A song of hope and support for Tacloban, “Tindog Tacloban” by Rex Makabenta (listen to audio)

December 14, 2013 (7:30 AM)

Rex Makabenta, a local artist from Tacloban, writes a song for the survivors of Yolanda and their families.

The title of the song is Tindog Tacloban (English Translation: Rise Tacloban), a fitting song for Warays who survived the typhoon Yolanda. It talks about regaining hope, encouragement, and a promise of support and help from fellow people.

Thank you @Rex Makabenta for this beautiful piece.

Listen to the full song on Sound clound.

Tindog Tacloban, Tindog Tacloban (Rise Tacloban)
Ibalik an mga ngisi (Bring back the smiles)
Mga inup han kunabuhi (Dreams of humanity)
An paglaum di mawarawara (Hope is not lost)
Magkaurusa la kita (If we just unite)

Full lyrics and translation to follow.

Thanks.

Tap water in Tacloban and Leyte, unsafe

December 12, 2013 (7:00 AM)

Tap water in Tacloban is not yet potable.

From a report:

Water from faucets in Tacloban City and other parts of Leyte is not safe for drinking.

The Department of Health confirmed the presence of fecal coliform – a type of bacteria from animal and human excrement – in samples of tap water from some areas in Leyte including Tacloban City. Of the 45 water samples observed by DOH from Leyte, 29 contained the bacteria.

The bacteria causes diarrhea and other water-borne diseases that can be fatal, especially to children.

People in Tacloban and Leyte advised to boil water prior to use.

Earlier:

Tacloban City: 30 days after typhoon Yolanda

Politicking post-Haiyan, PH president vs. Tacloban mayor

Tacloban, far from restoring normalcy (see photos)

Why students shouldn’t be compelled by schools to return to Yolanda-hit Tacloban

Also read:

Haiyan: if we are to play the blame game

What shouldn’t go missing in the Philippines’ Haiyan rehabilitation plan

Yolanda, not our first category 5 super typhoon yet national/local governments were unprepared

Public health: How can private sector/NGOs help Yolanda survivors?

The burden of patriotism – AFP’s role in EV; how they perform in Yolanda relief efforts will make or break public image

Guiuan, Eastern Samar just as badly hit as Tacloban or worse, 100% damage on infrastructures says Mayor Gonzales

Tacloban City: 30 days after typhoon Yolanda

A post released by Jerry Uy, City Councilor of Tacloban City. Published on his facebook last December 8, 2013.

TACLOBAN CITY: 30 DAYS AFTER TYPHOON YOLANDA

It’s been a month since Super Typhoon Yolanda (International Codename: Haiyan) devastated the City of Tacloban. Killing almost 6,000 people, with more than 2,100 casualties who were residents of the city, destroying 90% of its residential, commercial and public infrastructures, and affecting about 58,000 families here, where most of the families had fled to nearby towns and cities in Eastern Visayas, and to Cebu or Manila, days after the super typhoon to seek refuge.

RESTORING POWER

The backbone transmission lines in Feeders 1, 2 and 3 are said to be completely restored, and partly in Feeders 4 and 5 of Tacloban City, with the help of the electric cooperatives from other parts of the country. However, the city still remain dark because the street lights have not been energized by the City Government for unknown reason, but a segment from Real Street (Fatima Area to Burayan, San Jose) is illuminated by An Waray Partylist, using its own generator set. While most of the electric consumers have to apply for reconnection of their electricity with Leyte Electric Cooperative II (Leyeco II).

A one-stop-shop has been created at the office of Leyeco II to speed up the processing of electrical connections; fees and charges being collected by the City Government have been waived after numerous complaints were aired, in support of the public clamor, the City Council passed a resolution waiving the fees and charges being collected by the local government unit. A professional electrical engineer had been reported to be collecting Php 500.00 pesos from each applicant for his signature in the reconnection process. But his signature was no longer required, after the anomaly was exposed.

RESTORING WATER SYSTEM

Water supply system from the Leyte Metropolitan Water District is sufficient, but in some areas there are reports that they are experiencing low water pressure, due to the fact that water pipes are intentionally sawed by residents to get an instant water supply. However, there is private water company in the city that is said to be offering free water connection, but its water source comes from the deep well, which is unsafe and unreliable.

(Read: Tap water in Tacloban and Leyte, unsafe)

RESTORING COMMUNICATION LINES

Smart Communications and Globe Telecom have restored their services in the City two days after the super typhoon. PLDT and Bayan Communications are restoring their systems.

RESTORING PEACE AND ORDER

To maintain peace and order in the city, the Philippine National Police and the Armed Forces of the Philippines were deployed by the national government to augment the local police in the city, a de facto curfew was imposed during the first two weeks after the super typhoon to suppress lawlessness, after looters carted goods from business establishments in downtown Tacloban and the Robinson’s Place and its nearby establishments in Marabaras.

