Strong and Sturdy Like a Tree

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Written By Engr. Andrea Estillero, Field Engineer, OB DR Yolanda Infrastructure Program (Leyte and Samar)

They live in a two-storey amakan (bamboo-matted) house with a landscape of bonsai collection beautifully surrounding their native house.For 23 years, they have invested in some appliances, two pump boats, about 20 chickens, a pig which is big enough to be sold, 36 sacks of rice that are already good for 7 months of consumption, and cash they save for emergency purposes. They have earned these in fishing, landscaping, and bonsai selling. They were living in comfort and contentment – until Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) struck Visayas.

DSC_7713Antonieta Tobes, 49, Edito Tobes, 44 and three of their four children were not spared of the danger and rage of the sudden storm surge. Thinking of their safety, they ran to the nearest two-storey house together with 10 of their other relatives to wait for the storm to pass.

She brought with them her children’s birth certificates carefully wrapped in a plastic bag and just enough food for all of them, thinking that the storm will eventually stop—but three big waves as high as eight to 10 feet almost swept them away.

Then the loud cries of the children and shouts of parents giving instructions to their families to find a higher and safer place filled the place. In just a matter of seconds, the unexpected salty water climbed up to the second floor of the house where they stayed. Everyone started looking for their own escape out of the huge waves, until they found themselves trembling with fear as they clung onto the ceiling. “We will never forget that experience,” she said.

When everything calmed down, one by one, they carefully went down to see what casualties the angry typhoon had left. The first thing Antonieta did was to count her family, and finding that they were complete made her feel a bit okay. Her children, feeling hungry, started to pick up some bread and coffee out of the fallen debris knowing that their food was swept away.

Everyone started to do the same. Two days had passed when she finally made up her mind to go back home. She fell down on her knees and cried when she discovered that everything they have invested in for 23 years of hard work were gone. The only thing left was their concrete floor and a proud toilet bowl.

But it took a week for her husband to gain the courage to check up on their home. With the agony of Edito’s boats missing and wrecked, his initial thinking was of how he can feed his family. Though hopeless, all of them still had thankful hearts because they did not lose anyone.

DSC_7715Sunrise for them became a sign of a brand new day to strive harder. Having complete members of the family, Antonieta had a good reason to thank God despite the raging storm that brought great disaster.

Relief goods from different organizations came and assistance from Operation Blessing (OB) became an answered prayer.

Edito is now one of the carpenters of OB who helps build permanent shelters for the Typhoon Yolanda survivors, specifically in their community in Basey, Western Samar. His faithfulness earned him a new home, too, because he eventually became one of OB’s housing beneficiaries.

He testifies that his salary as a carpenter is a big help for their family’s daily consumption. His second child who was in Cavite when Yolanda hit their community also decided to come home after the sleepless nights he had of anxiously waiting for news about them on the television. He made up his mind to be with them whatever hardship may come, leaving his job in Cavite and now engaging himself in backyard vegetable farming.

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Antonieta recalled the feeling when she folded the tent her family used to live in when everything was ready for them to transfer to a comfortable and safer OB house. Teary-eyed, she exclaimed that words cannot express how grateful she was to be given a home which she calls a blessing. A home that is indeed strong and sturdy like a tree, and yes, like their family.

Help us build more permanent houses for families who still struggle with their daily lives because of living in tents and temporary shelters. Support our infrastructure projects now and help us inspire change for Typhoon Yolanda survivors. Call us at 477-7802 to 04 and 06 or visit our website at www.obphil.com/home for more details.

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