It was the evening of December 16th 2021 when typhoon Odette hit some areas of Visayas and Mindanao, particularly in places like Surigao del Norte, Dinagat Island, Siargao Island, Bohol, Cebu and some part of Negros. My hometown, Barangay Jubgan, Municipality of San Francisco province of Surigao del Norte was not exempt from the wrath of the typhoon. There were strong winds and heavy rain, the seas were disturbed which caused a storm surge in the form of big waves. Local people feared for their lives and for their belongings especially those living near the coast. They were more vigilant of what would happen next and scared of the possibility of having landslides because our village is located at the foot of the mountain where there is illegal mining activity. Fortunately, this did not happen. The next morning when the typhoon left towards the nearby islands, it left a depressing scene; houses and buildings were destroyed including the churches. Coconut trees and electric posts had fallen down and the pump boats, the main source of the livelihoods in the area, were washed out. There was no electricity, no water, no sign of internet connection and most of them had no food. They could not even travel to the city to buy essentials because of local landslides blocking main roads in other villages. It took time to clear up the roads.
Since fishing boats had been destroyed by the big waves, fishermen were unable to go out to fish even though the sea had already calmed. When they went up to the mountain to harvest crops and coconuts, they found almost everything had been wiped out.
After a week, my family back home was able to communicate with me here in Cagayan de Oro where I am assigned temporarily. I was informed that they were safe which was a huge relief for me. I’d been patiently waiting for news they were safe. Unfortunately they had suffered a lot from the aftermath of the typhoon. The cost of living had become very expensive. The cost of fuel, food, water and other essentials had been hiked. Those with savings in the bank could not withdraw it because the banks were closed. Financial help coming from relatives outside the province could not be received because all the remittance centers were closed and they needed to travel to the other cities that were not devastated by the typhoon to take it. Those with no money in the bank or relatives outside the province to send any would have to wait for help from the local government and from non- government organizations.
Still without electricity now, many people in in Surigao del Norte are using generators and those who don’t have their own, are being charged money to recharge their phone batteries.
I received some photos of the aftermath of typhoon Odette from my family and saw some from social media and shared them with my friends without saying anything. There were some of them who understood my message that I was indirectly asking for help for my hometown. They gave some of their extra money and I sent it to my relatives to buy goods and distribute it to the most affected people. At least 20 families had enough for a day’s meal.
Even now some families are still waiting for assistance while many are trying to rebuild their homes and livelihoods. They try to act normal as much as they can, and live their lives despite the trauma and suffering brought by the devastating typhoon. If I have the chance I would love to visit my place to see personally and to offer my support.