Typhoon Nock-ten, known locally as Typhoon Nina, made landfall over Catanduanes on December 25 this past year. As it brought great damage to local residents, Tzu Chi volunteers reached out to help. After surveying the disaster areas, volunteers held an aid distribution, including giving victims emergency money to get through the days ahead. Following a disaster site assessment in the first week of January, Tzu Chi provided Php5, 000 cash assistance to families who lost their homes to the storm. A total of 1,007 affected families from the four worst hit municipalities are expected to receive the cash aid from January 9 to 13. Said recipients will have to withdraw the money through the Philippine National Bank (PNB) branch in Virac, the province’s town center.
Before the bank opens at 8:30 am on January 10, a crowd of beneficiaries is already gathered at a covered court near the PNB.
Braving the steady downpour that morning and enduring the long ride from Barangay San Miguel, 67-year-old Estrella Toreja is among the early birds. In fact, she barely slept at all.
“I couldn’t bring myself to sleep last night,” Toreja says. “I was so happy and excited to receive the cash aid. We can finally have our house rebuilt.”
Like many, Toreja’s house was flattened by the typhoon. The scrap materials that were left from their former home were what the family tried to patch together and live in. In this small makeshift shelter with tarpaulins for roofs that leak when it rains, Toreja lives with her husband, a son, and grandchildren. In all, there are six of them.
“With the cash aid from you, I will buy corrugated iron sheets and rice. I will never forget your help,” adds Toreja.
Apart from buying corrugated iron sheets to rebuild their home, Letecia Modesto, another beneficiary, says she will also use the cash aid to buy school materials for her 5 children. The kids’ school things have all been destroyed when their house was torn down by the typhoon. Temporarily, they are staying at Modesto’s mother in an already packed home until their house has been put up.
“The help you extended is unique,” says Modesto. “We are used to receiving relief goods like rice and canned goods but now with this cash aid from you, we will have something to use to pick ourselves up from the calamity.”
Tzu Chi decided to give out cash aid to the typhoon victims after seeing their living conditions during the volunteers’ survey of the affected areas. While some had started the rebuilding by collecting woods and bamboos from the mountains and reusing what remained of their former homes, majority were clueless as to how and where to begin again.
Tzu Chi coordinated with the PNB for the money transfer. Beneficiaries were given schedules to claim their cash aid according to their towns. They only need to show the relief stubs from Tzu Chi and present a valid ID to claim the money.
The bank’s management sent in additional personnel to help with the transactions. Magno Salvadora, the bank’s branch head, can still remember the first time he saw the Tzu Chi volunteers. It was in 2006, after Typhoon Reming devastated the Bicol Region. Salvadora, a native of Tabaco in Albay, was present when Tzu Chi formally turned over the newly reconstructed Tabaco National High School whee one of his children was attending school. Back then, the concept of the Bamboo Coin bank moved him greatly.
Ten years later, he meets the Tzu Chi volunteers again. He lauds their commitment in helping, regardless of distances.
“With your help, it’s like the worries and burden that the typhoon victims have were lifted. The 5,000 pesos really means a lot to them. On our part, it’s very rare to have this opportunity to support your cause and be of help so we’re also very happy that we had this chance,” he says. Immediately upon receiving the cash, recipients went straight to the hardware store to buy construction materials.
39-year-old Evelyn Tabirao used the money to buy corrugated iron sheets to replace the tarpaulins that serve as roofing for her family’s home.
“Tin sheets are more important right now because we always get wet when it rains. As for the others, we can just use materials from the mountains like bamboo,” she says, after helping load the sheets over a tricycle which delivered the materials to her family’s home.
The Tabirao couple and their son were celebrating the holiday season in Manila with a relative when Typhoon Nina struck Catanduanes on December 25. On their return on January 6, they were welcomed with the sight of their washed out home. Faced with the daunting task of rebuilding, the Tabiraos almost lost all hopes. Until succor comes.
“This is really a big help you have extended to us because this is the first time we have received a cash aid. During the past calamities that struck us, nobody gave us this much,” Tabirao says.
Just like Tabirao, Melinda Bernal head straight to the hardware store to purchase iron railings and plywood. She also placed an order for 200 pieces of hollow blocks.
Every time a storm comes in Catanduanes, Bernal’s home gets washed off. Now holding a large sum of money in her hand, she wanted to invest it into something that will last.
“With this cash aid, I was hoping that I could build my house with stronger foundations so we can prevent our house from getting washed out whenever a storm comes. We can now begin somewhere,” says Bernal.
It’s a long road toward recovery for the typhoon victims in Catanduanes. But now that they’ve began the journey somehow, getting there is guaranteed.
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