Seeking Refuge from the Harsh Realities

Mercy, a 44-year old woman with Down syndrome, waited patiently for her name to be called before making her way to the front row to receive the food items, hygiene kit and water container from Simon of Cyrene during its relief distribution on February 22, 2017.

 

Mercy’s father died in 2005 while her mother passed away last year. She used to live with her brother and his family in their parents’ house. But soon after her mom’s death, their relationship became strained. She decided to move out of their house.

 

Orphaned and homeless, Mercy has found a new home in the lobby of the Municipal Hall of Virac.

 

She could not hide her pride when she informed us that she’s getting paid Php1,500 a month for keeping the municipal lobby clean. She added that the Mayor and the municipal employees treat her kindly. They give her food and gifts.

 

Despite her claim that she’s happier now in her new-found home and family, the fact remains that her living condition is far from perfect. She sleeps in a plastic chair in the lobby...with only a thin blanket to chase away the chill. Her clothes are piled up in a laundry basket, stashed under a table. She sometimes begs for food in the canteen when she has no money.

 

But the biggest danger for Mercy right now is her having to spend the night in the municipal lobby, which is an open area. Save for the security guard, she’s all alone in the municipal hall when the employees go home. Just like what happened on the evening of December 25, 2016 when Typhoon Nina made its landfall in Catanduanes.

 

She was totally unaware of the threat posed by Typhoon Nina. She said that she would have stayed in the lobby all night, mindless of the raging storm around her, were it not for the security guard’s intervention. The guard roused her from her sleeping area and advised her to transfer to the Nutrition Room where she’ll be safer. Fortunately for Mercy, nothing untoward happened to her during the onslaught of Typhoon Nina. But still, she should be made to understand the hazards posed by disasters to her life and safety.

 

Mercy’s child-like demeanour is both endearing and heart-tugging. When asked what she wishes for in life, she suddenly looked straight in my eyes and whispered “I wish my mother is still here. I missed her.” She grew so quiet just then. After a while, her face lit up and she said, “And oh, I also want spaghetti, cake and ice cream for my birthday! I never had those things in my past birthdays.”

 

Mercy’s story strikes a chord on the sad reality of persons with disabilities being left on their own in times of disaster. That is why mainstreaming disability into the regular DRRM Pogram of the Local Government Units should be prioritized to reduce the vulnerability and risks to the lives of PWDs.

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DSWD Authority No. DSWD-SB-A-1647-2017