With the clamor of the business community and the residents of Tacloban over their security, the City Council passed an Ordinance imposing curfew from 8 o’clock in the evening until 5 o’clock of the following morning.

Local residents and subdivision homeowners banded and armed themselves to form citizens’ brigade to patrol their respective vicinities against criminal element, to the extent that license gun owners volunteered to help secure their premises. Police checkpoints were established in strategic locations in the city.

RESTORING SHELTER

Since many residents remain homeless, and many families are staying at evacuation centers, shelter is a major concern. Public schools serve as evacuation centers during calamities. Each classroom is shared by at least four families.

While government has announced the establishment of bunkhouses and tent cities, majority of those who are homeless don’t have any idea on how to avail the shelter program of the government.

In a chance conversation with one of the evacuees staying at Rizal Central School, the evacuee said that she very much interested to avail of the housing program of the government, but has no idea on how to avail the same. She said that they have not been consulted nor informed on this matter. They are apprehensive that at any moment they might be transferred to another area because the school will be using the classrooms.

CLEAN UP AND CLEARING

With the assistance of Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA), the Department of Works and Highways (DPWH), and later the Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation, Inc., thru their cash for work program (temporary employment program, employing to a maximum of 34,000 persons and paid Php 500 pesos for a day’s work, the major streets in the city are now cleared of debris. However, due to the clean up of residents and commercial establishments their garbage are being piled up in the streets, and has to be collected by the city’s garbage trucks, being operated by local contractors.

Heavy equipment hired by Buddhist Tzu-Chi Foundations has also been transporting debris and garbage to the dumpsites.

Temporary dumpsites were established at the Balyu-an grounds along Magsaysay Boulevard, and at the property of Robinson’s Land Corporation, previously owned by the City Government, at the Abucay Bus Terminal.

CADAVER COLLECTION

The Bureau of Fire Protection, SOCO and NBI form part of Task Force Cadaver and is tasked to retrieve and process the cadavers. Likewise, Korean and Japanese Disaster Relief Teams assisted in the retrieval.

Up to this moment, there are still uncollected cadavers that are either submerged in flood water, washed ashore or covered by the piles of debris.

Cadavers that were collected are being process by the NBI and SOCO for future identification by their relatives.

Mass graves were established by the City Government at Basper Public Cemetery and at Barangay Suhi (San Isidro), beside the Barangay Health Center of said Barangay.

HEALTH

With the assistance of the different foreign medical missions from Korea, Australia, Canada, Japan, Germany, France, China and other countries, in collaboration with the local and private hospitals in the City, they have provided medical treatments to the victims of the super typhoon.

The Australian Government was among the first to set-up a field hospital, near the Tacloban City Airport, complete with medical facilities.

China sent a hospital ship known as Ark of Peace, a 300 bed floating hospital complete with medical equipment, which also provided surgical treatment to local residents here.

Water, sanitation, hygiene and protection services are reportedly needed in evacuation centers.

PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION

Philippine and United States military cargo aircrafts transported thousands of fleeing residents out of the city, during the first two weeks after the typhoon. Commercial flights were available three days after the super typhoon struck.

At present, there are only a few Public Utility Vehicles (PUJ) and Motorcycle for Hire (MCH) plying their regular routes within the city, charging their passengers with overpriced fare.

Buses and vans to other cities and municipalities in the Eastern Visayas Region (Leyte, Samar and Biliran Islands), and to Manila and Davao are now available.

Traffic jam is experienced in the some areas in the city due to uncollected debris and garbage.

RESTORING LOCAL ECONOMY

To restore normalcy, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council created Task Force Normalization.

They convinced gas station operators and owners to re-open. Assuring them that security issues will be addressed.

Bank managers were also called up to re-open their banks, as it was one of the concerns aired by gas stations operators and other local businessmen, who were willing to resume their business in the city, days after the calamity.

Next in line that opened their businesses were grocery stores, hardwares, repair shops, auto and motor parts, remittance centers and other vital establishments.

To date only about 3% of the total establishments in the city have resumed their operations. They are operating on a skeletal workforce basis and reduced store hours; some establishments only open a part of their premises, enough for a few customers to enter; while others don’t even open their business premises to customers, but sale transactions are made thru a small pigeon hole, enough to hand the item bought and receive payment.

While major business establishments remain closed in the business district of Tacloban. Street vendors, with makeshift stalls, mushroomed in Burgos Street, Torres and Tarcela Sts. selling vegetables, fish, food stuff, can goods, and even “looted items”, as claimed by other people. Prices of those items are almost double, and government regulatory agencies cannot do anything about it.

Salazar Street, Zamora Street and Rizal Avenue are now congested with vendors selling anything you need from foodstuff, clothing, shoes, flashlights, solar- driven gadgets, mobile phones and accessories, to kitchen wares.

