CASE STORY | A mother’s worries and demands after everything burned down


A mother’s worries and demands after everything burned down

ILOILO CITY – Last January 28, 2023, residents of adjacent barangays of West Habog-Habog and San Juan in Molo district, Iloilo City, woke up as fire razes their houses and properties. As a community of urban poor, residents rely mainly on daily wage earnings from their work as manicurists, vendors, drivers, and so on. Moreover, their houses are mostly made of light materials and are very close to each other, which make them very susceptible to fire.

Tovi Mae Deleste of Barangay San Juan and Rosenda Mondido of Barangay West Habog-Habog are two of over a thousand affected individuals.

Tovi, 23, is a mother to a three-year old girl. She relies on her parents for her and her daughter’s needs. Tovi’s father is a tricycle driver and her mother is also an odd jobber. Tovi recalled that they were awaken by the blaze at around 4 in the morning and the sky already turned red. “When we woke up, the fire is already huge. We even helped in putting up the fire but it was too late. We just quickly moved to our house and pack our things,” Tovi said. “We were only able to secure a bit of our things and we jumped in the river. I was carrying my daughter that time,” Tovi added.

In Barangay San Juan, 97 families, including the Deleste family, stayed inside the evacuation centers.

On the other hand, Rosenda, 44, is a mother to nine and a grandmother to five. Her eldest is now 26 years old, while her youngest is only 6 years old. Moreover, her youngest grandchild is only one year old. Rosenda is a Barangay Tanod, while her husband is a construction worker. Some of her children are no longer living with her as they have their own families. One of her children is a working student, while some are still studying. Aside from being a Tanod, Rosenda also has sideline jobs like selling of RTW [ready-to-wear] clothes and necklace holder.

Rosenda recalled that the night prior to the fire incident, they were on-duty as Barangay Tanods. At around 3 in the morning, Rosenda’s pregnant daughter woke her up to inform her that there’s fire. “When I heard that there was a fire, we got up and my husband helped putting it out. While he was there, I gathered my children because the rest are still small and I took my grandchildren to safety,” said Rosenda. “But I still told myself then that since we are far from the center of the incident, ‘maybe the firefighters will come on time and that the fire won’t get any bigger’, so we only packed a little,” Rosenda added. Rosenda also said that since the road was also already affected by fire, they walked pass under the bridge just to survive.

For almost 15 days, Rosenda’s family together with other 202 family-survivors of Barangay West Habog-Habog stayed inside the evacuation center at Baluarte Elementary School.

Last March 2, 2023, in time for the celebration of the Fire Prevention Month as well as the International Women’s Month, Panay Center for Disaster Response, through the support of Citizen’s Disaster Response Center, Foundation for Philippine Progress, and Women’s Global Network for Reproductive Rights, successfully delivered assistance to all 300 family-survivors. Assistance includes sleeping kits, cooking material, and hygiene and dignity kits.

“To everyone who helped us, we are very grateful. Even though we lost everything and that I will not exchange everything that was given to us, we can’t do anything because it already happened. We are very grateful because you helped us all,” said Rosenda with teary eyes.

“Thank you very much because the assistance you gave is a very big help to us since everything we have were all destroyed and burned,” Tovi said. Tearfully, Tovi added that the assistance given to them, especially the stainless pot and the sleeping kits, are very much of a big help to them.

A month after the incident, some of the affected families, especially in Barangay San Juan, are still inside the evacuation center. “Currently, we are only ten families left here inside the evacuation center,” Tovi said. “We haven’t come back yet because our temporary house is still, under construction and it will be difficult for us because there is no electricity yet,” Tovi added. Having no electricity and a safe house to return to, women and girls are even more vulnerable, especially at night, that is why some families like Tovi’s opted to stay inside the evacuation center. “It is really different if you reside in your own house, with electricity, and secured source of income or livelihood,” said Tovi.

Makeshift rooms inside the evacuation center in Barangay San Juan where some of the survivors still stay.

Other families, like Rosenda’s, returned to their place and set up a temporary shelter. “What we ask is certainty and assurance. Please don’t cause anymore headache to us because since the incident happened, we haven’t moved on yet,” Rosenda said in reference to the unclear instructions given to them by the government. Rosenda added that since the incident happened, the male members of the families have not yet returned to their work as they became busy with building their temporary shelters from the financial assistance given to them, to which, Rosenda said, is not even enough. Although Rosenda is grateful to the donors of the food assistance, she expressed her worries, as a mother, that the canned goods and instant noodles given to them might cause illnesses to her children and grandchildren. They have no choice, Rosenda said, but to rely on said assistance as they currently have no other source of income.

That is why survivors continue to call for support from the government and the private sector to address their needs for financial assistance, housing, and livelihood. //PCDR

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *