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Goddy Paul in Manila

05 Oct 2009

This morning was the first time in so many days that it did not rain. There was a mild shower early in the morning where I was staying, but that was quickly replaced by some sunlight unsuccessfully trying to peek through curtains of thick clouds.

I'm sitting in Manila airport and looking outside, I can see thick clouds but these are not loaded with moisture yet and I think there's no immediate threat of heavy rain.

It's very humid and warm which, in the circumstances, is not a bad thing for people.

"Everything is lost"

Mr Hadialba was my taxi driver from the hotel to the airport. I did not ask his age. He must be around 30 but looks younger. He is married and has two children aged four and seven. He and his family used to live in his house with his mother in law. Their house was inundated by the flood waters.

He was able to save his wife and children but his mother in law died. He works in a hotel as a bell boy and has taken two weeks paid leave and is driving the taxi to get some daily income.

He says everything is lost. He does not have clothes for work nor any food for his children. That is why he is driving to get some money to provide for his family. He is grateful that their lives are spared and feels for his wife who is grieving the death of her mother.

Need for emotional support

While we see the pictures on the TV of people walking through the water, we do not get a sense of the personal loss that so many people have suffered. For most people who have survived, the common emotion is of total helplessness.

There is so much need here to help people get back on their feet and begin living again. Getting back to some sort of normality will take a very long time. But the loss of family and friends and the few possessions of the poor is difficult to deal with and they will need psychological support. So far, I have not come across any agency providing that service.

Breaking down barriers

I have seen disasters remove the class barriers among people. In this flood, everyone was equally affected. The rich and the poor alike lost lives and property. They all were walking through neck-deep and waist-deep waters.

They all were cleaning up and clearing up. It seemed like the entire community had decided on spring cleaning at the same time. This cleaning was painful as they were throwing away more than keeping. I have never seen anything like this. So many accumulated household things being thrown away by people is not a normal occurrence.

On the other hand, for the places that are higher and those did not flood, it is business as usual. The malls are opened and there is transport. So if you have some money, it is possible to go out and buy food and water. For aid agencies also, availability of food materials is not a problem yet. The government has also taken steps to ensure the prices do not increase.

Time to board.

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Author profile

Godfred Paul
Job title: Myanmar Country Director

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These blogs are personal reflections and do not necessarily reflect the views of HelpAge International.