Our day starts at 7AM and our team is split into 2 to cover as much ground as possible. We’ve deliberately chosen affected areas that we feel have not gotten much coverage and between our teams, we hope to cover at least 4 municipalities: San Isidro and Sagbayan (mountainous municipalities) and Clarin and Calape (coastal municipalities). With the advice of our drivers, we take alternate routes to get to our areas. This adds about 30-45 minutes to our drive, but an hour on the road is still much better than the 6-8 hours we spent crossing Davao Oriental, Compostela Valley and Tagum City for Typhoon Pablo. The drive is surprisingly smooth, and I only occasionally see collapsed buildings and rubble. This is a direct contrast to reports that these areas are inaccessible. What we find striking are the number of concrete houses that have collapsed while the wooden houses were still left intact and standing, having absorbed the shock of the earthquake better.
The first thing we notice as we pull up to Clarin is that their church has collapsed completely behind its facade. Families have set up makeshift tents laid out on the open fields to the side. When we visit the municipal mayor’s home where the OpCen is now housed, they are busy repacking the second wave of food packs for affected families. In Clarin, a fifth class municipality, officials tell us that minimal aid have come into the municipality and mostly from private donors. While sitting in the repacking area, a slight tremor shifts my chair. This is the fourth obvious aftershock I have felt since arriving in Bohol. It takes a while to track down the Municipal Health Officer and we go through their new but now damaged municipal health office. As we waited for our key informant interviews, we watch a young girl of about 13 sitting on a bench while nurses dress her wound. She lost her finger during the earthquake. The young girl was silent as the medical personnel treated her and we wouldn’t have known she was in pain if it weren’t for the foot she was twisting. We meet Clarin’s Municipal Health Officer, Dr. Reina Dedamante, who is the boss of a medical tent in the high school. Dr. RJ is a wealth of information, telling us that there’s a shortage of water and there have been 8-10 reported cases of diarrhoea in her tent alone. She has been working nonstop although she herself is homeless since her house is, as she describes, “isang ihip lang at fwooot! (one breath and then fwoot!)” Since the earthquake, there have been 3 deliveries per day in maternity tents, with the provincial doctor quipping “parang factory lang! (like a factory!)” Families go to her because she rations out mineral water, especially for those with diarrhoea so she can monitor if they are getting better. Dr. RJ worries that her anti-diarrhoea medicines will soon run out. Before we leave, Oxfam donates a case of hyposol to treat clear water and add more to her stock of potable water. Throughout the assessment, we will be leaving bottles of hyposol in each municipality, just to buy families some 10-15 days of potable water. While we conduct our assessment, a barangay kagawad comes in to get her blood pressure checked. Later on, we hear that she is the mother of 2 children who perished during a landslide. What makes her story all the more painful is that the municipal backhoe was not big enough for the recovery effort and she had to pay for another backhoe just to recover her children’s bodies.
In the makeshift camps by the Clarin church, I meet families from Brgy. Bonbon and Poblacion Norte, who have been living there since Tuesday. They urge me to sit down in raised wooden platforms that serve as rough beds and proudly show off a newborn of 2 weeks. The parents are young and very shy and the lola who insists on speaking with me in Bisaya, makes them translate her woods and mine through her daughter-in-law. The lola worries that her new apo will get sick while out in the open, and I can understand her concerns, feeling the hot sun beating down at us through the tarpaulin. I know that the brief respite of storms and rains in this area won’t hold for very much longer with the ongoing rainy season. Calape municipality is 3rd class and appears to have more aid coming in than Clarin. There are a few families living in the town plaza and they told me that many have started moving back to make tents outside their homes. The other day, it had rained at night and the displaced had to stand to avoid getting wet. Their tent structures are not equipped to handle heavy rainfall. Families told us they were given 2 cups of rice a day by the MLGU, not enough for a meal for their entire household. They get 250ml bottles of water per person through private donations but it’s not consistent. A number of families that still remain in the town plaza are from the island barangays but we weren’t able to go to there because of liquefaction and damaged roads. The families that lived there moved to set up tents or blankets by the damaged gym and they tell me they are terrified to go back while aftershocks still occur. When I told them PHIVOLCS was reporting another 2-3 weeks of aftershocks, they looked at me blankly and then broke out in nervous laughter “hindi ko na yata kaya yun. (I don't think I could stand that.)”
Tubigon municipality is a first-class municipality and would have looked normal — if not for an entire wall shaved off the front of the municipal hall, revealing the empty Sangguniang Bayan conference room, complete with office chairs and a hanging LCD screen, as well as their huge church overlooking the plaza that had lost all its walls. As we searched for the MSWDO, we passed by a packed LBC money remittance center with people waiting to get their money from relatives outside Bohol. It takes awhile to find the MSWDO and when we get there, we find a crowd of people standing outside a building, waiting for DILG Secretary Mar Roxas and DSWD Secretary Dinky Soliman to come out and talk to them. Knowing that everyone’s attention would be diverted to possible aid, we end up talking to the MSWD Officer and look at the figures on their wall. Tubigon has more than 10,000 families affected but what’s striking is that 6 out of 7 of their casualties are above the age of 55. Vulnerable sectors are always the first to be most seriously affected in a disaster, unless we consider their particular needs in preparedness.
Original blog posted in Oxfam sa Pilipinas here.
Abbi is a petite human, blogger, amateur photographer, permanent humanitarian, avid traveller, culture addict, giant bookworm and impossible foodie.