Baptist Global Response

Desperation drives Filipinos to take shelter in cemeteries

DAANBANTAYAN, Philippines — When Typhoon Haiyan tore through the Philippines in early November, it destroyed many homes. Weeks later, many people find shelter wherever they can.

Some families even have to curl up for the night in cemeteries.

“For Filipinos, that is very extreme because they’re very, very fearful of the spirits,” said Pam Wolf, who with her husband, Ben, leads BGR work in the Asia Rim. “For them to do that is desperate.”

While surveying village needs with a BGR Disaster Assessment and Response Team, Wolf witnessed families living in the local graveyard at Daanbantayan, a village on the northernmost point of Cebu Island.

Entire families had taken shelter in mausoleums.

“They’d actually had their beds lying on top of the concrete crypts (boxes) that had the coffins in them … because there wasn’t anyplace else safe for them to stay,” she said.

One family used the structure only for shelter when it rained. Another had moved in their belongings.

Unfortunately, Wolf said, the villagers’ lives could become even more complicated in the coming weeks if the food they collected from aid agencies runs out. They might have to choose between buying more food and finishing repair work on their homes. That would mean families in the cemetery might have to stay there.

BGR intends to help families in need avoid that necessity. The DART members evaluated needs in the areas around Cebu so response strategies could be developed that would get people back on their feet. Hopefully, no one will need to sleep near corpses much longer.

If you would like to help Filipino communities struggling in the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan, please visit our project page.

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