All 200 members of the Leyte-Samar-Biliran (Leysambil) – Qatar chapter have lost their houses back home in the Philippines, leaving them no option but to relocate their families to other parts of the country, the group’s president Daisy Tingson has told Gulf Times.
Like other structures in the city, she said houses were flattened by the typhoon while almost all their belongings have been washed out and many appliances destroyed.
“We lost almost everything and it will take time to rebuild our houses,” stressed Tingson, a lawyer.
Many of these overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) were reunited with their families in Tacloban City. However, some of their compatriots who are still in the country have recently received possibly the saddest news they do not expect to hear.
She disclosed that one of their members had lost her parents and two siblings in Tacloban during the onslaught of super typhoon Haiyan. She had arrived in Doha on November 8 after a short vacation in her hometown. It was also the last time she communicated to her loved ones since the typhoon struck the place the following day.
With power outage and communication lines cut off, it took at least a week before they were able to contact some of their relatives and friends who relayed the news to them.
“I also lost some of my distant relatives. The extent of damage was huge that most of the houses were fully destroyed,” said Tingson, who is planning to bring her relatives to Quezon City and others to Cebu City.
There was no exact figure on the total number of Filipino expatriates in the country who come from the three provinces. But based on the estimate of the Philippine Overseas Labour Office, the number in the whole Visayas region could be close to 30% of the total OFWs in Qatar.
Asked what lessons she learned from the tragedy, she noted: “Everything seems to be different now including the climate”.
“See we have category 4 and 5 for typhoons. We need to be over critical in our disaster preparedness. What level of preparedness we knew now is no longer relevant,” she said.
She believes that prayers would be their best coping mechanism: the love and concern of families, friends, compatriots and even the concern of their employers. “These lighten our loads”.
Labour attaché Leopoldo De Jesus has also received reports that one OFW had lost four members of her family. Others have yet to locate their children and parents.
It is learnt that many employers and government-owned companies have allowed Filipino employees to take a leave from work to attend to their families in typhoon-stricken areas.
One of them is Abbie who travelled nine hours from Doha to Manila, and then almost a day going to his hometown in Tacloban.
His advice to OFWs who are set to fly back home: “They should bring cash (in peso)” since it is too difficult to withdraw money from ATMs, banks and get money from remittance centres. “They also have to bring food, medicine water and some clothes.”
The fastest way to travel to Tacloban, he stressed, is by airlift through the Air Force’s C130 plane. Otherwise, they have to travel by land via bus and vans from Manila to Bicol, and then to Northern Samar.
He does not have the words to describe the magnitude of the tragedy: their house was totally destroyed, the place is stinking, food was scarce, and the situation seemed to be unstable. However, he was glad to see his daughter, their families and relatives safe.
“What you see in the news, that’s it and it maybe worse than that,” he added.
The United Filipino Organisations in Qatar (UFOQ) is mulling to raise funds to help OFWs who have been hit by the calamity.
But for the meantime, it can only assist in requesting Philippine embassy officials to expedite the processing of relevant documents like passports for those who need to fly back home.
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