Stories from the Field: Jomel Flores

GENERAL LUNA, SIARGAO — Jomel Flores, 31 years old, a member of the LGBT community, and her family were among the hundreds of thousands of Filipinos who were severely impacted by Typhoon Odette’s fury in the islands of Siargao last December 2021. According to her, it was the most horrifying and distressing experience she’s ever had so far in her life.

Rai made its landfall on December 16, 2021 bringing torrential rains, violent winds, floods and storm surges. Jomel and her family took refuge at Anajawan Elementary School in the Municipality of General Luna. They had been warned that the typhoon would be powerful, but when it came, it was significantly more powerful than the locals had anticipated. They were astonished, scared, and afraid when the wind began to blow erratically, pelting them with heavy showers. During that time, children and adults were screaming and crying and all she could do at that second was to pray harder that it will come to pass.

Their experience in the evacuation facility was really difficult, she says. With COVID-19 still a threat, it worried her that there was no social distancing, and they could only use one comfort room.

After spending three days at the evacuation center, they returned home only to find out that their house had been partially destroyed, with some of their roof gone, causing their personal belongings to become damp and damaged. This rendered Jomel speechless and all she could think at that moment was to cry. Despite the fact that it was the saddest and most agonizing event she had ever had, she was still thankful that all of her family members were safe and alive. “That was the most important thing, material stuffs may be replaced, but life will never be replaced,” she says.

It’s been months since Typhoon Odette, but Jomel still sheds tears every time she remember the horrific experience they went through. Despite being one of the most frightening experiences they’ve had, Jomel is thankful that all of their family members are alive and safe. “That’s the most important thing. Material stuff come and go, but one’s life can never be replaced,” she says

Her hope for the future is to become financially stable and to open a large ihaw-ihaw (barbecue) store to support her family. She also wants to make a modest contribution to her community by offering inexpensive healthy meals. She aspires to be the change she wishes to see in the world.

The Flores family is among the thousands of affected families in Surigao del Norte who were given life-saving water, sanitation, & hygiene support immediately after Typhoon Odette made landfall on December 16.

The Super Typhoon WASH Emergency Response in CARAGA is implemented by Action Against Hunger with funding from the United Nations Central Emergency Response Fund (UN CERF) and United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

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