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MINDANAO: Cousins Judith and Judiza Sevilla thought it was just going to be a quick shower; little did they know it was the beginning of Typhoon Bopha, known locally in the Philippines as Pablo.
“We slept through it thinking that it was just another storm and it would soon be over,” said 20-year old Judith.
But after an hour, the gushing winds and continuous rain woke them up at their home in Monkayo, a bustling municipality in the north of Compostela Valley province in eastern Mindanao island, about 750 kilometres southeast of capital Manila.
“The wind was very strong and the rain was very loud. I knew it was far from the usual,” said Judiza, 18.
Judith decided to wake her family when she saw that the wind had already destroyed their porch.
“I told them we needed to evacuate right away to the nearby Internet cafe to save our lives,” recalled a teary-eyed Judith.
Amid the panic, Judith was only able to save a handful of clothes before fleeing the house. After three hours in the Internet cafe, the glass door shattered and the roof began to flutter wildly, prompting the Sevillas to rush into the three small restrooms of the café – along with 50 other people.
“It was really crowded and difficult because we had kids with us inside the restroom. I wouldn’t want to experience that again,” added Judiza.
At the crack of dawn as the storm subsided, the family went out to witness the horrors left behind: uprooted trees and the ruins of their home. To make matters worse, there was no food and water.
“Food and water were very hard to acquire. We needed to line up just to get relief goods in order to survive,” said Judiza.
But despite the tragedy, the Sevillas are soldiering on, trying to bring the pieces of their lives back together. Their first objective is to rebuild their house. Judith and Judiza have been busy collecting lumber from their shattered home while their cousins are out drying the family’s mounds of soggy clothes and shoes.
“It will be very hard to get through this -- but we will,” said Judith with a smile on her face.
Global children’s development organisation Plan International is currently raising an additional US$2 million to support people like Judith and Judiza who have been affected by Typhoon Bopha in Davao Oriental and Compostela Valley in Mindanao. Plan has already raised US$2.4 million for its emergency response efforts, focused on providing water kits, hygiene kits and shelter. The Sevilla brood and the six other families living with them in a temporary shelter at the Internet cafe have all received water and jerry cans from Plan.
“We were glad to be able to pre-position relief kits even before the typhoon entered the Philippine Area of Responsibility. This allowed us to respond immediately after Typhoon Bopha made landfall,” said Carin van der Hor, Plan’s country director in the Philippines.
“Plan will be working with the residents of Monkayo in Compostela Valley to help them recover from this disaster,” she added.
Notes for editors:
- The Philippines experiences an average of 20 typhoons every year, with two or three of them devastating.
- Last year, Typhoon Washi (local name Typhoon Sendong) hit Cagayan de Oro and Iligan – both in Mindanao – a week before Christmas. Typhoon Washi left close to 1,500 people dead, over a thousand missing and an estimated US$23.8M damage to property (at US$1:PhP42).
- Mindanao is still recovering from Typhoon Washi. Plan International provided an emergency response in the province of Cagayan de Oro and Iligan.
- Apart from temporary shelters and hygiene kits, Plan also conducted psychosocial processing and disaster response training to residents in both areas.
- Plan International in the Philippines has years of experience in disaster response, specialising in education in emergencies and child protection in emergencies. Our first response can also consist of water, sanitation and hygiene supply, if needed.
- For media inquiries, please call Mardy Halcon, Communications Officer, at +63 917 5435210.