The Tacloban Public Market was damaged and no action has been done by the local government to restore it, despite the call by the City Council, during one of their regular sessions.

Livelihood and employment opportunities remain a major concern among the local residents.

RESTORING EDUCATION

Severely damaged also by the super typhoon were school buildings, both private and publicly owned. Classes have to be suspended from the primary to the tertiary level. For the second semester, some affected pupils and students opted to enroll, in other cities not affected by the typhoon. Others will just have to wait until school reopens.

Last December 2, 2013, classes for elementary and high school re-opened. However, only few students went back to school. Classrooms in almost all public schools served as evacuation centers for typhoon victims. However, in the tertiary level, the Commission on Higher Education announced that the reopening of classes is on January 15, 2014.

Donations made by both local and foreign non-government organization are said to be pouring in to help rebuilt damaged school buildings. Tents will be installed as alternative learning centers.

THE ROAD AHEAD

Local residents in Tacloban are anxious on what lies ahead for the next six months- during the recovery period, when the distribution of relief goods and cash for work program are terminated, and with a perceived massive unemployment and no copra to be harvested by the coconut farmers.

They are also concern with their safety and security if ever the augmented police force will be pulled-out and return to their mother unit by the end of December 2013.

They hope that government programs such as the food for work, and cash for work would continue during the recovery period thus giving food and employment opportunity. They also hope that the police visibility will remain.

The business sector which is the backbone of the local economy, must be supported by both government and private financial institutions by granting concessionary loans with low interest rates, ranging from 2 to 3% interest per annum. A loan with a 6% interest per annum is unacceptable to them.

Many businessmen will start not only start from zero, but from a “negative capitalization”. According to members of the local Chamber of Commerce the reason why they are starting from a negative is that their business premises where damaged by the typhoon, after which their merchandize were looted, and they still have the credit obligation to pay their suppliers.

The homeless are expecting that the government’s shelter program will be implemented at the soonest possible time, coupled with livelihood and employment opportunities.

A rehabilitation czar has recently been appointed by the President of the Philippines, the implementation of the rehabilitation of Eastern Visayas will take time, considering that a well-studied master plan requires an in-depth assessment, consultation, planning, and study addressing various issues and concerns,. An economic recovery plan is envisioned, similar to the Marshall Plan implemented by the United States to assist with the recovery efforts for Western Europe, after World War II is needed.

Earlier:

Politicking post-Haiyan, PH president vs. Tacloban mayor

Tacloban, far from restoring normalcy (see photos)

Why students shouldn’t be compelled by schools to return to Yolanda-hit Tacloban

Also read:

Haiyan: if we are to play the blame game

What shouldn’t go missing in the Philippines’ Haiyan rehabilitation plan

Yolanda, not our first category 5 super typhoon yet national/local governments were unprepared

Public health: How can private sector/NGOs help Yolanda survivors?

The burden of patriotism – AFP’s role in EV; how they perform in Yolanda relief efforts will make or break public image

Guiuan, Eastern Samar just as badly hit as Tacloban or worse, 100% damage on infrastructures says Mayor Gonzales

Politicking post-Haiyan, PH president vs. Tacloban mayor

December 10, 2013 (4:00 PM)

Comparing Tacloban Mayor Alfred Romualdez and President Benigno Aquino

An act of paghuhugas ng kamay (washing of hands, a Filipino idiom), hinting at Tacloban’s unpreparedness on day 1 post-Haiyan, had earned President Benigno “Noynoy” S. Aquino criticisms on his leadership. To the Filipino people and the international community, it appeared that he was more concerned in finding a scapegoat rather than responding to the urgency of the situation in Eastern Visayas.

If his comment was a conscious effort to blame the Tacloban mayor, then I could say that his plan took a bad turn. Instead of exonerating himself, his comment, made him unpopular, even acquiring a new nickname “BS Aquino.” It did not help too when, a few days later, the national government announced the plan to investigate LGU handling of Haiyan, further establishing the perception that his priority was politicking more than saving lives.

With increased visibility on television, Warays could not avoid but compare the mayor Alfred Romualdez and Presidet NoyNoy Aquino. Both were the most powerful chief executive officer in their territory; both failed to prepare their constituents for Haiyan; both were overwhelmed by the damages seen after the typhoon; and, both were looked upon by their people for guidance post Haiyan… Here the similarities end.

After Haiyan, the mayor visibly helped the people and did everything in his capacity to bring aid to Tacloban – clearing of roads, transport of aid, call for help to the government and the people. People saw him drive trucks and lead recovery of corpses. Most people were willing to stand by his side despite criticisms from the president himself. Constituents who knew of his dedication post-Haiyan gave him a free pass from the rumor that he abandoned the city during and 2 days after Haiyan. Most Warays were also willing to accept “we were prepared but overwhelmed/did not expect magnitude” reasoning to explain insufficient preparation pre-Haiyan.

