Typhoon Bopha: Portraits of Survival in the Philippines

Survivors of the massive December storm tell their incredible stories of recovery
Emiteria Balingan poses with her husband and children. Photo: ACF-Philippines
Emiteria Balingan poses with her husband and children. Photo: ACF-Philippines

Typhoon Bopha, which devastated the Surigao del Sur region of the Philippines when it hit in December, destroyed the livelihoods of more than six million people.

Our teams have been hard at work in the region, supporting the recovery of those affected by distributing food, building temporary shelters and latrines, and delivering sanitation and hygiene training.

Two months after the disaster, we’re proud to publish the stories of some of the brave survivors who are fighting hard to rebuild their lives, and to keep their families safe from hunger and disease.

1. Josefa Monter, a mother of three children, stands amongst the rubble of her home destroyed by Typhoon Bopha in San Antonio. Josefa has managed to rebuild a small cottage and outhouse, explaining that "at least we now have a safe place to use the toilet." Josefa participates in basic hygiene sessions we’ve organized to prevent childhood diarrhea and water-borne diseases in her community.

josefa monter

2. Lilibeth Balshing’s number one priority was to protect her four children when Bopha hit.“I covered my four children with an old plastic refrigerator, but the house fell on us. We were able to take refuge with a neighbor,” she recalls. “Thanks to the hygiene kit that Action Against Hunger gave us, we could spend the little money we had on food." The hygiene kits we’ve distributed include jerry cans for clean water, soap, towels, toothpaste and toothbrushes, chlorine tablets for water purification, diapers and napkins.

Lilibeth Balshing

3. 28-year-old Francisco Dapitanon is a fisherman in Palo Alto. His community was completely destroyed by the typhoon and the area has been declared unsafe for rebuilding. The entire community is now living in a temporary camp until the government assigns a new place to build their homes. Francisco describes the emotional turmoil caused by his displacement, saying "it hurts me come to the beach and see everything destroyed by the typhoon, especially the boats. They are our life."

Francisco Dapitanon

4. We are helping Felix and Merlina Balmari build a temporary shelter for them to share with their five children after the storm tore down their home in DecemberThey are awaiting permanent relocation, along with 109 other families affected in the area.

Felix and Merlina Balmari

5. Marideth Ouanan is one of the many survivors who received hygiene kits just a few days after the typhoon destroyed her community. "Very high waves came, higher than our houses, and I had to run at night with my husband and two children," Marideth recalls. Today she lives in a temporary camp for displaced persons, and is a voluntary hygiene promoter whom we’ve trained to help prevent the spread of water-borne diseases.

Marideth Ouanan

6. Dani Bulau, Jr. draws what he remembers of the night when Bopha hit his community in Palo Alto, “very high waves, palm trees bent by the wind, rain and hiding at home with my mom, dad and three siblings.”

Dani Bulau, Jr.

7. An action as simple as washing hands with soap can save more lives than many other emergency responses. Our teams teach children, mothers, and health workers from typhoon-affected areas how to wash their hands properly before and after eating, and after using the bathroom. This has helped to prevent the spread of diarrhea and other water-borne diseases after the disaster.

Children washing hands, training after Typhoon Bopha

8. Amil Kali, one of our water and sanitation engineers, points out one of the semi-permanent latrines being built in Pagtilaan. "This latrine was built away from the river to protect it from flooding, and will serve ten families for about 14 months," he explains.

Amil Kali

9. Emiteria Balingan poses with her husband and four of her children in the temporary camp popularly known as "Pablo's village" near Lingig (Typhoon Bopha was known locally as “Pablo”). We’re constructing temporary latrines to protect the health of the 66 displaced families in this camp, who will remain until they can be assigned new places to build their homes.

Emiteria Balingan poses with her family

Tell Us What You Think

How do you feel after reading the survivors’ stories? Do these images and testimonials from survivors remind you of ones you associate with destructive storms in the US?

About Christian Pielow

Christian is Action Against Hunger's Senior Online Marketing and Technology Officer, finding innovative ways to inform the world of our lifesaving work. Connect with Christian on Google+.