Real lives



Starting over

Maureen with her husband
© UNICEF Philippines/2009/Kat Palasi
Maureen with her husband Johnson, daughter Jhenyrann and their dog Cedric, who saved their lives.

How families are getting their lives back on track in Benguet province, after Typhoon Pepeng

Tublay, October 2009 - A cluster of tents in a small field next to Paoad Elementary School in Tublay, Benguet province, have become home for 26 families from Barangay Sto.Nino, an old mining village in the mountains. The families were evacuated from their village after Typhoon Pepeng, internationally named Parma, hit the region on 8 October. Heavy rain and winds caused landslides and flooding, killing over 300 people and leaving several hundred families without a home.

 There was heavy rain during the night,” Maureen, 37, recalls. “The water came flooding out of the tunnels where the old mine had been. We stayed inside the house, but our dog, Cedric, was pacing restlessly in and out.“

The rain continued and the family stayed inside, praying for safety. The dog, however, continued to be restless, bringing shoes and other items outside. ”We remembered a story we were once told about a dog that had warned a family about a disaster, but when we woke up the next day the rain had stopped and it was calm outside,” Maureen says.

Telling the story makes Maureen emotional. She pauses to wipe her eyes, then continues:”Cedric was still pacing back and forth. I looked out of the window and I could see a landslide coming down the hill behind our house. The house started to shake so I ran to get my youngest daughter and we followed the dog to safety.”

Maureen, her husband and their youngest daughter hurried to the local elementary school, where several other families had gathered. However, the building was in a danger spot for another landslide and the police soon evacuated the families. ”We had to walk for an hour to get to Tublay,” Maureen continues. “The police helped us carry the children. Many were crying.”

Lydia, who is living in the tent next to Maureen, tells of a similar evacuation. ”The police came to our house and asked us to leave,” she says. “We had elderly people with us and the police helped us make a pathway for them.” She goes silent for a minute and looks at her ten-month-old daughter, Abigail, who is asleep on the floor. ”On our way we saw people being carried away on stretchers and I realized how lucky we were to be safe,” she concludes.

Five evacuation centers were set up in Tublay after the typhoon and UNICEF provided immediate emergency supplies to the families. They received family kits containing blankets, sleeping mats, pots, and jugs, as well as water kits to ensure safe and clean water.

The women in the evacuation camp
© UNICEF Philippines/2009/Kat Palasi
The women in the evacuation camp are finding alternative methods to earn an income.

Around 90 per cent of the people affected in this province are farmers and now many are left without a livelihood as their farms were either destroyed or the area is too dangerous to move back to. People in the evacuation centres are therefore looking for other ways to earn a living. “A woman has given us thread, so we are doing crochet to earn some money,” Maureen says. “My sister is also making small bags out of recycled tinfoil.”

But the income is meager and it is not enough to provide for the family. A sad expression comes over Maureen’s face. "My oldest daughter goes to high school here in Tublay, but we can no longer afford to send her there,” she says. “We will have to ask her to leave school until we are earning money again. This makes me sad.”

UNICEF is concerned about children missing school, either because of the expense or because the school has been damaged. It is estimated that almost one million school children have had their education disrupted after the typhoons. UNICEF has distributed both school packs and library books to schools that have reopened. They are also supporting the Department of Education’s alternative delivery modes (ADM) to help address the education needs of children affected by the disaster.

Arnaldo Arcadio, UNICEF Philippines Education in Emergency consultant explains: ‘”Disadvantaged primary and secondary school-aged children may not have to go to school every day. Once the modules are printed and used in the disater affected areas, the children can learn at home and meet with their teachers either once or twice a week. The ADM can be used until the child is ready to go back to regular schooling. “

Back in Tublay the school bell breaks the silence and Maureen’s youngest daughter, ten-year-old Jhenyraan, has come back for lunch. She is able to attend classes at the school where the family is currently living and can continue to study her favorite subject, math.

“I am happy because I can go to school here and it is safe,” Jhenyraan says. “My old school is falling down.” She goes on to talk about the night they had to leave their house. “I was very scared when we had to leave. My heart was beating so fast and I cried when we got to the school. But now I am happy and I want to become a teacher when I grow up.”

Maureen also has a plan for the future. ”Our farm was destroyed from the landslide, but we managed to save our pigs,” she explains. “Now we hope that we can sell their piglets and get enough money to start all over again. We are determined to get our lives back on track and for our oldest daughter to return to school.”

Written by Silje Vik Pedersen, Emergency Communication Officer



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