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A farewell to alms

WHAT did not kill some five million people-- super typhoon Yolanda mauled them to an inch of their lives—will likely toughen them. They have withstood. They will stand. They will move on with their lives.

Vegetable vendor Clarissa Bueno, 42, is eyeing a P10,000 loan to go back to tending her stall at a market in a town adjacent to Tacloban. With that seed money, she hopes to recoup her losses and send two of her children back to school—one is a grade 7 student, another is a criminology freshman.

A father to six children, 31-year-old fisherman Diorico Cordoves says he needs P20,000 to buy a five-horsepower diesel engine and a small boat to fit it to. He avers with resolve: “I could provide for our daily needs and my children will be happy.”

He has no house to go back to. But all it takes for farmer Geronimo Dawat, 49, is about, he reckons, P60,000. With such a sum, he sees that he can get back on his feet, bring back to life a three-hectare spread of rice paddies that he rents.

Most of the other nameless Yolanda victims have a life to live and livelihoods to regain—the packs of relief goods that will fall into their hands will merely hush their hunger for a time. They deserve more than a few kilos of rice, tins of sardines, packets of instant noodles, and hand-me-down clothes.

"If we want to avoid entire regions of the country having to rely on food aid, we need to act now to help vulnerable families to plant or replant by late December," says a top official of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

FAO plans are afoot to supply seeds for rice and corn, including tools, fertilizer and irrigation equipment. Too, "families will also receive vegetable seeds to help bridge the gap before the next harvest," it added.

In Bicol, Albay threw open its doors to adopt 10,000 Yolanda victims to be housed in newly built evacuation centers. Provincial Governor Joey Salceda, helped out by the region’s Office of Civil Defense and the Department of Social Welfare and Development will see to their needs for 12 months—or until the victims’ homes have been rebuilt.

Conservative estimates peg at 500,000 the number of shelter units that needs to be built for some 2,000,000 rendered homeless by the super typhoon. At a modest P250,000 cost per shelter unit, the government needs to cough up a tempting sum for the venal to drool at-- P125 billion.

The homeless need homes to dwell in but the hardiest of Yolanda survivors are setting their minds on things less costly than a P250,000 abode.

A vegetable vendor is keen on P10,000 seed money to re-start her modest mode of keeping body and soul together.

A fisherman father of six hankers for P20,000 with which to ply the seas anew and bring food to the family table.

A man of the soil is setting his sights on P60,000 loan to raise crops anew and renew a life shook up by a storm.

Each is bidding a farewell to alms.

Tough conditions bring out the toughness in people. And when the going gets tough, indeed, the tough gets going.


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