(Read: Haiyan: if we are to play the blame game)

In contrast, Noynoy did poorly post-Haiyan- he stormed out of a press conference, retorted “buhay ka pa naman diba? (but you didn’t die right right?) to a businessman’s plea for the declaration of a state of emergency; he turned an interview with CNN into a blaming spree and obtained criticisms from all over the world for his slow rescue and relief operations; later, he was accused of stifling help in Tacloban due to political rivalry between Romualdez/Marcos and Aquino families. As a result of all these negative publicity, post-Haiyan, he managed to alienate the  trust, confidence and the respect of many Filipinos.

After Haiyan, Romualdez had became more visible to national news. He spoke about his frustrations and obstacles as he sought help from the Aquino led administration. The patsy-underdog angle brought him sympathy from the people. On the other hand, Aquino has been a downward spiral since November 8. People who did not like him before he was president now has more reasons to dislike his leadership. People who voted for him question their choice, some even regretting it, and expressing shame for voting him to power.

In the Philippines, it seems when a crisis emerges, political drama follows. Talks about leadership and governance in the Philippines always lead to a discussion of power struggle between political clans  or parties. Let’s hope that in the coming days, Noynoy and Alfred, the national and local governments and their agencies, find a way to put their interests aside and focus on the more important issues. At the end of the day, what matters is rehabilitating the region and putting people back on their feet.

Earlier:

Haiyan: if we are to play the blame game

Tacloban City: 30 days after the typhoon Yolanda

Tacloban, far from restoring normalcy (see photos)

Why students shouldn’t be compelled by schools to return to Yolanda-hit Tacloban

Also read:

What shouldn’t go missing in the Philippines’ Haiyan rehabilitation plan

Yolanda, not our first category 5 super typhoon yet national/local governments were unprepared

Public health: How can private sector/NGOs help Yolanda survivors?

The burden of patriotism – AFP’s role in EV; how they perform in Yolanda relief efforts will make or break public image

Guiuan, Eastern Samar just as badly hit as Tacloban or worse, 100% damage on infrastructures says Mayor Gonzales

Haiyan: if we are to play the blame game

December 10, 2013 (4:00 PM)

Unprepared for Haiyan?

Tacloban did prepare for the typhoon - people were asked to stock up on food (even resulting to panic buying); stores, schools and offices were already closed a day before the typhoon to keep everyone out of the streets; people had the good sense to buy batteries and gas up. BUT came Haiyan on Nov 8…all preemptive efforts fell short.

Generally, as way of explanation for inadequate response, local, national government and agencies say they were prepared for the typhoon but did not expect the magnitude of the devastation and were overwhelmed by the damage. Some people find this “did not expect” explanation reasonable, but to me it is unacceptable. Haiyan did not become a supertyphoon on the morning of Nov 8, warnings were issued as early as Nov 6. When Haiyan intensified to a supertyphoon, the LGU, with the guidance of PAGASA, NDRRMC, DILG and support of the national government, should have re-strategized considering how the situation significantly altered. They could have called for forced evacuation, a stronger info-dissemination about storm surge, etc.

In any case, when you decide on a strategy, implement it without a hitch and end up getting a disastrous result anyway, the message you send is that of being unprepared. Either you were totally unprepared or you were poorly prepared. Both still means efforts were insufficient. So when the mayor, NDRRMC, national government, and president use the “overwhelmed/did not expect the magnitude” justification for preemptive efforts, they are really just alluding to their their inability to provide sufficient advisory, action, and timely guidance to the people.

If the city was not amply prepared for the typhoon, am I saying that Tacloban Mayor Alfred Romualdez is to be blamed? My answer is no. He fell short but facing a super typhoon was a task he or LGU left shouldn’t have been made to manage alone. Leading the city given the impending crisis should have been a collective effort from PAGASA to the local and national governments and to NDRRMC. So if we are to point fingers, it won’t be to one person, and above all, the first person to cast a stone can’t be the president among all people.

Also read: Politicking post-Haiyan, Aquino vs. Romualdez

Earlier:

Tacloban, far from restoring normalcy (see photos)

What shouldn’t go missing in the Philippines’ Haiyan rehabilitation plan

Why students shouldn’t be compelled by schools to return to Yolanda-hit Tacloban

Also read:

Yolanda, not our first category 5 super typhoon yet national/local governments were unprepared

Public health: How can private sector/NGOs help Yolanda survivors?

The burden of patriotism – AFP’s role in EV; how they perform in Yolanda relief efforts will make or break public image

Guiuan, Eastern Samar just as badly hit as Tacloban or worse, 100% damage on infrastructures says Mayor Gonzales

Tacloban, far from restoring Normalcy

Tiffany:

Tacloban City, 30 days later after typhoon Haiyan made landfall in the Philippines. Tacloban was one of the badly hit areas out of the 589 municipalities, and 57 cities hit by Yolanda in the Philippines.

