Rice and sardines for Christmas and New Year
By Lanie Carillo
When Typhoon Nina (international name: Nock-ten) was forecasted to head towards a small, flood-prone village, 9-year-old John Ernest, her younger siblings and their grandmother immediately moved out of their house to a designated evacuation center. “Grandma carried me inside the tricycle and my younger siblings followed. We spent Christmas here at the evacuation center,” John shares.
John has polio. He cannot recall when it started but he remembers not being able to walk anymore and that his limbs are shrinking.
“I wasn’t born like this. I just noticed that I cannot do what I used to do like running and jumping,” he says. Later, he found out that he has polio, a highly infectious viral disease transmitted from person-to-person contact through the fecal-oral route or through contaminated food or water. Children under 5 are highly prone to being infected by polio. There is no cure for polio but can be prevented through immunization.
He described that on the night before Christmas, strong winds and rain swept through their area. The evacuees closed all windows and doors, and listened to the howling winds. Electricity in the towns in Camarines Sur was temporarily cut-off, forcing affected areas to celebrate Christmas Eve in darkness.
John heard some children crying. He admitted that he felt fear but the presence of his family and neighbors made him calm.
When asked what food they shared together, he says, “Rice and sardines.”
Typhoon Nina battered several provinces in the Bicol Region on Christmas Eve. The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) reported that more than 1.5million families have been affected. The numbers are expected to increase once information becomes available from areas that are not yet reached due to communication and logistical challenges that are hampering relief efforts.
John and his four other siblings are solely cared for by their 70-year-old grandmother, Gloria. “It’s difficult. I am old, weak. I cannot always be on their side. But I had no choice. My daughter left them to me so she can work in Manila,” Gloria says.
John’s mother, Mylene, is working as a house helper in Manila. She sends around Php1,000 ($20) for her children. Gloria does her best to make the most out of the meager amount. “I just buy food when there’s money. When there’s no money, then we ask from neighbors or relatives,” she says.
Despite his condition, John feels loved by the children at the evacuation center. “They don’t make fun of me. I laugh and play with them but there were times I wish I could run around like them,” John says.
The village where John lives is still flooded. Their house is still damaged. Without enough money, Gloria doesn’t have concrete plans for the following weeks.
John does not know how long they will stay in the evacuation center. “We spent Christmas here, we will spend New Year here. And have rice and sardines again,” he says.
World Vision’s response aims to support and complement the government-led efforts as well as work with other non-government organizations in the affected areas. During the first month, World Vision will provide lifesaving essentials like shelter kits, kitchen kits and other non-food items to initially 2,000 typhoon-affected families living in hard-hit municipalities Camarines Sur and Albay provinces. The government declared a state of calamity for both provinces.World Vision/January 3, 2017