Disaster widows turn to Internet
ST. BERNARD, Southern Leyte – The tragedy that struck the village of Guinsaugon in St. Bernard, Southern Leyte, killed her husband and child, but Melody Zamora is slowly trying to forget the mudslide that buried her entire village and killed over a thousand people.
The 32-year-old widow is seeking friendship and possibly a romantic relationship, but this time through the Internet.
“I am still young and I want to forget what happened to me. If I will be lucky, I want somebody outside of our town to become my future partner in life,” Zamora said.
“I don’t think I can find somebody from here who is willing to live with me and can give me a good future,” she said matter-of-factly.
Two years ago, when a mudslide buried the entire village of Guinsaugon and killed almost a thousand people, there were no Internet cafés in St. Bernard. Now there are three Internet cafés in St. Bernard, a fourth class town of 25,252 people.
Melody lost her husband Marvin and daughter Sioby May in the landslide that buried Guinsaugon sometime before noon on Feb. 17, 2006. She recovered the body of her husband days after the tragedy but never the remains of her 6-year-old daughter who was then in school among the some 200 elementary pupils that were all presumed dead when boulders and debris covered the school compound.
Zamora was then two months pregnant. When she gave birth to her daughter on Sept. 19 that year, she named her after one of the most popular Disney characters, Cinderella.
Sioby, she said, had wanted a sister and asked her to name her Cinderella, her favorite cartoon character.
Zamora has an older son, Marvin Junior, 8, who now lives with Zamora’s parents in Barangay Tambis, also in St. Bernard. Zamora and Cinderella stay at the New Guinsaugon relocation site.
Zamora said that prior to the tragedy, she never saw or touched a computer. She is still not adept with the technology but this did not stop her from finding somebody through the Internet.
“I asked the owner of the (Internet) café to help me open and operate the computer and he was just glad to help me,” she said.
Since she started chatting just weeks ago, she had “met” some guys from other countries.
Zamora said that she has a steady “chat mate” who sounded interested in her. She would chat with him every Saturday night.
“I’m not the only one who is doing this,” she said.
Another Guinsaugon widow, “Inday,” admitted that she has also resorted to chatting after she lost her husband in the landslide.
“Inday,” who asked not to be identified by her real name, works in a small canteen at the town proper together with Zamora.
And just like Zamora, Inday hopes to have a relationship with someone who could provide her and her family a good future.
The income that the two each earns as workers of the canteen can hardly meet their daily needs.
Canteen owner Virginia Tanquezon said she took the two as her helpers out of pity. “They have their families to feed and they have nothing to do there in Guinsaugon,” she said.
The two receive P50 a day, Tanquezon said. “But there were times that I gave them more than what they were supposed to receive. Sometimes I give them P100 and food to bring to their families,” she said.
While the victims of the landslide were given houses by the national government and various nongovernment organizations at the new Guinsaugon relocation site located in Barangay Magbagacay, life in their new village is difficult.
“There is nothing to do there to eke out a living,” said Leonor Ganda, 38, who has seven children to feed.
Because of the difficulties, two of her teenage sons were forced to stop their high school studies, Ganda said.
The boys now help their father, Rodolfo, 41, at their farm in Nueva Esperanza, a village near Guinsaugon that is also considered a high-risk area for landslides.
“Yes…we have a house of our own but we have no income here. We cannot do some farming in our relocation site. We need food to survive,” Ganda said.
Social Welfare Secretary Esperanza Cabral, who visited New Guinsaugon on Sept. 20, said that the government could not provide everything to the people of Guinsaugon.
“They still have their farms to till. But we are in the process of providing them some livelihood assistance,” she said.
St. Bernard Mayor Rico Rentuza said he was doing what he could to help his people. “We are coordinating with DSWD whatever plans we’ll undertake to help them,” he said.
Cabral, together with Japanese Minister Jiro Okuyama and president and chief executive officer of the Habitat for Humanity Alberto Jugo were in St. Bernard to grace the ceremonial turnover of the shelter assistance project for the victims of the landslide.
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