The typhoon Haiyan affected 15 million people, displaced 4 million, damaged more than 1.2 million houses, 35 million worth of infrastructures and agriculture.

The national government and the local media want people to believe normalcy is returning in Tacloban. They put a positive spin on the current status in the city, focusing on more stores opening and the government’s effort to rebuild. Tacloban and other affected areas in Eastern Visayas are from being back to “normal.” They need help and painting a rosy picture of what truly is the status in these locations would not exactly help them. It sends a message to Filipinos and the international community that the government can handle the crisis, when the truth is, it can not do it alone.

Credits to afternoonwalks.wordpress.com for the photos.

What shouldn’t go missing in the Philippines’ Haiyan rehabilitation plan

Why students shouldn’t be compelled by schools to return to Yolanda-hit Tacloban

Why RTRMF refused to let Tacloban students do their internship in Cebu

Also read:

Yolanda, not our first category 5 super typhoon yet national/local governments were unprepared

Public health: How can private sector/NGOs help Yolanda survivors?

The burden of patriotism – AFP’s role in EV; how they perform in Yolanda relief efforts will make or break public image

Guiuan, Eastern Samar just as badly hit as Tacloban or worse, 100% damage on infrastructures says Mayor Gonzales

Originally posted on A walk with my camera:

It’s exactly a month since disaster struck and now the government and news outfits have been heralding the news that normalcy is slowly being restored in the city.

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For downtown Tacloban with all the piles of debris strewn all over the streets and the shuttered businesses, maybe there is a very small semblance of normalcy for the clueless.  Sure, there are stores that are now opening, but things are still very far from normal, especially when one goes outside of the commercial area.

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This is Anibong, one of the places I frequent during my photo walks.  It is barely recognizable.  Correction, it is unrecognizable.  All the houses and sari-sari stores lining the street are gone.

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The remains of a decent house, 30 days later.  No housing relocation sites yet,  no master plans for development, nothing.  Nobody is running the show.

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Scenes like this are kept from the local news.  Everything…

View original 298 more words

DSWD to distribute construction materials in Guiuan, Eastern Samar and Tanauan, Leyte

December 7, 2013 (6:00 PM)

DSWD Field Office 8 will distribute construction materials to selected households and municipalities in Guiuan, Eastern Samar, and Tanauan, Leyte. Date of implementation not provided, but validation of damaged houses to identify recipients is already ongoing.

See original press release (below) or visit the Philippine Information Agency website.

PIA1pia2

Earlier:

What shouldn’t go missing in the Philippines’ Haiyan rehabilitation plan

Why students shouldn’t be compelled by schools to return to Yolanda-hit Tacloban

Why RTRMF refused to let Tacloban students do their internship in Cebu

Also read:

Yolanda, not our first category 5 super typhoon yet national/local governments were unprepared

Public health: How can private sector/NGOs help Yolanda survivors?

The burden of patriotism – AFP’s role in EV; how they perform in Yolanda relief efforts will make or break public image

Guiuan, Eastern Samar just as badly hit as Tacloban or worse, 100% damage on infrastructures says Mayor Gonzales

What shouldn’t go missing in the Philippines’ Haiyan rehabilitation plan?

December 5, 2013 (11:00 PM)

The government has to make rebuilding of Tacloban an organized effort and they will need help not only from LGUs and the international community, but from the private sector and the survivors themselves. Except for emergency cash-for-work scheme and DTI’s browbeating of local businesses through Task Force Normalization, we don’t hear much about how the government plans to involve affected communities in rebuilding effortsCommunities should feel ownership too in the rehabilitation process. The government (central and local) can’t do it all on their own and the beneficiaries – once on their feet – can’t remain passive to the flurry of activity around them. Eventually, communities in the Eastern Visayas need to be engaged in government and international aid efforts and be given room for active participation. Even now, a lot of survivors have already signified and demonstrated willingness to be part of the movers in devastated areas. With planning, the government can create an even stronger synergy.

Maybe it’s too early to even consider the dynamics of implementation, we do no even have a master plan yet and right now many communities still have not recovered, but when the time is right, planners should be able to lay out a blueprint that empowers constituents/communities.

At the minimum what’s important is that communities are at least consulted by strategists as they go about with their planning. Survivors have a right to a life of dignity and being part of the planning and implementation assures that their welfare is prioritized and protected.

My two cents worth.

Earlier:

Why students shouldn’t be compelled by schools to return to Yolanda-hit Tacloban

Why RTRMF refused to let Tacloban students do their internship in Cebu

Also read:

Yolanda, not our first category 5 super typhoon yet national/local governments were unprepared

Public health: How can private sector/NGOs help Yolanda survivors?

