They are the ‘children of the storm,’ reborn from the rubble of Super Typhoon Yolanda’s aftermath in 2013. The People Surge, a movement of typhoon survivors built from Ground Zero of the most powerful typhoon in world history, transformed hapless victims of disaster neglect in the Eastern Visayas region into seekers of justice.
Bearing the banner of People Surge was its chair, Dr. Efleda Bautista. A retired principal and local civic leader, Dr. Efleda survived Tacloban City’s massive storm surges but witnessed how many did not. The movement’s face was its spokesperson, Marissa Cabaljao, a young peasant woman who found her voice amid the despair and anger of thousands of victims with whom she shared the common cry for justice.
Realizing how their plight was not a deadly fortuitous event but a result of State abandonment and climate shocks, People Surge and thousands survivors shook the nation on the first anniversary of Typhoon Yolanda with a series of protests crying “Justice for the Victims of Typhoon Yolanda!” from Eastern Visayas to the heart of Metro Manila.
Through wave upon wave of protests outside various government offices and agencies even up to Malacanang Palace itself, the People Surge has been victorious in expanding the beneficiaries of Emergency Shelter Assistance (ESA) in 2015-2016 and the Presidential Financial Assistance Program (PFA) in 2017. Despite the negligence by local governments, People Surge was still able to respond to these challenges through the empowerment of their communities.
People Surge also took the lead in the campaign against Leyte Tide Embankment Project (LTEP), a mega infrastructure project that is purported to prevent storm surges with over 7 billion pesos worth of funding from the Department of Public Works and Highway (DPWH). However, investigations by People Surge with environmental groups found that the construction of the LTEP will result into the denudation of mangrove forests stretching across 27.3 kilometers along the coastline and will displace hundreds of families. The movement brought the plight of Yolanda survivors to the international scene, as Dr. Efleda served as a global climate ambassador during the historic 400,000-strong People’s Climate March held in New York City.
Being the communities that have suffered the effects of changing climate, People Surge has played a significant role in voicing out the stand of poor communities on how to confront the worsening climate crisis. Many disasters have struck Eastern Visayas since then, and Dr. Efleda and the People Surge continue to be vigilant over the plight of survivors, old and new.