She knows that “help is not coming” and the only way to keep body and soul together after three devastating typhoons is “to beg for aid.”
For two weeks now, Annalyn Consulta, a 28 year-old-mother, has been spending the whole day standing at the roadside hoping that “relief” is in one of the many vehicles that pass by the highway.
Together with more than 30 people, she leaves their community in Bariis village in Tiwi town, Albay province at dawn to reach the main road before they miss a potential relief distribution.
Her upland village was among the hardest hit by Super Typhoon “Rolly” (international name: Goni) after its second landfall in Tiwi town on November 1.
Before Rolly destroyed their homes, Typhoon Molave, known in the country as “Quinta,” had already totally damaged their crops when it passed by their village on October 23.
She said the situation “further worsened” after Typhoon “Ulysses” (international name: Vamco) brought in more rains on November 11.
Annalyn, however, said that since the onslaught of these successive typhoons, “no relief assistance has reached our village yet.”
“It was after the havoc of Rolly when we decided to go down to the main highway and ask for food from passers-by and wait for a relief distribution,” she told the assessment team of ACT-member National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP).
She can’t say how far, in terms of distance, their village is from the highway but her drowsy eyes tell how hard and tiring the journey is.
“We have to pass through piles of huge rocks and walk on a rough terrain into the mountains for around 30 minutes just to get here,” Annalyn explains.
She said they begin the long walk at daybreak with an empty stomach, “hoping to find fruits or anything fit to eat” along the way.
Once they reach the highway, Annalyn and the other upland villagers would “wait for any blessing,” which she said, “doesn’t come frequently.”
“We persevere to go to the highway from the mountain every day because we know the government will distribute relief packs and things that we can use to rebuild our houses,” she said.
However, there is no guarantee that they will be included in any relief distribution that will come to the lowland communities in Bariis village.
Annalyn told the NCCP team that many of the aid providers “prioritize those who live here in the lowland and those whose houses were totally damaged by the typhoon.”
For most of the days, she and the other upland villagers would return to their homes empty-handed.
At the road where Annalyn and the other upland villagers wait for aid, a community of the indigenous people called “Agta-tabangnon” resides.
Like the upland villagers, members of the Agta-tabangnon indigenous group rely on the emergency relief packs that the local government and the outsiders bring.
Nanay Consolacion, a 72-year-old member of the cultural minority, said the typhoons that came one after another “have destroyed our crops that were the only source of our food and livelihood.”
The more than 1000 indigenous people in Tiwi town are mostly Abaca, coconut, and vegetable farmers. The typhoons destroyed more than 90 percent of their crops.
“We will have to wait for our crops to grow again. In the meantime, we have no other choice but to rely on aid and hope that this aid comes now when it is badly needed,” she said.
NCCP aims to address the most urgent and life-saving needs of the most vulnerable communities in Albay province through its local church constituents.
Text and photos: Mark Z. Saludes