Still living in a tent and still hoping for aid

Jovito Iglesia Jr., left, and his friend, Mariano Lozandi, pose in front of a tent, where they both still live in San Jose, Tinian, after their apartment/barracks were destroyed by Super Typhoon Yutu last October. (Ferdie de la Torre)

Third part of a series

Editor’s Note: This is part of a continuing series of articles where Saipan Tribune examines the continuing impact of Super Typhoon Yutu, more than six months since it hit Saipan and Tinian in October 2018.

TINIAN— Six months after Super Typhoon Yutu walloped a large portion of Tinian, and with many people already slowly recovering from the devastating storm, Jovito Iglesia Jr. is still living in a tent.

That is mostly because all of his belongings were destroyed by the typhoon and he is now jobless.

“It’s very hot in the tent,” he said, as he always keeps its flaps closed. If its flaps are open, mosquitoes and flies would fly in.

Two months after Yutu’s destruction last Oct. 24 and 25, Iglesia, 52, a obtained a tent through the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Temporary Emergency Tent and Roofing Installation Support, or TETRIS, program.

The TETRIS program on Tinian and Saipan ended last February. FEMA then started transitioning many residents into its permanent housing program.

Iglesia, who hails from Southern Leyte in the Philippines, used to live in an apartment room made of wood that he rented. The apartment was destroyed during the typhoon. When Yutu was battering the island, he was at an evacuation center.

The place where his tent was installed is not on level ground, though, causing water to flood the tent when it rains. This prompted Iglesia to dismantle his tent two months ago and move to a nearby tent that is occupied by his friend, Mariano Lozandi, a mechanic.

Iglesia said Yutu destroyed his belongings, mostly electronics and musical instruments worth close to $10,000. Iglesia is a singer by profession.

He is appealing for the second time for financial assistance from FEMA, which, according to him, denied his application as he was not eligible.

Iglesia said he feels sad and stressed because he knows many who are not U.S. citizens or permanent residents but were able to obtain FEMA financial assistance, while others who are legally working, like himself, were denied aid.

Iglesia is hoping that FEMA will reconsider its decision, so he could resume his life or possibly return to the Philippines. He has lived on Tinian since 1993.

Iglesia said that, although he loves the island, he is ready to go back to his hometown in Southern Leyte. His two children have already finished college and are now working.

He has mixed feelings about going back to his country. “I don’t know how to explain the feeling,” he said, adding that he loves the island because it is very peaceful, clean, and people know each other.

A Tinian official, who requested anonymity, told Saipan Tribune that those who remain in tents used to stay in apartments/barracks that were destroyed in the typhoon.

The official said FEMA would not give money to repair the damaged apartments and advised the owners to instead get a loan from the Small Business Administration.

The landlords would not get a loan just to repair the apartments. They however, have agreed to let their tenants set up tents in their property.

Tinian Mayor Edwin Aldan said there are about seven to eight households/people who are still living in tents and the mayor’s office has been helping them.

“They know where the mayor’s office is and they know that its service is 24-7,” he said.

Aldan said about 90 percent of the island’s households and businesses now have access to electric power and water supply.

Ferdie De La Torre | Reporter
Ferdie Ponce de la Torre is a veteran journalist who has covered all news beats in the CNMI. Born in Lilo-an, Cebu City in the Philippines, De la Torre graduated from the University of Santo Tomas with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. He is a recipient of many commendations and awards, including the CNMI Judiciary’s prestigious Justice Award for his over 10 years of reporting on the judiciary’s proceedings and decisions. Contact him at ferdie_delatorre@saipantribune.com

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