The burden of patriotism – AFP’s role in EV; how they perform in Yolanda relief efforts will make or break public image

Guiuan, Eastern Samar just as badly hit as Tacloban or worse, 100% damage on infrastructures says Mayor Gonzales

Why students shouldn’t be compelled by schools to return to Yolanda-hit Tacloban

December 4, 2013 (11:30 PM)

Can Tacloban schools, like Romualdezes-owned RTRMF, “require” graduating students to intern in Tacloban hospitals?

I ask this question because my sister, a 5th year BS Physical Therapy student (part of the graduating class this 2014), received word from her college, the RTRMF: she and nine of her classmates were being called back to Tacloban this week for the resumption of their internship.

Context

The Remedios Trinidad Romualdez Medical Foundation (RTRMF) College of Physical Therapy refused to let students do their internship in Cebu City where RTRMF has affiliations to three medical institutions – Chong Hua Hospital, Perpetual Soccour Hospital, and Our Lady of Lourdes PT/OT Center.

Before Yolanda struck, students had already received their rotation schedule for the months of December 2013 – February 2014. Following this roster, 18 students were expected to do their internship in Tacloban for the next 3 months, while the rest went to Cebu affiliations. Post-Yolanda, the college decided to keep the roster, disallowing students from switching hospitals, even the ones who were assigned to the devastated Tacloban City.

Read: Why RTRMF refused to let Tacloban students do their internship in Cebu

Sacrifices and risks have to be taken in serious consideration when deciding to return to Tacloban. Fresh from the aftermath of typhoon Yolanda, Tacloban City is in the middle of a crisis and poses potential risks in the areas of safety, security, and health. Where does student welfare come in the school’s list of priorities? Is it over or below its responsibilities to the city? Serving fellow Warays is a vocation much needed in Yolanda-struck provinces, but the choice of service has to be done as an act of volition.

Here is a list of reasons why schools should not oblige students to return if they are not ready or willing:

Psychosocial health

A survivor of Yolanda, my sister, 21, was in the city when the typhoon struck and the 6 days that followed. She experienced the waves of the storm surge, leaping out of the window so she could head to the next house. She was witness to the lawlessness and insecurity brought about by looting, news of armed men and violence; she was just a few blocks away when convicts were released from the city jail. At one point, she found herself a few meters from a shooting, and later shared what was left of her neighborhood with escaped prisoners. As the eldest in the pack, she had to take care of a younger sibling and a younger cousin when she herself was vulnerable. Together they walked around and over mountains of debris, navigated the streets on foot as they traveled within the downtown area (longest walk was to Palo); There were sightings of dead bodies in all directions; the smell of rot, a reminder that she was no longer home.

Tacloban is a little better now, almost a month since the typhoon hit the Visayas, but this does not dispel the distress she feels when thinking about a possible return to the devastated city. She has just fled the nightmare she saw in Tacloban, she is not yet ready to go back permanently. Other students saw worse, even losing family members to the typhoon and the aftermath. Are they psychologically ready to go back to the city?

Health risks

People who are currently in Tacloban are vulnerable to diseases due to lack of proper sanitation and safe drinking water. Dead bodies still have to be recovered in the outskirts of the city.

A question to the school administrator, if a student becomes ill during the stay in Tacloban, will the school provide care and treatment?

Security and safety risks

Just last Sunday (December 1), my roommate received a call from her family in Jan Rey Subdivision, Tacloban. Someone had broken into the house and had stolen the only valuable thing in their home. Ironically, it was ½ sack of rice her father received from LTO. On normal days, it would have been laughable, but during times when supply is low and prices are high, even a a kilo of rice is gold.

The thief also went through their boxes and cabinets probably in an attempt to find anything that could amount to something, like money, land titles, and jewelries. Since the house was badly damaged, the thief was not able to take anything of significance. The house next to her family’s also reported a similar break-in.

posted December 3 on https://www.facebook.com/groups/taclobanwarayyolandaupdate/

The military and police are visible in Tacloban; unrest in Tacloban will no longer be as extreme as it was 3 weeks ago, but danger still looms over the city. People are desperate for resources, such as food, shelter, money, and meeting these basic needs is a good enough motivation to commit unlawful acts.

Adding to that… more than a hundred convicts are still unaccounted for by the PNP. This, plus the fact that people had looted arms earlier this month definitely adds tension.

Logistical difficulties

Comfortable is not a word you’ll hear spoken these days in Tacloban. Absence of electricity, lack of potable water, low fuel supply, challenges in transport – these are what you see in Eastern Visayas. Most of the students have no more houses in Tacloban and are now relocated to Cebu and other nearby provinces. Where will they live in Tacloban when asked to return? For those whose houses are in neighboring municipalities, how are they expected to travel to and from the hospital? Why should the school force them to live in a place that offers no comfort? Isn’t this a choice they have to make willingly? Service to fellow Warays should bring pride, not fear and insecurities for one’s well-being.

