urgency of at least doing something and not being stagnant.
We also told them that by December we will gather them for handling trauma sessions and they are looking forward on this. Our partners at the Lago Maggiore Institute has already committed support to PECOJON and the local media.
With a clear outlook of the long road ahead, we hope to gather more help from institutions to be able to realize a rehabilitation program for the affected colleagues. We will call this project: RISE. We will fight this situation with a situation of hope and find a solution that will not only bring back life to the those affected but will rise them up to be models of disaster management, response and monitoring and further sensitive, responsible and quality reporting.
My deepest gratitude,
N.B. For fundraising ideas, please email: manriquez(at)pecojon(dot)ph or Charlie Saceda at saceda(at)pecojon(dot)ph. Bank account details are here: http://philippines.pecojon.org/humanitarian-response-media-haiyan-yolanda-philippines/