We went to visit Christ Faith Fellowship on a weekday, on the invitation of Pastora Lolita. I was hoping to find there maybe one volunteer to tell his typhoon story. When we arrived, I was so surprised to see the church almost full of people, all eager to tell their stories. We stayed there one whole afternoon, collecting stories until dark.
The unexpected typhoon
The common denominator in the stories was how unexpected the typhoon was. It wasn’t that they didn’t get the warning, but everyone found it hard to believe. Jilene, a 47-year-old house wife, had seen many typhoons before and thought that the warnings were exaggerating: no typhoon could be that strong! Porferia, a 63-year-old grandmother and gardener, had told her husband not to worry, that the typhoon would most likely not come at all. Recently married, Daya-Mae (19) was pregnant at the time, spending her morning outside. Some, like Marlyn (a 57-year-old vegetable grower) had prepared food to take through the storm, but most hadn’t prepared anything at all.
Their own homes, the neighbors’, the evacuation center… Nothing was ready for the typhoon, which destroyed everything. People had to run from one place to another to look for safety, hiding from falling debris under foams, umbrellas or tarps. When there was nowhere to run anymore, Sosema and her grandson waited for the end of the storm at the roadside.
The eye of the storm
When it came, the typhoon hit in two strikes, with an eerie calm in between. Anesita saw her roof flying away and the coconut trees falling. One of them, falling through her wall, hit her in the head. Her husband, who had gone to another hiding place, made the best of the eye of the typhoon and came to check on her. He carried her to his brother’s still standing place.
Elisabeth, a separated 45-year-old mother-of-five, prayed hard for the coconut tree near their house to fall across the road and not on her house. During the quiet moment, she left the evacuation center to check on her house: her prayer had been answered and she brought back coconuts for the people in the shelter.
The hand of God
At Christ Faith Fellowship, many see the hand of God in the typhoon. Durena, Danilo, Jilene and Eligeo are 4 of the church members who gave their lives to God during Yolanda. They talk of the typhoon as being their “eye opener”. Danilo, a 44-year-old farmer and father of 6, was confined in bed when Yolanda hit, recovering from an infected wound. His wife Mercy, already a Christian at the time, prayed for the house to resist the storm, for protection for her husband. Only their kitchen was damaged, the rest of the house kept standing.
The hope for livelihood
Yolanda didn’t only knock down houses and coconut trees, but also livelihoods. Marlyn saw her vegetable shop get picked up by the wind and carried away by the flood. The same happened to Anesita’s barbecue stall. Elisabeth was a beautician but lost all her material. Jose (63), Oscar (49) and Vilma (43) were hands-for-rent, plowing people’s fields. But when Yolanda took so much, not many could still afford their services. And the stories go on…
Now, they all dream of a small capital to start a business. Livestock for example: Marlyn, Elisabeth, Jose, Durena wish to have pigs in the house, while Anesita, Jilene and Porferia would rather have chicken. Others, like Vilma, Mercy, Danilo and Daya Mae contemplate a sari sari store. But these projects seem far away, as of today many of them still live under tarps…
PeaceBuilders Community is now working with a fellowship of Ormoc pastors to outline a housing and livelihood project for a 2ha land that has been donated.