Housing

The college has offered the use of the RTR rehabilitation hospital as a temporary shelter to the interns. While this addresses the issue of housing for the month of December, it does not provide measures to guarantee safety, security, health (physical, emotional, psychological), and logistical needs (e.g. self-sufficiency, mobility, communication, banking, access to information). Is the school willing to take the responsibility of keeping students safe? How many police officers are stationed in the hospital? Are they present 24/7? How long are they going to be stationed in the hospital? What happens once national government pulls out some of them from the city? Will the students be provided with a private car in travelling from the premise of RTRMF to the gates of their assigned hospital, vice versa? If a student gets sick while in Tacloban, will the school handle treatment and provide care?

Other schools intending to provide board and lodging to students should also consider these questions. If schools plan to oblige students to render OJT/internship in the city, then they have to be accountable for their welfare – health, security, safety, means for self-sufficiency. They too are victims of the typhoon and deserve to proceed with their life with dignity and peace.

Businesses – barely open

In the past two weeks, we’ve been repeatedly informed about normalization in Eastern Visayas. The government urged businesses to open shop, start economic activity, and by opening business, help the government provide the needs of the Warays who opted to stay in Eastern Visayas. Some have already opened. We can locate some through DTI’s OPLAN Store Locator, but normalcy is still far from becoming a reality.

posted in https://www.facebook.com/groups/taclobanwarayyolandaupdate/

What we hear little about is the fact that not enough stores are open. Stores sell to families and friends first before other consumers, owners are always running out of stocks,shops close a couple of hours before dusk, black market is flourishing, prices are high and supply low. On top of this, the business community, like regular Yolanda survivors, could not give their 100 percent.They too experienced some losses – stocks, inventory, manpower, facilities, damages to infrastructure, and if you read the posts below, morale.

Posted November 25:Photo 1

With this in mind, know that students have no fast food or supermarkets to buy meals from. Is the school willing to open a canteen to provide or sell sustenance to their charges? Or will the students continue to depend on relief goods like they do now?

Are Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) liable?

Schools can compel students to come back to Tacloban because students need their diploma and most will do anything to accomplish that, even sacrificing comfort and risking their safety. But once they are in Tacloban, they are automatically susceptible to risks. Is the school going to be liable? Safety, security, health, self-sufficiency – these responsibilities are inherently owned by the student as an individual and his/her parents as primary caregivers/support. Is the school going to take on these tasks too by demanding their return? What are the measures they are planning to take in keeping students secure and well cared for?

Action needed from schools

Allow students to transfer (if they make this decision) to other schools and make the transition easy for them.

Provide options to graduating students how they can meet requirements without having to return to Eastern Visayas for long periods. In this case, my sister’s classmates are already doing their internship in Cebu. Why can they not extend the same option to her and her 9 classmates? Because a piece of paper printed before the day of Yolanda says they were assigned to Tacloban? Offer some flexibility and put the needs of the students over the school’s (or their owners’) responsibilities to the city.

Take measures in areas of security, safety, and health. Students’ welfare should be an utmost priority.

Be visible. Release official statements that document decisions or actions made by school administrators. Share them to the public. I commend University of the Philippines for its promptness. Only 5 days after Yolanda, the UP president released a memo addressing the needs of UP Tacloban students displaced by the typhoon.

December 9, 2013 (1:00 PM) – UPDATE!

Just in today – By December 4, BS Physical Therapy students assigned to Tacloban hospitals had reported for duty; everyone was there except for my sister. Sending her to Tacloban was still not an option for us – my sister was not ready, we feared for her psychosocial well-being, safety, security and health. Instead of waving the white flag, we sent an appeal to the dean, this time, a singular appeal for my sister’s case. My sister’s case was unique because her internship assignment was not only for one month like her classmates’; it was for the remaining months of the semester, around 3-4. Unlike her classmates, we had no house to rebuild in Tacloban and would not be able to provide her a place to stay once the temporary accommodations in RTR hospital expires this December. To make sure we were heard, we forwarded our concern to CHED. CHED then sent Ms. Erleta Pinero, a former dean of the college, to help with negotiations.

Resolution: CHED’s intervention was limited to mediating and advising only. Ultimately, the decision was still the school’s. After meeting with CHED and the college dean, my mother was given the good news: the school decided to let my sister complete her internship in Cebu starting December 10. Chong Hua was willing to take her for the rest of the semester.

Inasmuch as we would like the same option to be presented to other students’, the reality remained… no one else had stepped forward from the class. Thus, the decision was exclusive to my sister. At the end of the day, it was persistence that had helped us obtain a favorable result.

Related post:

Why RTRMF refused to let Tacloban students do their internship in Cebu

Tacloban, far from restoring normalcy (see photos)

Tacloban City: 30 days after typhoon Yolanda

Also read:

Politicking post-Haiyan, Aquino vs. Romualdez

Yolanda, not our first category 5 super typhoon yet national/local governments were unprepared

Public health: How can private sector/NGOs help Yolanda survivors?

