Bantayan islanders struggle after 'Yolanda'

Posted at 11/14/2013 9:50 PM | Updated as of 11/14/2013 9:51 PM
A worker cuts damaged palm fronds off a palm tree in front of a hotel on Bantayan island, off northern Cebu, on Thursday. Photo by Aubrey Belford, Reuters

BANTAYAN -- Residents on the small coral island of Bantayan are in need of food, water and aid on Thursday, nearly a week after the worst storm in recorded history tore through the central Philippines, killing thousands.

Just inside the forest of damaged palm trees, Arsolin Ofiasa and his family are barely living off one government relief package five days after super typhoon Yolanda knocked over their home.

The shack of wood and palm fronds stayed partly-upright thanks to a sturdy cabinet in the centre of the main room.

Thirty-eight-year-old Ofiasa, a fisherman, salvaged nails from wood on Thursday as he considered whether the structure can even be rebuilt.

If it isn't, then he, his wife and seven children may leave and try to rebuild their lives elsewhere.

"All I want is to be able to rebuild a house and live decently, and I hope for mercy for my children. We hope that we can repair the house, but it is very difficult to rebuild it completely. It's totally destroyed, how can we rebuild it?" he wondered.

His 39-year-old wife Marlita, eight months pregnant, said she had barely eaten since the typhoon so that her children could have more.

So far they have received only five kilograms of rice and five packs of dried noodles.

"What we're eating now is the only aid we have received. But it's not even enough for one day. It's really not enough," she said.

More food aid is now trickling to local people, but so far no shelter or reconstruction material has arrived for more than 6,400 displaced local families.

Mayor of Santa Fe municipality, Jose Titing Esgana, said that with other islands to support, more was needed.

"We need more support, we need more relief goods to come in, because we cannot determine how long can we sustain this food distribution," he said.

Titing Esgana estimates that 95 percent of the buildings in Santa Fe have been seriously damaged and that there has been P1.2 billion in damage to the local economy.

With most government and international aid heading for worse-hit areas like Tacloban, places like these are not the priority for a country already overwhelmed by the disaster.