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300 evacuees welcomed in barangay Tinago's new sports center.

They were given meal packs of fried chicken and pancit. Last night they slept on mats on a clean floor of a covered basketball court. Drinking water, lights, and toilets ensured they would do more than survive.

Compared to the wasteland that typhoon Yolanda had turned her home in barangay Baras in Palo, Leyte, the brand new sports complex in barangay Tinago, Cebu City was a sanctuary.

"Nakahilak gyud ko pag abot dinhi. Daku kaayo ko ug pasalamat sa mga Cebuano sa warm welcome, Lahi ra kaayo ni sa akong gi gikanan," said Emma Elnido, a 46-year-old private school teacher.

(I cried when we arrived. Thank you so much to the Cebuanos for the warm welcome. This is so different from where we came from.)

Elnido was part of the first batch of 90 evacuees brought yesterday to the gym after they arrived on a C-150 plane from Tacloban.

About 1,000 evacuees from Leyte and Samar, - the elderly and injured were given priority - started arriving at the Mactan Airbase since Saturday.

With their homes wiped out, the mass evacuation has raised the question of who will receive the waves of evacuees, some of whom may stay indefinitely.

OUR BROTHERS, SISTERS

Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama said the city would find ways to accommodate them. "We will have to attend to this somehow. I encourage all LGUs (local government units) to also be available. These are our brothers and sisters. We cannot drive them away," he said.

He ruled out the Cebu City Sports Complex since it will be used next month for a regional athletic meet of different schools.

Mandaue City said it can accommodate some evacuees in a government shelter for a few days, then bus them to different towns and cities in mainland Cebu. "We'll do that to reunite them with their relatives in Cebu," said City Administrator James Abadia.

An apartment owner, Cris Dotillos in Consuelo Village, Mandaue city, is opening his doors to 20 evacuees from Tacloban for free lodging, said Roger Paler, information officer.

Lapu-Lapu City hasn't identified a site yet but officials said the city shares in expenses of feeding evacuees, medicine and other needs of evacuees who arrive at the Mactan Air Base. Some are ferried up to bus terminals and given bus fare to reach their chosen destination.

URBAN CHALLENGE

With its hands full with disaster-response activities, the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) wrote Mayor Rama on Monday asking to use the Cebu City Sports Center as a temporary evacuation center. The urban barangay of Tinago took up the challenge.

Joel Garganera, incoming Tinago barangay captain, said 300 persons could stay in the new sports complex without getting congested. The spillover will have to be assigned at the nearby Cogon Ramos sports complex.

The Tinago complex has eight cubicles which evacuees could use as a comfort room and dressing room, aside from four portable toilets from the city government. Garganera ordered three tents set up outside for use as a mess hall. A water tank was also installed.

A playhouse from the barangay hall was brought in for the children. Tinago social workers played with them as part of a stress-debriefing exercise. There are plans to set up a TV. Meals, mats and blankets are being supplied by the DSWD.

"Nalipay kaayo ko kay secure kaayo mi diri," said Elnido. (I'm very happy because this is a safe place). Still nursing a swollen face, which was hit by storm debris, the teacher, arrived with 12 other relatives.

They are waiting for her husband, a third daughter and two more nieces to arrive in Cebu so they can all travel to Manila where they have relatives.

Her two young children, still traumatized by their near-death experience, won't leave her side. The entire block in their neighborhood was wiped out, she said.

"Dili na mi gusto mo balik sa amoa. Siguro unya na. Pero dili pa karon," she said crying. (We don't want to go back. Maybe later, but not now.)

Hunger and fear for their security made them decide to fly to Cebu on board C130 planes that transport goods from Cebu to Tacloban City.

Looting of food has started, she said. There was still no power in Tacloban City and barangay Baras in Palo, Leyte which they left on Friday.

Elnido said they heard reports that NPA rebels had started stealing food from stores in the public market in Tacloban.

"Maulaw unta mi sa kawat sa Tacloban kay taga didto sad mi pero tinuod man," she said. (We would be too ashamed to steal in Tacloban because we have roots there but yes, it's happening.)

As of Tuesday, when they left Tacloban, they had not received any relief goods. She said the national government should have handled that and not relied on local authorities, who were also victims.

They lined up from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. with hundreds of people at the Tacloban airport for a free ride on board the military planes to Cebu. She said they didn't dare leave the line even when it rained or they may lose their spot.
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Publication:Philippines Daily Inquirer (Makati City, Philippines)
Geographic Code:9PHIL
Date:Nov 14, 2013
Words:857
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