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‘Yolanda’ survivor faces uncertain future in Metro Manila

By: - Reporter / @jgamilINQ
/ 01:44 AM November 21, 2013

It was the overpowering stench of death that finally drove the family of Francisco Villaos, 47, from typhoon-battered Leyte province to Metro Manila.

“The stench of decaying bodies was getting worse. And I wanted to protect my children from that,” he said as he looked at his wife and two boys who were sleeping in the “tent city” at Villamor Airbase Elementary School.

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Villaos’ family is one of six currently staying at the temporary shelter set up by the Pasay City government. As of yesterday, it was home to 40 survivors of Supertyphoon “Yolanda,” 10 of whom were children.

The tired-looking, soft-spoken Villaos recounted how his family survived the monster storm that devastated their home in Tacloban City, by evacuating to the upper floors of a sturdy school building. With their shanty destroyed, they stayed with a neighbor for two days, then waited another five days at the Tacloban airport for a chance to get on a government flight to Metro Manila.

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“We had nothing else with us but the clothes we were wearing,” Villaos said, staring into space.

Since last week, survivors like Villaos have been arriving in C-130 planes at Villamor Airbase. Most have relatives in Metro Manila or nearby provinces but “the ones staying here are those that have nothing or no one left,” said tent city social welfare officer Potchoy Sahirul.

Villaos said he has relatives in Subic and Laguna although he was unsure when they would come for him and his family.

At the very least, his family’s immediate needs are being met at the shelter. “All these,” he said, motioning to boxes and sacks nearby, “were just donated to us here.”

Their temporary home has 48 open tents, each housing three folding beds and with portable toilets set up by the school gate. The Pasay government and various donors has been providing them with meals, water, clothes, electric fans, free phone calls, children’s coloring books, even television sets with cable connection.

There’s just one thing missing: “We don’t have spare underwear,” Villaos said, breaking into a smile for the first time during the interview.

The patriarch was uncertain how he and his family would get back on their feet. A carpenter by trade, he could probably find work anywhere “but how will I do that when all my tools have been washed away?” he said.

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Pasay Mayor Antonino Calixto, in an earlier press statement, said that the city government was “trying to provide a solution in a difficult transition period.”

“The Pasay City government will do all that it can to care for our countrymen who are now virtual refugees in their own country,” he added.

Aside from the tent city, a “Yolanda Ward” has also been opened at the Pasay City General Hospital to meet the evacuees’ medical needs.

So far, the ward has admitted seven Leyte natives whose injuries speak of the devastation they underwent: Leo Adrales, 52, of Barugo town who suffered a concussion; Alfredo Dogami, 55, of Tabon-Tabon  who has a dislocated cervical spine; Riolyn Odivilas, 20, of Tacloban City who has an infected wound; Nila Arsena, 67, who has breathing problems; and Jaime Bopis, 64, who has cellulitis on his right leg.

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TAGS: Francisco Villaos, Leyte province, Tent City, Villamor Airbase Elementary School, Yolanda aid
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