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Filipino typhoon victims still suffer a year later: ask Canadians to help reduce climate change

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Video by Krystle Alarcon

A year after Typhoon Haiyan struck the Philippines, people in Leyte, one of the most ravaged areas, are still coping. In the video below, locals speak about their struggles and what Canada could do.

The National Observer site will launch in April.  But The National Observer's energy and climate reporting begins today, with this story from the ground in November 2014.

The Philippines was the centre of international attention earlier this week as Pope Francis visited Manila and Leyte province, one of the areas ravaged by super-typhoon Haiyan in November 2013. It was the worst typhoon in Philippine history, claiming 6,300 lives. (The numbers may be even higher, as Philippine President Ninoy Aquino initially reduced the death toll.)

Unusual headlines ensued from the Pope’s visit – traffic controllers had to wear diapers to prevent frequent stops to portable bathrooms and street children were caged, locked away from  view of the Catholic leader.

Before the Pope’s arrival, I found that victims of the storm were still recovering, a year after Haiyan’s destruction. 

The hardest-hit are Filipino women, elders and children, who refer to the typhoon as Yolanda. 

Filipino typhoon victims wear muddy clothes on Typhoon Haiyan's first year anniversary, calling attention to the neglect of the Philippine government. All photos by Krystle Alarcon

“Ana” – Prostitution post-typhoon

In a dark corner of downtown Tacloban, the capital city of Leyte, an elderly lady sells coffee and cold beverages for night workers. Two women sit and sip their mugs. They are both prostitutes, she says, her “regulars.”

Ana recently joined the group. At 21, she started working the streets for just two weeks. Ana’s name has been changed to protect her from possible backlash from the community. 

Ana shakes my hand, her skin is gruff, her voice is husky. “I used to be a tomboy,” she says laughing. “But no matter what, I have to feed my daughter. So I started doing this.”

We hop onto Randy Esperas’ tricycle, a popular form of transportation in the Philippines. It consists of a motorcycle with a sidecar attached to it that fits two to three passengers. 

She tells Esperas to take us to Leo’s Lodge. Its bright signs, green decrepit walls, and cheap hourly rents are complete giveaways of a prostitution hub. Ana walks briskly up the stairs towards the reception, passing by a woman with bright magenta lipstick and dilated pupils.

"Ana" stands in front of Leo's Lodge, where she brings her clients.

The room is simple: unmatched sheets on a double-sized bed, a dusty electric fan and dim lights. 

“I take two to three clients per night here,” Ana explains. 

She works just enough to buy milk, diapers and food for her and her little one. She charges 1,000 to 1,500 pesos per session, which is $27 to $40 Canadian.

“Before Yolanda, I used to help fishermen sell their catch. But the pay was low. Now, there’s too much competition, so I just do this,” she explains.

“I sneak out of the house to come downtown – my mother thinks I’m just seeing friends,” Ana says with a tone of shame.

She and her mother haven’t received any government relief. 

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