21 February 2014

100 Days Later: A Struggle for Values in Typhoon-Ravaged Tacloban

2/21/2014: Romelda Cornillez, like thousands of others, is slowly rebuilding her life after Super Typhoon Haiyan.

She vividly remembers the utter chaos of the first few days after the storm. “People were roaming the streets. Some were searching for their dead; some were begging to be taken out of the city. Most were looking for scraps of food to eat. We only had five kilos of rice—we knew that it was only a matter of days before we would run out of food,” she said.

Desperate and increasingly concerned for their two children, Romelda and her husband, Christian, resorted to looting.

“It was either that or our children would have gone hungry,” Romelda says. “At that time, if choosing between a sack full of rice or one full of money, everyone here would have opted for the rice.”

The turning point came when her eldest child wanted to join the looting.

“It was a wakeup call,” Romelda says. “Yes, those were desperate times. But we didn’t want the typhoon to jeopardize our children’s values. Haiyan had already taken so much from us. We didn’t want it to take anything else – least of all our children’s sense of right and wrong. We didn’t want our children to believe that something like stealing was an acceptable option.”

Searching for a safe haven

A week after Haiyan, SOS Children’s Villages set up Child Care Spaces (CCS) in Tacloban. For a family struggling to return to normal as fast as possible, the CCS facility was an answered prayer.

Romelda and Christians’ children longed for school, a place they associated with friendship and joy.Romelda’s children spent their days at an SOS Child Care Space so that she and Christian could cobble together a livelihood.

“In calamities like this, children are the most vulnerable,” Sumanta Kar, deputy national director of SOS Children’s Village India, said.

“Schools are closed and children are neglected because of more pressing, practical issues, like looking for food and shelter.”

Maridel Inoc, a Child Care Space coordinator in the Philippines, said CCS activities and staff bring children back to the values with which they were raised.

“As coordinators, we didn’t want our children to be defined by their experience with Haiyan,” Inoc said.

Taking steps toward normal

Life has slowly inched toward stability for the Cornillez family.

Christian trekked to evacuation centers for relief goods while Romelda mended their ravaged house. Eventually, Christian was able to go back to his work in the city councilor’s office as a support staff member. Romelda helps with rehabilitation efforts in the community.

The natural disaster tested the strength of the Cornillez family, but with assistance programs and their own bold resolve and hard work, the family is finally finding stable footing among the rubble.

Empower more families to reestablish their livelihoods by donating to SOS Children’s Villages today.