Nov 15 9:56 PM

In rural community devastated by Typhoon Haiyan, resilience reigns

DAANBANTAYAN, PHILIPPINES — It felt as if we'd reached the end of the world.

After hours of driving through debris and devastation wrought last week by Typhoon Haiyan, we arrived this morning at the far northern end of Cebu Island to a tiny community that faced the force of the super typhoon's path.

Even when times are good, this cluster of villages that makes up Daanbantayan is hardly a wealthy community, its mayor Augusto Corro told me.

There are some farms and some fisherman who catch tuna in the waters here. But the typhoon has decimated all of that.

About 80,000 people live in this part of the province, so it's almost a miracle that only nine here died from Typhoon Haiyan. Mayor Corro says that's because when leaders demanded evacuations, the community responded and went to the 32 evacuation centers.

But more than 90 percent of homes here were destroyed or damaged when the deadly typhoon barreled through. Two of the biggest problems facing people now, Mayor Corro said, are the lack of shelter and the threat of disease.

Still, as bad as it is now, Mayor Corro said he is grateful, both for a steady stream of outside help that started almost as soon as the winds died down, and the helping hands of locals who have been volunteering at his office to offload donations and transfer them to the people who need them most.

But getting goods to the most isolated rural communities, like the village of Maya, will pose a bigger challenge. Community leaders there have been promised that the power lines will be picked up and the power restored. They've also been promised that it's going to take, however, at least a month.

Remarkably, even with school after school ripped apart, the district plans to invite students to attend on Monday, and the children tell me they plan to be there.

As hard as it is to believe, the mayor insists he's optimistic about the future.

Some leaders have instructed residents to go away from the affected areas, but Mayor Corra said he is telling people to stay put. "We are going to rebuild our house. We can still stand," he said. "With the assistance of foreign countries, our national government, there's a lot of helping hands that's coming in. ... Nobody will give up."

Between the broken houses along the debris-strewn lanes, the work has already begun, and the mayor promises anything that comes from outside will make a difference.

Explore Al Jazeera America's ongoing coverage of Typhoon Haiyan


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