Rising Voices note: This post continues the series of project updates from our Rising Voices grantee community. In this blog post, Hope Hervilla shares some background information on the circumstances leading to the launching of the Voices of Hope project in Estancia, Philippines.
We are losing hope waiting for the fulfillment of the government’s promises for our livelihood and repair of our damaged houses. Almost all of us are already heavily indebted. We are homeless, jobless, and hungry. We can’t return to our community because have been evicted by the government from our own residential places due to its ‘No Dwell Zone policy’.
Dionesia – Typhoon Haiyan Survivor
Typhoon Haiyan: The worst of our times
Eight months after the strongest typhoon hit the Philippines, the survivors of Typhoon Haiyan  (Yolanda in local name) on the island of Panay are still struggling to rise up from the ravages of this deadly storm. On November 8, 2013, Typhoon Haiyan hit central Philippines leaving more than 10,000 people dead, affecting 16.1 million people across nine regions, and displacing around 4.1 million people .
The World Bank report further said that in March, initial government estimates put the total damage to public and private physical assets at P424 billion  (approximately 9.7 billion USD), or 3.7 percent of GDP. Recovery and reconstruction will cost P361 billion, or 3.1 percent of GDP, of which around P125 billion (1.1 percent of GDP) would be borne by the government in 2013 and 2014
On July 8th, exactly eight month of the Typhoon Haiyan devastation 100 survivors of Panay Island in Central Philippines came together in Iloilo City to discuss their plight and shared their heartaches and their desperation. The group called themselves “Kusog sang Pumuluyo” or People’s Strength. This became an alliance of Typhoon Haiyan survivors and advocates demanding basic social services and government support for their immediate recovery from the devastation.
During their exchanges, everyone shared their own experiences and perceptions of government negligence. Livelihood and shelter were their outmost concerns, as well as issues affecting education were aired out. School buildings have yet to be repaired. Children are suffering from the difficult learning environment inside tents donated by foreign donors.
Parents are afraid that their children will get sick due to the congestion inside the tents. On the onset of rainy season, children are vulnerable to upper respiratory diseases. Tents are being blown by strong winds and their children are left with little or no protection from the heavy rains. Storms hit one after another.
It has been a long eight months of agony yet many people feel that the government has not given them the support necessary for immediate recovery.
Estancia: A Small Paradise Crumpled
Estancia is known as the “Alaska of the Philippines” due to its rich fishing grounds. Its panoramic beauty glossed by the different lovely small islands and pristine blue waters of the Visayan Sea  charms everyone. Mouth-watering grilled fresh fish, shellfish, and shrimp make delightful meals one can never refuse.
Estancia is a fishing community and a home of more than 25,000 residents primarily engaged in fishing. Its fishing port is a place that never sleeps. It’s a respite from long nights of fishing and a sanctuary as well for fishers and anchorage of boats from neighboring islands during typhoons.
This small paradise island was the hardest hit municipality in Northern Iloilo. It was hammered and crumpled. When Typhoon Haiyan hit the island, it never came to anyone's imagination that they would be able to survive. Stories of survivors make you shiver to the bones of how they struggled to go through the ordeal of world’s deadliest storm that ever happened in their lives. According Global Disaster Alert and Coordination System, Estancia had the highest storm surge measuring 21.8 meters high compared to other affected areas in the country.
The Survivor’s Ordeal
This is the story of a Mary Ann, a survivor, and a mother of four children.
My two year-old daughter was sick and had just gone for a medical check-up when Typhoon Haiyan hit us. In the morning of November 8, I told my eldest daughter to cook some food in preparation for the typhoon. The wind began to blow hardly starting 8:30 in the morning and by 11 o’ clock, our plates from the kitchen were blown and our house received the strong winds. I was afraid and crying holding my 2 year old baby. My husband told me to transfer to another house for safety. Braving the storm, I wrapped my daughter with blankets going out with my husband and other children.
Sadly, the house we went to collapsed, as did the next house. My daughter was shivering, so we looked for a tarp to cover her. My husband was hit by a hard wood injuring his head. By 3 o’clock in the afternoon, our kids were crying because they were hungry and cold. We had no food left for the rest of the day and upcoming night. The next day, we took some fresh coconuts for breakfast.
Until now, our house is not done, we got some sheets for roofing, but we don’t have other materials for the house, the whole house needs to be rebuilt. We had a boat, but it’s missing. My husband was a fisherman, but now we have no income. We used the trees that fell to make charcoal, and sold it to buy food.
Voices of Hope: From Victims to Activism
Mary Ann is just one of the more than 25,000 Typhoon Haiyan victims and survivors of Estancia whose voices remained unheard. Many feel that the government have not felt their agony or listened to their small and unheard voices.
Voices of Hope: From Victims to Activism is a project passionate to empower the affected communities of Typhoon Haiyan by giving their voices back again transformed to brave the storm of government negligence and callousness. Resisting victimization is activism fighting for human rights. The world needs to hear their stories and compel the government to listen and act according to the needs of the people. We need to give birth to grassroots citizens’ journalists in trumpeting our own collective stories, define solutions and be heard.
The Voices of Hope project will mobilize and equip local residents to be citizens’ journalist. This is a citizens’ journalism training for 15 leaders in trumpeting the stories of people’s courage and hope from the devastation caused by Typhoon Haiyan, the oil spill and government negligence. This aims to enhance our community radio program in empowering the affected communities of Estancia, Iloilo in rising above and speaking out loud our advocacy for environmental, economic and political justice. Stories will be posted online through Facebook, YouTube or a group blog. We believe that the project will create strong waves of voices that will fuel positive responses to the urgent needs of the survivors in the communities of Estancia, Iloilo.
We are so excited for the workshops and the whole program as well. The fifteen trainees were also excited come July 18 to attend the workshop. We had already prepared the venue and the resource persons to help us facilitate the workshop. Unfortunately, Typhoon Glenda  (Rammasun) hit the country in July 17 resulting to our postponement of the workshop. According to Manila Bulletin Correspondent Chito Chavez in July 19, Typhoon Glenda left at least 64 people dead in Luzon and Metro Manila. After 48 hours that Typhoon Glenda battered the country, Typhoon Henry  (Matmo) entered the country while victims were still reeling from the wreckages of Typhoon Glenda .
It’s heartbreaking to see images of people hit by typhoons one after the other. Thus, Voices of Hope team firmly believe that we need to pursue the project against all odds to enable the collective voices of survivors demand justice and basic social services during pre-to post-disaster times. The workshops will be delayed a little while but as of the moment, we are working on the preparations and the scheduling the workshop and we have already the commitment of some media friends to support the project. One of them is a news director of a TV morning show and willing to assist us in the workshop. We did already orientation with the fifteen trainees and the support of the whole community.
We are looking forward to the emerging young citizen’s journalists who can amplify the voices of the least privilege sectors of our society, the disaster ruined communities like Estancia. We are thankful for the support of Rising Voices that will pave the airwaves for us and let the whole world know that we need to be heard and our concerns will be addressed in due time. With full of hopes, we are also calling the support of the international community to join us in our cry for justice and survival.