The Provinces that were in the path of Typhoon Yolanda are getting no help and people are dying from lack of water and supplies. Watching TV, you would think that this massive relief effort in Tacloban, Philippines is actually branching out to the rural areas that were also devastated. You would be mostly wrong. In Angeles City, any visitor would be hard pressed to see any kind of reference to the storm and the tragedy. The Bars are still open and the, mostly male, tourists are playing golf, chasing young Filipino girls, and partying like nothing ever happened.
Many of the many young ladies that come to this town for work are from the areas where the storm hit. As they put on a strong front at work, you can’t imagine the pain they are feeling inside as they worry about their families. We interviewed several of these strong young women, none of them would let us use their full names. There is a big stigma here associated with working in the bars. They do not want their families to know exactly what they have to do here to be able to send money home. They don’t call Angeles “Sin City” because people cheat on their golf games.
One young lady, Melissa, is from Samar and she has been working here for over 4 years as a GRO or Guest Relations Officer. That is a fancy word used in this town for someone who is paid to do “things” with the foreigners that come here. Melissa was all smiles until we got her talking about her family. She has a 5 year old son, three sisters, two brothers, mother, and grandparents that were all living in the area of Leyte that was hit the hardest. She said it is about a 2 hour ride to Tacloban by bus from her province. There has been no relief for them.
Melissa told us her brother had trekked his way to Tacloban and she got her first message from the family yesterday. No cell phones are working at her home. She said the reception there was always very bad because they are so far removed from the main areas. The news she got was bittersweet. Her brother said that all of them had made it through the storm with only one sister having injuries but all are alive. You could see tears rolling up in Melissa’s eyes as she told us that her brother was desperately trying to find supplies as the family has nothing and no one has come to help. He said they were drinking water from the well, even though it tasted funny and there was no food to be found.
As the world focuses on Tacloban, the tragedy that is unfolding in the rural Provinces of the Philippines is generally out of the spotlight. This is much like when hurricane Katrina, yes I was in that one and saw first hand what was happening, had the world focused on New Orleans while whole towns in Mississippi were just wiped off the map. Most of my friends from Australia and the UK still think that Katrina only hit New Orleans due to the way the news media focused on that city.
We hope that the many families in the Provinces find a way to survive until help arrives. Filipinos are very resourceful people and families are very tightly knit here. They are also very skeptical of their Government and know that the biggest looters of foreign aid hold positions of power from Mayors all the way up to Senators. They see all this money being pledged and wonder who will be lining their pockets with it, before it actually gets used to help the millions of suffering families.
No Filipino wants to see his fellow countrymen suffering. John K Chua photographed a man who threw his duty of following orders to the wind and decided he had to do more. This Pilot is a hero and it will take many more to help everyone. I can only imagine the emotions John and the crew felt as they lifted off while watching people fighting over the meager supplies that were dropped off. I cannot imagine what is going through the people’s minds that were grabbing the supplies. No one should ever have to go through what they are going through now.
Photo From John K Chua Facebook