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Typhoon Nina aftermath: On foot to the remote villages of Catanduanes

The Humanitarian Response Consortium (HRC), an Oxfam partner, conducted a rapid assessment of the impact of Typhoon Nina in Catanduanes, and responded to immediate needs on water, sanitation and hygiene in villages with high cases of diarrhoea. More than a week after the storm, the HRC’s rapid assessment team reached the remote villages of Barangay Dugui and Barangay Dugui Too to check the situation on the ground. 

Words and Pictures by Angela Casauay/Oxfam 

The remote villages of Barangay Dugui and Barangay Dugui Too were isolated for days after the onslaught of Typhoon Nina. A week after the storm, clearing operations were still ongoing and four-wheeled vehicles could not pass through due to landslides. It takes two hours on foot to reach Barangay Dugui from the main road on foot, and some 30 minutes by motorcycle. On regular days, about 3 jeepneys take a single trip back and forth to service residents who are going to the town center to sell abaca and conduct other matters.

Robilyn Marquez, 28, and her husband, Michael, 30, are from Barangay Dugui Too, a remote barangay in Virac that is inaccessible to public transport, especially during bad weather. Due to the landslides, Robilyn and her husband has no choice but to walk all two hours from their village to the main road, where they can take a public transport to a hospital in the town center.

Robilyn and Michael’s baby was born a week before Typhoon Nina hit Catanduanes. They said they had no choice but to take the hike for their two-week old baby’s medical check up. There are at least four other newborn babies in the village.

If it takes two hours on foot or 30 minutes by motorcycle on rough terrains to reach Barangay Dugui, reaching the adjacent Barangay Dugui Too would require crossing a waterway. Families living in Barangay Dugui Too evacuated to Barangay Dugui before the storm hit. Residents said some of those who decided to flee to safer ground as the storm hit land on Christmas Day had to use lifebuoys to cross the waterway.

Rita Soriao, 48, is the principal of Dugui Too Elementary School. Before getting this assignment, she said she has never set foot in this village despite living all her life in Virac. When the storm subsided, she decided to troop to the school onboard a motorcycle driven by her husband. They brought axes with them and cleared trees and branches as they made their way.
“When we arrived, we saw that the roof of the Grade 5 room had been blown off. Parts of the roof and the ceiling of the Grade 6 room were also damaged. I moved the students to the multi-purpose hall. For now, Grade 5 students will use this as their classroom. Good thing my husband already fixed what he could in the Grade 6 room so they can use it again.”

Zenita Matienco, a resident of Barangay Dugui Too, gives Dugui Too Elementary School Principal Rita Soriao a chicken as a sign of appreciation for leading efforts to clean up the school and fix some of the classrooms that were damaged after the storm.

Some areas of Barangay Dugui Too are located across another river and there are no bridges connecting them yet. Soriao said some students were unable to come to class when classes resumed on Tuesday, January 3, since the river was still not passable to children. Some students were also helping their parents fix their damaged homes, she said.

Abaca is the main source of livelihood in Barangay Dugui and Barangay Dugui Too. Almost all abaca trees were wiped out, according to farmers, and it would take two years before they can recover. Without abaca, some families sell furniture made from Yanto trees. Others take a shot at looking for gold in rivers and ponds.

Jackilyn Beo-Mijares, 39, owns a sari-sari store. She used to help her husband manage a one-hectare abaca farm until the birth of their second child a year ago. They are tenants of a farm owned by a businessman who lives in Manila. “We have a sari-sari store but it is not enough. Our sales also depend on abaca. If people earn a lot from selling abaca, then they would also buy a lot from our sari-sari store,” Jackilyn said.

Lorena Gianan, 30, repairs the roof of their house. She said her husband is out working on the abaca farm so she took charge of fixing damages to their house caused by the storm.

A total of 102 houses were totally damaged in Barangay Dugui Too while 172 houses were partially damaged. Some 253 families equivalent to 1,702 persons were affected by the storm.

Life goes on for most residents of this remote barangay after the storm. Amid the light drizzle and unpredictable weather, Barangay Dugui Too residents wash their clothes by the river.