Toll of displacement

By Fae Cheska Marie Esperas
| November 25, 2013 at 10:10 pm

I am a survivor of Supertyphoon “Yolanda.”

I am one of the thousands of Waray left homeless by the storm. Like them I am displaced, not only geographically but also mentally and emotionally. You can only imagine the idea of leaving home because you have to, and you cannot look back anymore because there’s nothing for you to return to. To be frank, that’s the ordeal we are trying to live with now.

Before leaving my home in Palo, Leyte, I witnessed how aid was distributed to us in need. It was in droplets. Among many things, help arrived late, and that alone pushed the people to be desperate, to fight for their lives even at the expense of others. It wouldn’t have happened had the aid, which was supposed to come from the government, come quickly. But no. Who came first? A medical team from a nongovernment organization based in the United States.

The bodies of Yolanda’s casualties lay on the streets. They just lay there, with no one touching them, no one retrieving them. They lay there for days. How long before the bodies were taken to mass graves? Long enough for them to decay, which was unreasonable, given that these people died fighting for their lives and for those they wanted to continue living.

The place I lived in was in a hopeless state on that day I decided to leave. We were running out of food and water; we couldn’t sleep at night because we had to protect our lives against thieves and thugs who were said to be raiding homes under cover of the dark. During the day we relied on the humanitarian efforts of the kindhearted men, women, and organizations who extended their resources to help us in such a dark hour.

But how long could we rely on their support? While they intended to help us for as long as they could, the institution that we are supposed to be depending on was blocking the way for them to reach us. How harrowing could that be?

I left my home to find a way to restructure my life, and that of my family, in the hope that we will become normal again. To be honest, the displacement is slowly driving me crazy. I miss not only my home and the loved ones I left behind, but also the very place I chose to settle in. And it breaks my heart to learn that the government is shutting down the very channels that we are relying on for support, that this institution we are supposed to look up to is changing once again the rules on distributing help, at the cost of the evacuees, the refugees, and everyone else affected by the typhoon.

As much as I don’t want to feel anything at this point, this is breaking my heart. How cruel can the institution be? Now I plead: Spare us from your politics. If you do that, perhaps we can all start moving forward and get our lives back.

Fae Cheska Marie Esperas, 27, says she isn’t afraid to face death anymore after surviving Yolanda.