Only last month Ofelia’s home was damaged by an earthquake. As Typhoon Haiyan tore a path through Cebu, Ofelia and her family were once again in the grip of a major disaster.
‘We were very scared. We could hear the wind roaring. Roofs and walls were all blown away.’
Preparing for the worst
Ofelia lives in one of the many congested informal settlements in Cebu City. Thanks to Christian Aid partner, the Fellowship for Organising Endeavours, Inc (FORGE), her community received training in preparing for the worst - for disasters such as typhoons, floods and fires.
‘We learned how to keep ourselves safe and evacuated immediately. The training we received on Disaster Risk Reduction [from Christian Aid partner FORGE] was not wasted.
‘The [local government] officials and the volunteer watchmen were very alert. They focused their efforts on those living along the coast, because they were more exposed to the danger.'
Losing lives to protect belongings
Often in emergencies many families worry about leaving behind their entire belongings. And so in the face of rising flood waters, hammering winds and flying debris many people risk their lives to protect their family’s assets.
However, as Ofelia explained this time was different.
‘The officials and the volunteers served as roving guards - assigned to secure our belongings. We evacuated immediately since our belongings were secured.
‘At night we just prayed.’
Ofelia and others evacuated to the Cebu City Sports Complex. ‘So many people were already there. Children were crying and shivering from the cold. At night, we just prayed. The following morning many children were screaming that they were hungry.'
‘We learned how to keep ourselves safe and evacuated immediately.’
In the evacuation centre, officials, health workers and teachers were responsible for the distribution of food. ‘They took care of us. Porridge, packed food and water were distributed. Water was the most important for us then.’
‘Despite the hardship we felt in the camp, we know that those in Tacloban had it worse. We were affected by the typhoon but we thank the Lord that we were not as badly hit. We have now decided that we will try to help those in Tacloban.’
The importance of FORGE
FORGE works in the cities of Cebu and Mandaue with communities extremely vulnerable to disasters. They provide training on how communities can organise, prepare for and prevent disaster. FORGE also provides support in tackling the issues that make people vulnerable in the first place.
With funds Christian Aid receives from the UK Government, FORGE and eleven other partners in the Philippines work to reduce the impact of future disasters in areas at risk.
Video: power and poverty
This film Power and poverty in urban settings shows how FORGE is working with urban communities in Cebu province.
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Philippines Typhoon Appeal
Christian Aid's work in the Philippines
More eyewitness accounts of Typhoon Haiyan