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After Haiyan, Tarp Makes Beautiful Music

By Jim Stipe

Sitting inside her home near Palo in central Philippines, 64-year-old Cristina Morón heard a sound that had been absent too long. It started slowly, an irregular pattern that picked up intensity until it was a steady roar. It was the sound of rain on her roof.

Cristina Morón sits inside her home in the Philippines

Cristina Morón sits inside her home in the Philippines, completely dry despite heavy rains, thanks to a CRS emergency shelter tarp that replaced her roof. Photo by Jim Stipe/CRS

That roof was a tarp provided by Catholic Relief Services. She and her family would now stay dry during the rainy season.

She used to have a roof, but like those of so many of her neighbors, it's long gone, blown away by the 195 mph winds of Typhoon Haiyan. But she lost more than that to Haiyan. Two of the walls in her home were knocked down by one of the strongest storms ever to make landfall.

After Haiyan moved on, the rains that poured down almost every day were a cruel reminder of what she lost.

Cristina's son, who lives next door, worked hard to rebuild her home, constructing walls with pieces of wood blown into their yard. But there was no way he could patch together a roof that wouldn't leak. All the while, Cristina's house was exposed to all the sky could offer: when it wasn't rain, it was brutally hot sun, with no shade to block its rays.

Though it provided no refuge from the elements, and was not even habitable, Cristina did not abandon the home that once sheltered her and nine other family members.

"The house is very important for us because we don't have anywhere else to go," she says. And that's why a simple tarp means so much to Cristina and the hundreds of thousands of Filipinos who lost their roofs to Haiyan.

CRS is distributing hygiene kits to Typhoon Haiyan survivors.

CRS is distributing hygiene kits to Typhoon Haiyan survivors. The kits include items like a collapsible water container, towels, and body and laundry soap. Photo by Jim Stipe/CRS

CRS moved quickly to distribute more than 40,000 specially designed tarps to Haiyan survivors. When Cristina got hers, she and her son didn't waste any time. They stretched it tightly across the rebuilt walls, securing it like a drumhead so it would turn the rain from a soaking shower into a comforting staccato beat.

"[Now] we don't get rained on and can sleep through the night," Cristina says. Her food and furniture stay dry, and she doesn't have to shift all of her belongings to one side of the house to keep everything dry.

Cristina's house is no longer just a casualty of the storm. It is once again a home.

"I would like to thank CRS and the American people for helping out typhoon victims like us," says Cristina. "Thank you for continuing to help us through this calamity."

Jim Stipe is CRS communications officer for digital and visual media. He is based in Baltimore, Maryland. He prepared this report during temporary duty in the Philippines.

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