Getting villages in Guiuan back on the map
Surfers trying to get away from more popular surfing camps in Siargao and La Union had the choice to go to ABCD Beach in Calicoan, Guiuan, Eastern Samar. To the surfing community, the area was like an open secret for those who wanted to avoid large crowds.
It seemed to be that way for ABCD, with the beach's name apparently derived from an American secret base in World War 2 -- the American Base Commission Depot.
A surfing boom in 2005 put ABCD back on the map when foreigners rediscovered the beach.
But in November 2013, the place was almost wiped out by typhoon Yolanda.
ABCD's beachfront was carved out by the storm surge, which destroyed all resort facilities and left the area a wasteland.
“All our huts were washed out and our equipment, our surfboards, were found more than a kilometer away on a hillside,” said Norman Dalora, a champion surfer and a local surfing camp owner.
Now, surfers want to announce to the world that ABCD is ready to welcome visitors again.
“It is really far from how it was before. Tourists barely come here. Maybe they are hesitating because all the resorts were destroyed. They are unsure of the accommodation,” Dalora said.
Winfredo Daria, a construction foreman doing work on one of the buildings in the area, shares the same observation.
“Andok’s (referring to the popular chicken restaurant) used to be full packed,” Daria said. “Now a few visitors come here and they find out there is nowhere to stay, they take a few shots of the ruins of Andok’s and leave.”
Some local residents who worked for the restaurant cleared and cleaned the place, hoping that they will be rehired when it opens again.
The situation is the same for most residents of Calicoan and nearby Sulungan.
Most are waiting to return to work but lack the means to do so. Fishing remains the biggest source of livelihood, but because nearly all of the boats were destroyed, less than half of local fishermen have returned to the sea.
Some engage in construction, while some take advantage of cash-for-work programs offered by non-government organizations or the government. But some complain about how their pay is sometimes delayed for months.
The same situation is faced by some teachers who are employed as casuals by the local government.
They have yet to receive their pay from January this year, even as the new school year opened Monday.
That is not the only problem besetting them. Even the buildings have yet to be finished because of a delay in appropriations.
“All our 16 classrooms were destroyed and none has been rebuilt,” said Elma Sagmit, a teacher in Sulangan.
“We were given tents but they are not for classrooms and it is very hot inside,” she added.
As a result, classes are being held out in the open or in unfinished classrooms while construction is ongoing.
Schools in the area have other problems. Classrooms were destroyed by the typhoon and looters stole all teaching materials.
But for some parents, just bringing the children to school is already a problem.
Kerylin Umbria used to have a small store and makes souvenir items from the local Saka-saka shells. Both were taken away by typhoon Yolanda.
Her store beside the school was swept away by the storm surge, leaving her family members swimming desperately for their lives.
Now, the store is gone and she cannot rebuild without any capital. Even the small change that she gets selling souvenir items to tourists is gone.
“My child was crying this morning when I gave her 2 pesos. She cannot buy anything with that amount. Maybe a snack for P1.25 and no more for a drink. All the prices have gone up, even ice water costs 2 pesos,” Umbria said.
The one thing that stands out in her mind when she recalls the day typhoon Yolanda hit is not the difficulty of surviving after the disaster.
It is the image of her 84-year-old mother, Anna, being plucked out of the debris, alive.
“She’s a veteran of Yolanda, she is a survivor,” said Umbria.
Kerylin Umbria can probably say the same thing for herself.
Yolanda aftermath: Education and Hope (Part III)