x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

‘We have nothing left’: Filipino expats speak of Typhoon Haiyan’s aftermath

Three days after super typhoon Haiyan battered the Philippines, anxious Filipinos expatriates in the UAE have yet to contact their families back home.

Filipino Amparo Lauzon, second from left, with sister Catherine, left, mother Ursula, who lives in Tacloban City, and sister Lorelie. Courtesy Lauzon family
Filipino Amparo Lauzon, second from left, with sister Catherine, left, mother Ursula, who lives in Tacloban City, and sister Lorelie. Courtesy Lauzon family

ABU DHABI // Amparo Lauzon was so concerned about the safety of her loved ones, she could not even report for work this week.

She had not heard anything from her family for days since Super Typhoon Haiyan battered Tacloban City and the surrounding areas.

“I don’t think I would be able to concentrate on my work,” said Ms Lauzon, a 41-year-old aviation worker in Dubai. “No one would ever wish this to happen to anyone. Before, I used to see all the disturbing images of the typhoon in other places and now it is happening to us.”

Yesterday, her 22-year-old daughter Eramae, who flew from Manila to Cebu, relayed the good news that her family were safe.

But Ms Lauzon said her feelings were mixed.

“The relief of knowing they’re safe really means a lot to me,” Ms Lauzon said. “But at the same time, I still would like to speak to them. I would like to know for myself if they’re really OK. Are they eating well? How are the children? They must have been traumatised by the typhoon.”

Working thousands of miles away from the family’s home in Tacloban City, she couldn’t find out anything while devastating images of floating bodies and flattened buildings and homes trickled in on her Facebook feed.

She was particularly worried for the safety of her mother Ursula, her three nieces, aged between 18 and 22, her sister Lorelie, 33, and her sister’s three children, who are between one and nine years old.

“I’ve not been able to sleep well,” she said. “I’m glad that the typhoon didn’t completely wash out our house, but I feel for those who’ve lost their homes and loved ones. Everyone – rich or poor – has been affected by this calamity.”

Her sister Priscilla, 45, will be flying home from Singapore this week. Her 29-year-old sister is also working in Dubai, while their brother Fernando, 43, works in Libya.

“We’re all worried for our mother during this most trying time,” Ms Lauzon said. “We’d all like to be there but we can’t.”

But Ms Lauzon is just one of thousands of Filipino expatriates who are concerned and desperate for news from their families.

Alan Bacason, 49, is determined to return home to see his family this week.

“It is not only about bringing home the needed supplies and money, but I think my presence is more important,” he said.

“It’s more of a moral obligation. I would like to hug and console them, to show them that I really care for them.”

The father-of-three had been unable to contact his mother, daughter Marielle, 22, former wife or mother-in-law, who were in a hotel in Tacloban City since the typhoon struck. The family has since moved to a relative’s home.

“We don’t have anything left,” said Alan Bacason, 49, who has lived in Dubai for nine years. “I really need to fly home soon and be with my family.”

He is now contemplating on relocating his family to Cebu City, Manila or Davao City.

“After a few months, there might be a leptospirosis [bacterial infection] outbreak,” he said. “We need to plan our next move.”

Renee Tana, 38, a civil engineer in Abu Dhabi, had also lost contact with his parents, sister, two nephews and one niece in Tacloban City.

“It’s frustrating,” he said. “I’ve spent sleepless nights wondering how things are back home. I’ve been desperately checking Facebook and other sites for news.”

Meanwhile, three days after the super typhoon ravaged the region, the full scale of the disaster was only becoming apparent yesterday.

Authorities estimated that up to 10,000 people may have died with many millions affected by the storm.


* Additional reporting by Associated Press