Story of Haidy Ilaga, a Mamanwa woman, from Santiago, Agusan del Norte
Tis the season to be jolly, December. But not for Haidy and her Mamanwa community.
December 16, 2021 – Typhoon Odette came, packed with strong winds, and heavy rains. "Parang may ipo-ipo" [Like a tornado]. Odette came around 9 am, with no let-up. They first hid under the house of the tribal chieftain, her father. But as they saw the barangay tribal hall crumple down, next to where they were, much sturdier than any structure within their village, they knew they could not stay under that house. So they ran, decided to take cover behind the big rocks – "D'yan nagtatago ang mga ninuno namin noon" [That was where their ancestors would take cover]. They stayed there, "Ala una, alas dos, alas tres, alas kuwatro, hanggang alas singko. D'yan lang kami. Walang kain," Haidy narrated. From one o’clock in the afternoon, till around 5 pm, we stayed there, with no food.
When the winds calmed down, as well as the rain, they went back to their houses. As it was getting dark already, they took cover in the parts of their houses still with cover. The fear she experienced during the typhoon left Haidy weak, heart racing, and with a high fever for 3 days.
She gave her mobile phone to her son and asked to take pictures of the damages around them – fallen trees over houses; nipa huts crumbled; chickens crushed. It was heartbreaking for her, as well as the rest of the Mamanwa community. Her mother asked Haidy, being a community leader, to go down to the municipal office to ask for help. But she was still feeling weak with fever. On the fourth day, she, along with Jerlyn, her teenage daughter, walked with her down to Santiago. Started at 4 am, reached the town at 8 am. There she got a phone signal, and got the text message from another indigenous woman leader, a Manobo, and also a partner of LILAK – asking how she was and her community. Ka Zeny asked her to immediately communicate with LILAK as she knew we have been trying to reach Haidy too. Haidy sent the photos of the damage to LILAK. We were able to talk to her then. In town, she was charging her phone for P3.00 per minute. There was no electricity in the village.
Haidy’s initial report – all houses in her village were down – some partially, more are totally damaged. Their crops – bananas, hag-ot, camote, all these damaged. They were hoping to harvest some of these before the year ends, including falcata woods. But most of these were gone.
When she went to the municipal office and reported the damage, she was told that they have very little budget, and this will not be enough for the number of families affected. "Baka may masaktan pang damdamin pag hindi nabigyan lahat" [There might be hurt feelings if not all families and communities are given help]. So, nothing is being done so far.
When asked how LILAK can help, she said in the immediate, they would need – lighters, solar lamps, portable butane stoves, pots, and pans; canned goods, rice. Just so the families can eat something, something warm. They were just eating fallen bananas and coconuts for the past few days. All the vegetables were destroyed. Haidy also said, if we can get blankets and raincoats for the children, as all the clothes are soaking wet. They would also need medicine – for colds, fever and, vitamins. In the medium term, they would need house repairs, and agricultural support (farm implements, inputs such as seedlings, etc.)
Meanwhile, Haidy is also anxious about typhoons that will still come before the year ends, at least one, which has been the case in recent years. When I asked why they would not go to the evacuation center, Haidy said that it is so far, they have to cross the Aciga river. She herself would not go through the river again. 9 years ago, on December 3, 2012, typhoon Pablo (Bopha), one of the strongest typhoons to hit Mindanao, came. Haidy and her children were trying to get to the evacuation center for safety. The center was across the river. As they did, Haidy lost her 10-year-old son, Denver. She watched as he was taken by the strong current, while she was clutching her other children. That moment left her traumatized for the rest of her life.
So now, Haidy said when the next typhoon comes, they will just stay put, in the big rocks, where their ancestors kept themselves safe, with the hope that they too, will keep her, her family, and the rest of the Mamanwa communities safe.
Photo by Jhonrie Ilaga (Dec. 17, 2021)
#BABAYEnihan (women-to-women solidarity) Typhoon Odette Response is once again knocking on your good hearts. From your donations, no matter the amount, we can provide relief packages, hygiene kits, resources for house repairs, agricultural support, and other immediate necessities for Haidy, her family, and the Mamanwa community.