By Elizabeth Tromans
Through the metal bars of a window in an elementary school now used as an evacuation center, Marisol Ugay, 29, holds a toddler and an infant in her lap and gives a reluctant smile as she explains, “I don’t normally look this old; it’s just the stress.”
For nearly 2 weeks, the monsoon rains haven’t stopped in metro Manila and surrounding areas. The torrential rains, which began on August 7, have affected 1.2 million people and forced 242,000 people out of their homes and into evacuation centers. The Philippine government reports a total of 614 evacuation centers throughout central Luzon. At its most severe, rain fell at a rate of 2 inches per hour, dumping half the normal August monsoon rain in just 24 hours.
On August 7th, Marisol was shocked at how heavily the rain was falling. As she watched out the window of her home, located along the river in her village of San Pedro in Bulucan, north of Manila, she worried about her two young children.
“I couldn’t afford to wait and see what would happen. I saw the rain pouring down and the river rising. I quickly grabbed my two babies, one in each arm, bundled what belongings I could carry on my head and left my home.”
Marisol bought some food with her savings, enough for about 3 days. Today is the third day. Her savings are gone and stores are starting to close. She’s praying that donated food will be available by tomorrow.
For now, Marisol wakes up each morning and, leaving her children safely in the care of a neighbor, she wades through the nearly waist high water to reach her home. She checks on her belongings and gauges the level of the river. “Today it didn’t rain too much, so that gives us hope. But if it starts raining again, I don’t know what we will do,” she says.
Marisol’s baby reaches a hand through the bars of the window and grins, unaware of the wet world surrounding her. “My role is to take care of my children and provide for their needs,” says Marisol. “But right now all I can do is wait with my family and my neighbors, hoping for the water to recede. We will keep hoping together until we can return home.”
CRS is currently conducting rapid joint assessments with the National Secretariat for Social Action (NASSA) to determine the type of relief goods most needed in evacuation centers in central Luzon. The Office for Foreign Disaster Assistance of USAID awarded a $100,000 grant to CRS for emergency supplies.
Elizabeth Tromans is Head of Office for an emergency response project in Cagayan de Oro, Philippines. She is working with the CRS Philippines team to respond to historic flooding throughout metro Manila.