The burden of patriotism – AFP’s role in EV; how they perform in Yolanda relief efforts will make or break public image

Guiuan, Eastern Samar just as badly hit as Tacloban or worse, 100% damage on infrastructures says Mayor Gonzales

Why RTRMF refused to let Tacloban students do their internship in Cebu

December 4, 2013 (11:30 PM)

The Remedios Trinidad Romualdez Medical Foundation (RTRMF) College of Physical Therapy refused to let students do their internship in Cebu City where RTRMF is affiliated with three institutions – Chong Hua Hospital, Perpetual Soccour Hospital, and Our Lady of Lourdes PT/OT Center.

On December 1, concerned parents and students who were in Tacloban met with an authorized college official of RTRMF. The meeting provided representation for 8 (out of 18) students. A signed petition was forwarded by the parents, one where they asked the college to let students complete their internship in Cebu. Arguments touched on housing, logistics, health, security and safety, and quality of training.

In-spite of the list, the college official remained mum, noting that he was only a messenger and not the person calling the shots.Here were the reasons given by the college official for refusing the petition:

  • Administrators and owners of the school, allegedly, refuse to lose the interns as they belong to the pool of manpower needed by hospitals in Tacloban. Hospitals, having lost many of its staff, are now short-handed. The Romualdezes-owned RTR Hospital for example heavily rely on interns to hold the fort.
  • The college official insists that arguments presented by parents/students were based on misleading information. According to him, Tacloban is safe now, police and military are everywhere. There were never any rape cases. Most news spreading about the city were highly sensationalized information spoken by traumatized people.
  • The college official argued that Tacloban is now livable. Hospital has power, stores are open, roads are clear, jeep/tricycles run the streets again.
  • Affiliate hospitals in Cebu allegedly refused to accommodate any more interns. This information does not however make sense. My sister talked to the affiliate coordinators and they expressed nothing but willingness to facilitate transfers, if any.
  • Additional cost to the school

The college official counter-argued by attempting to paint an optimistic and rosy picture of Tacloban. This sweet talk was successful in satisfying the worries of some parents, but for a few, mine included, remained uneasy with the idea of having “no choice”. The college representative gave many rebuttals but no solid contribution to questions addressing student welfare and a right to life with dignity. What measures is the school taking to meet minimum standards in food security, nutrition, shelter, non-food items, health, and WASH? Physical safety? Comfort? Privacy?

Since the school offered no flexibility, students were obliged to return to Tacloban. Most of them have damaged homes, some lost their houses altogether. Their families have relocated to other provinces, because of this a few had to come back on their own. The school offered to house them in the RTR rehabilitation hospital, but other than 2 security guards, an agreement on curfew, there were no talks on security and health, or even the logistics of their stay in the city.

Today, students who have taken the hospital’s offer of accommodations make do with tables and banig (native woven mat) as makeshift beds and mattresses. They are without comfort and privacy, sharing one room with classmates, not even segregated by gender. With stores and canteens always running out of stocks, they rely on relief goods for food. Noodles and canned goods are not exactly nutritious but they have little choice. For transportation, they compete with other commuters for a seat in a public jeepney or tricycles. The day ends when they are back to the premises of the RTR Hospital where they are free of the city’s enveloping darkness. Aside from the hospitals, only a few business establishments and government agencies have light at night.

There is honor and pride in serving fellow Visayans during a crisis of this magnitude. Individuals and families displaced by the typhoon at one point must return home to help rebuild/rehabilitate homes and communities, the sooner the bigger the impact. There is no question here. The issue rests on the school’s rigidity towards students who are not psychologically and logistically prepared to return to the city. These individuals are victims of the typhoon too. They, like all survivors in Eastern Visayas, deserve humanitarian treatment.

RTRMF as an institution has yet to release an official written statement about resumption of classes and internships.Right now, all information are coming from individual colleges and they are being given through low-quota meetings and informal channels such as text brigades. Do deans and administrators have the last say or can people with higher ranks step in? If they do, time is awasting, and costing students undue distress. As survivors, they need to regain normalcy in their lives, and not knowing their options, or not having any options at all slows the process. Moreover, students who feel compelled to comply are cheated of their right to good health, dignity, security and comfort.

Related post: Why students shouldn’t be compelled by schools to return to Yolanda-hit Tacloban

Also read:

Yolanda, not our first category 5 super typhoon yet national/local governments were unprepared

Public health: How can private sector/NGOs help Yolanda survivors?

The burden of patriotism – AFP’s role in EV; how they perform in Yolanda relief efforts will make or break public image

Guiuan, Eastern Samar just as badly hit as Tacloban or worse, 100% damage on infrastructures says Mayor Gonzales