How Typhoon Odette affected children in Badjao indigenous communities

They used to live, learn and play in houses and schools on stilts—now destroyed by the typhoon

Louie Pacardo
A girl stands by the water amid makeshift shelter destroyed by a typhoon
UNICEF Philippines/2021/Louie Pacardo
13 January 2022

Children from the Badjao indigenous communities living in Surigao City are among the most vulnerable people affected by Typhoon Odette. Badjao children’s lives are tied to the sea. They live, learn and play in houses and community schools on stilts. After the typhoon, most of them found parts of their homes and learning modules floating in the water. 

Regular and informal schools are still unable to resume operations since their community still needs to rebuild their shelter and livelihood. Aside from being at risk of dangerous diseases from unsafe water sources, these children lost their school supplies and safe spaces for learning and recreational activities. 

A child fetching water from a well
UNICEF Philippines/2021/Louie Pacardo

"It's hard to look by the sea, we can see the ruins of our home," said Didang, 13. "We fled to the evacuation site in Canlanipa, Surigao City, before Typhoon Odette swept off our village. We're safe but our houses, clothes, and our modules are gone."  

Didang lives with 21 other people in a makeshift tent along the busy coastal road. She hopes for the rebuilding of their house soon so they can leave the busy coastal road. 

A child sitting on debris of a destroyed home
UNICEF Philippines/2021/Louie Pacardo

Mark Anthony, 8, was saddened by how the typhoon destroyed their house. They are now living with their relatives. He finds joy being with his playmates in the community. 

He also misses face-to-face classes and his favorite teacher Ma'am Laid who teaches his favorite subject, mother tongue, where they speak Surigaonon in class. "I have lots of playmates at school and I miss them already,” he said. 
His dream is to become a nurse so he can help treat sick people in his community.

A girl sitting on a bed inside a house damaged by a typhoon
UNICEF Philippines/2021/Louie Pacardo

Hya, 12, almost lost her modules from the typhoon as it was drenched in the rain. She was still able to submit her Grade 7 modules even after the typhoon and while facing the destruction in their area. 

Hya also wishes to go back to face-face classes. "It's better with a teacher to guide us,” she said. "It's also better because you get to meet your playmates,” she added while recalling the good times she had at school with her best friend.

A pregnant adolescent standing amid debris in front of a damaged building
UNICEF Philippines/2021/Louie Pacardo

Jely Mae, 17, is about to give birth to her first child in January 2022. She is still in Grade 11 and hopes to finish her schooling. "I want to go back to school after giving birth," she said. 
During the typhoon, she tried to protect her modules but they still got wet from the strong rainfall. "It was all intact. In fact, I was still able to submit it after the typhoon,” she shared. 

Jely Mae wants to take up an Information Technology course after finishing high school. She expects that studying the program will be harder while taking care of a baby. 

A girl inside her home
UNICEF Philippines/2021/Louie Pacardo

Jezreel, 15, is in Grade 10. She prefers face-to-face classes. "It’s easier and faster to learn that way. There's an actual teacher to instruct you," she said. 

Jezreel hopes to finally go back to school without the modules. She wants to become a nurse someday. "I want to help the sick and I want to earn to be of help to my family," she said.

A boy sitting by the water amid debris and structures damaged by a typhoon
UNICEF Philippines/2021/Louie Pacardo

Aldrin, 14, is among the Badjao children in Barangay Canlanipa, Surigao City, who are eager to finish school. "I want to become an architect, I want to practice my love for drawing, and I want to build stronger homes," he said. 

A girl sitting by their family's belongings inside a damaged house
UNICEF Philippines/2021/Louie Pacardo

Jocelyn, 7, belongs to the indigenous community of Mamanwas living in Barangay Mat-i, Surigao City. Since Typhoon Odette hit their community, she has been seeking shelter at a day care center every night and whenever it's raining. Part of their house's roof and walls were blown away by the strong winds of the typhoon.

Even a light rain worries Jocelyn for it could bring more damage to what's left of their home. "I wish we will be able to repair our house soon," she said. 

A girl standing on a walkway over water
UNICEF Philippines/2021/Louie Pacardo

Betty, 13, lives with seven of her siblings. "After the typhoon hit, I had to share my module to my sister who is in the same grade. We were able to submit it despite it all," she shared.

Betty also worries about how the situation would delay and affect her dreams. She wants to become a flight attendant for a big airline someday.

A girl sitting amid debris
UNICEF Philippines/2021/Louie Pacardo

Dolly, 10, wants to go back to school for the new year. She is waiting for this to happen when the school break is over, and when their community school has been rebuilt. "I wish school would open soon," she said. 
While other kids her age prefer to play around, Dolly thinks studying is a better activity. She also wants to become a teacher someday. 

A girl sitting by a makeshift shelter by the sea
UNICEF Philippines/2021/Louie Pacardo

Andrea, 14, still lives in their stilt house by the sea after Typhoon Odette ravaged their village. She also lost her modules from the typhoon. "I want to have them back, but there's nothing I can do now," she said.  
For the new year, Andrea wishes for Taft National High School to reopen so she can return and meet her classmates again. For now, she plans to help her mother with household chores. 

A girl sitting by their house damaged by a typhoon
UNICEF Philippines/2021/Louie Pacardo

For Rupaida, 12, Typhoon Odette destroyed her two homes: one where she used to live with her family and the other where she used to learn. She was one of the children studying in the community school built within their village.

For the new year, she wishes to have both homes back and to be able to study again. 

A girl standing among other children
UNICEF Philippines/2021/Louie Pacardo

Lyka, 10, considers the evacuation site her new playground. It is not a safe refuge as it is made from debris picked up from the sea and was set up at a busy coastal road.

"I play around here. There are a lot of kids here even if there are vehicles," she said.

Despite the destruction, she remains hopeful for her dreams. "I want to become a teacher when I grow up. I want to teach children and help my parents," she said.

UNICEF continues to advocate for uninterrupted education for every child affected by emergencies, especially the most vulnerable children belonging to indigenous communities and children with disabilities. UNICEF works with the Department of Education and partners to help children develop skills to cope with the impact of the crisis and supply them with learning spaces and supplies so no one will be left behind. 

We are delivering tents and school supplies to ensure that affected children like them can continue learning while recovering from the typhoon and amidst the on-going pandemic. You can help us by donating at