From Manila to Mindoro: a report on Brigada Kalikasan updates

The disaster response campaign of the Brigada Kalikasan for the victims of Super Typhoon Yolanda (int’l name Haiyan) continues a month after the strongest typhoon to make landfall in world history caused massive damages and casualties particularly in the Visayas and Southern Luzon regions. We earlier reported our participation in the national relief caravan of BALSA and contributed to other relief efforts during the first two weeks. Here’s what we have done since then:

We co-organized last December 6 the ‘Tindog Katawhan!’ (Rise Up People!), an ecumenical liturgical solidarity gathering for the victim survivors of Yolanda, alongside Dambana, a church-based disaster response drive, the Yolanda survivors’ movement Tindog, and the national office of Karapatan. This is a very important intervention for Yolanda victims who migrated from the Eastern Visayas to the capital region, hoping for opportunities in Metro Manila to rebuild their lives but ending up in urban poor communities still with no food, livelihood and support.

We heard testimonies from the survivors. Irma Balaba, a pastor and representative of the relief drive Tabang Eastern Visayas, recounted seeing bodies of people and animals just strewn everywhere. She pointed out how her region was one of the poorest even before the disaster, which has further compounded to their woes. Pastor Balaba challenged government to not allow it to reach the point where people survived Yolanda but will die anyway because of hunger and disease.

We heard from Myrna Ripalda, a student from the University of the Philippines-Tacloban campus and now a member of Tindog, who was forced to cross-register in the UP-Diliman campus to continue her studies alongside more than 170 other displaced UP students in Leyte. She was driven to tears in recounting how she lost 7 of her kin to Yolanda’s wrath, and how she had to beg from her friends and families to support her migration to the capital.

Lastly, we heard from Arlene Legazpi-Luz, a mother who was in the town of Palo in Leyte province, shared how they evacuated to the Central School of Palo with her two children and in-law’s family. But the storm surges overwhelmed the school. They survived by holding onto furniture and debris amid the powerful waves that pounded through the building, but they were trapped by the school debris.

With no access to water, Arlene had to squeeze the moisture out of the wet pillow they had with them to be able to prepare some milk for her baby. When they were eventually rescued, she finally got the news: her husband, who wasn’t with them when the storm hit, died from the storm surges.

The ‘Tindog Katawhan!’ gathering was a chance for citizens from the Metro Manila region to hear out the problems and that Yolanda survivors face everyday. The event also served as a soup kitchen and donation drive for the 50 survivor families who are now part of Tindog, and the abovementioned students who formed the UP Diliman chapter of Tindog.

It breaks our heart to hear the travails our people have gone through. But it also motivates us not only to sustain our response to Yolanda-affected areas, but to join their struggle to demand climate justice from the Aquino government, and the polluter countries and corporations that have worsened the climate crisis over the past century.

Thank you to all who have donated to Brigada Kalikasan for making our efforts possible. Material donations can still be coursed through BK’s headquarters address. You can also course through your donations here.

As our way of bringing tidings of hope and solidarity in the coming holidays, we will come out with Brigada Kalikasan’s full Haiyan disaster response report by Christmas day. Again, our heartfelt gratitude for everyone’s support and solidarity! 

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