Philippines landscape is smashed, torn and flung about like a rag doll
Homeless villagers queuing for rice are gentle, stoical and good-humoured
Home after home has been torn apart and the families that lived in them cast adrift, relying on the kindness of – mainly, but not exclusively – aid-agency strangers and foreign governments.
Many people throughout the Philippines, and the country’s own government, have donated clothes and money and are fully involved in the relief effort.
The road through the village crests at a filling station, the centre of life in Ilihan. The first thing of notice is the white-shirt-wearing security guard, a ubiquitous figure in the Philippines. However this one, who introduces himself as Rado, is carrying a pump- action shotgun.
I ask him does he really need it. He shrugs a little sheepishly. Yes, he needs it as he fears the sort of communal anger that spilled into looting last weekend in Tacloban.
But the people of Ilihan, or at least the 300 or so I met yesterday (out of the village’s 5,000-plus), were models of good-humoured stoicism.
Beside the filling station is a municipal office, which announces itself to be Ilihan Barangay Hall. Between it and the station is a concrete basketball court, the metal roof of which has been partly ripped off.
On what looks like a concrete stage at one end of the court, there are about 50 white sacks of rice, a present from Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam.
Among those waiting, there is no pushing, no shoving and no grabbing as the throng of mainly women and children, but some men also, form three queues and are allocated portions of rice for their families. Their names are ticked off a list as they hand in what appears to be a community-made coupon.
One of the women I chat to tells me her home was destroyed. She thanks me for the rice. This just makes me feel awful, which is not, of course, her fault.
I ask her what she needs and she answers by stating the blindingly obvious – a home.
“Please help me,” she says, but in the most gentle way you could imagine.
Inside the municipal office, a forlorn and mostly empty place save for a large sheet of torn roof-metal, there sits a man with a weathered face and furrowed brow.
He is Zigfred Duterig, the local mayor, and, like almost everyone I meet, he has no problem with a visiting journalist poking about and asking questions at a time of such difficulty.
“What do we need?” he asks back at me. “Food, water, shelter, rice, sardines, nordos.” I gather nordos is a form of pasta.
I ask whether the villagers get food daily. “With God’s mercy, if there are donations coming in, we can give them something.”
I leave, and just before I drive into Bogo City a little further north, I see a sign on the roadside. It is one of the few objects left standing among the snapped telegraph poles, buckled road signs and a large sheet of metal, part of a roof, wrapped neatly but with obvious force around the arm of a tree.
The sign? Above an arrow pointing up a dust track, it reads: Jesus Christ Lord of All Church.