IOM Staffer embodies the spirit of Tacloban

By Joe Lowry

One man and his dog: IOM procurement officer Edmund Talle at the ruins of his house outside Tacloban last week

“I am a responder and a victim too”, says Edmund Talle, procurement officer with IOM Philippines as we walk towards his home on the edge of Tacloban in the central Philippines. His house was blown clean away along with many of his possessions by typhoon Haiyan, but he still manages to find reasons to be grateful.

He had an anxious wait for news of his wife Aly , but found out as he was set to travel to Tacloban last week, that she was safe. His 20-year-old daughter Chen happened to be in Manila for college exams so she was also spared.

However, his wife had a miraculous escape.

“She has a lot of bruises and minor injuries but she is safe” says Edmond. “She told me that water was rising in our house, and when she tried to get out it suddenly rose to her neck level and she was carried away with debris.

“Then she was picked up by the wind and was literally flying above the houses. She told me she saw a pole at the neighbours’ garden and prayed ‘Lord, Lord let me land there’, and she did. Then some labourers managed to  get to her and carry her to safety.”

We walked  into Edmund’s street, and there it was. Or rather wasn’t. His house was a shell, bits and pieces of his two decades of life and marriage scattered, literally, to the four winds. “There’s my car. And my nice Italian shoes,” said Edmund, pointing around

He greeted his neighbours, all of whom had similar tales to tell. Then a skinny dog ran at us, barking. Edmond shoed her away, but she kept running back.

“Oh my God, oh my God,” wept Edmund, who had kept his tears at bay till now. “Mookie. It’s Mookie. My daughter’s dog. She will be so happy, so happy. I didn’t recognise you Mookie. You got so skinny.”

The sun set, and Edmund regained his composure, telling the dog to mind the family home, what  remains of it. “I’ll come back for you in a few days Mookie”, he promised, walking down the shattered road.

Edmund is part of a growing IOM team in Tacloban, who are beginning to implement a $21.5 million relief programme aimed at providing temporary shelter and non-food aid to thousands of displaced people.

The organization is also allocating funds to ensuring a constant flow of information to and from those affected, as well as working alongside the Philippines government to provide coordination in the displaced centres and evacuation shelters.