Forced resilience: Residents in typhoon-hit Rizal sitio have no choice but to start again

Photos and text by George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 21 2020 03:38 PM

Popularly known for its scenic landscape and recreational activities such as hiking and spelunking, the famed Wawa Dam in Barangay San Rafael, Rodriguez, Rizal, wasn’t spared from the wrath of Typhoon Ulysses last November 11.

Its short trail made of stone was damaged by the strong current as the typhoon dumped heavy rainfall which caused massive flooding in Rizal province and surrounding areas, washing away debris and belongings to the river. 

Now, residents of Sitio Kayrupa near the dam struggle to endure the hardships brought by multiple typhoons in the last few weeks, sometimes forgetting that there is still an ongoing COVID-19 pandemic in the country. 

“Ito po ang matindi talaga. Mas matindi pa po sa nagdaang Ondoy. Mas malaki pong di hamak,” says 48-year-old Roberto Salvador, whose house facing the river was completely washed away. 

He says the flood from Tropical Storm Ondoy in 2009 only reached the foot of his house. This time however, Typhoon Ulysses’s flash flood was so massive that the water came from the back of his house, catching them off guard. Their sari-sari store a few steps away was nowhere to be found the day after. 

Just a few meters away from Salvador’s, a 74-year-old handicapped man makes his way along the huge rocks left on the pathway. 

Francisco Nicolas lost his right foot during a freak accident at work in 1971 when he worked as a logger in Cadiz City, Negros Occidental. Despite his disability, Francisco accepts small jobs such as shoe and umbrella repair to help his wife Elena, 56, in their daily needs. Elena takes cleaning jobs in neighboring farms to provide for their family, but work for her has been scarce. All the items Francisco had repaired were washed away with their other belongings during the typhoon.

In Sitio Kayrupa, most residents now solely rely on relief operations to get food on the table. Every time they hear about volunteers visiting, they rush to walk along destroyed pathways and bridges to get to the parking lot near the entrance of the park, located a few hundred meters away. 

Some volunteers brave the trail into the villages, but other groups can’t transport their goods into the village because of the damage, leaving locals with no choice but to go back and forth.

“Minsan inuutusan ko sya na bumaba dun sa malapit-lapit, baka mayroon na naman bigayan dun. Baka makakuha sya, kasi hindi na siya pinapapila e,” says Elena.

(I told him to get closer because there might be another round of relief distribution. He might get some because he is not asked to line up anymore.)

Residents carry their goods and belongings along a trail covered with huge rocks after Typhoon Ulysses damaged the area near Wawa Dam in Sitio Kayrupa, Barangay San Rafael, Rodriguez, Rizal on Friday. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

Melissa Salvador, 20, tends to their sari-sari store. After Typhoon Ulysses washed away the entire structure of the family's small business, Melissa's father Roberto had to build a temporary store from scratch in order for them to survive. “Kasi wala talaga sir, kung di ako nagtayo n'yan wala talaga kaming hanapbuhay. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

Roberto Salvador, 48, rests on the area where his house used to stand. Almost all of his family’s belongings were washed away into the river because of the typhoon. “Kaya po 'yung mga gamit namin wala kaming nakuha, kasi gabi. Bigla po 'yung pasok nung tubig sa likod ng bahay kasi.” George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

Locals look for mud-covered items than can be salvaged on Friday. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

Roberto Salvador narrates that the damage caused by Typhoon Ulysses and the rest of the calamities within the year has taken its toll. “Kung di po naperwisyo 'yung mga pananim ko sa bundok, 'yun sana ang pinagkukuhanan namin ng kabuhayan.” George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

Roberto Salvador, along with other residents, have no other choice but to force themselves to be resilient once again, as if COVID-19 hasn't caused much trouble when tourism was temporarily banned, affecting their livelihood in the dam. “Wala namang ibang gagawin kundi mag-umpisa na naman sa una. Hanggang kung kailan na naman maka-recover, bahala na ang Diyos sir.” George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

Locals carry their goods back and forth as they walk along a rocky path near the Wawa Dam. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

Francisco Nicolas, 74, uses a crutch on his right hand, and a cane on the other as he walks along a rocky path. “Naga-sipol ang hangin! Pag-tingin ko sa bahay ko, ‘sus 'yung bubong ko, isang dangkal na lang ang natira,” he says, recalling seeing his house submerged in water during the height of Typhoon Ulysses. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

Francisco Nicolas shows a relief pack stub he was able to get while walking around the pathway on Friday. Some volunteer groups use stubs to control the number of locals lining up for goods. Unfortunately, not everyone in the area gets some. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

Locals watch as volunteers sift through donated clothes to be distributed in the community. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

Upon hearing news that another volunteer group is coming, locals rush to get to the open area where most of the volunteers converge. Francisco rushes with them in order to secure food for his family. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

Elena Nicolas, 56, says that the condition of her husband and their current situation sometimes gets the better of her and makes her lose her temper. “Minsan kasi naiisip ko ba't nagkaganito ako. Parang ako ang lalaking pamilyado sa bahay. Minsan sa init ng ulo at sa pagod, mag-aaway talaga kami n'yan.” But despite their situation, the thought of leaving her husband was never an option. “Naaawa din ako kahit anong away ko sa kanya, ganyan na ang kalagayan n'ya. Di na s'ya makakatulong katulad ng sa mga kumpleto ang paa. 'Yung iba nga e, iniiwanan nila na kumpleto pa ang kanilang asawa. Siya, hindi ko siya iwanan.” George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

Francisco Nicolas shows the last pair of shoes from one of his repair jobs he was able to save from the flood. Francisco makes P100 per pair, and P25 for an umbrella. Now that the whole community is severely affected, Francisco doubts that this last pair of shoes would ever be claimed by its owner. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

Francisco Nicolas watches as his grandson arrives carrying relief packs they were able to get from operations near the park’s entrance, located a few hundred meters away. Francisco and Elena only have one child, their 36-year-old daughter Marcelita, who is also a housewife. Marcelita has 7 kids. “Wala naman kami anak na naghahanapbuhay sa labas. Siya lang ang anak ko, iisa lang. Babae pa. Di naman namin maasahan kasi ang dami ding pinapakain na anak.” says Elena. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

Children gather at an open area where volunteer groups mostly coming from the private sector distribute food, clothes, and other essentials. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

Children gather at an open area where volunteer groups mostly coming from the private sector distribute food, clothes, and other essentials. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

Francisco Nicolas stares blankly as his wife Elena recalls her hardships about their situation. Although they feel lucky to have their 46-year-old son-in-law as the household’s breadwinner, the two remain clueless on how to get back on their feet. “Kasi 'pag wala na tong kalamidad, wala na 'yung mga magbibigay ng bigas at nung pang-ulam. Kaya habang mayroon pa, magtiis kaming pumila para makaipon-ipon pa ng kakainin,” says Elena. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News