'We are not looting. We are just looking for something to eat'

'We are not looting. We are just looking for something to eat'
Mr Samuel Bacalla, 35, his wife Marites, 31, and their children – a five-month-old boy and a three-year-old girl – put up at a temporary shelter in Tacloban city. Mr Bacalla says that since Nov 8, he has received just one relief pack of rice, canned food and water.

For Mr Samuel Bacalla, 35, life has been reduced to scavenging for food, carving out whatever semblance of normality he can from the disjointedness, and wondering whether life could get any worse.

"I feel less of a man," the fishmonger told The Straits Times at his makeshift 2m by 2m shelter - a lean-to against a wall, made of a piece of cloth and narrow pieces of wood - in an evacuation centre at Tacloban's city hall complex.

The day for him starts at 5am while his wife and children, a five-month-old boy and a three- year-old girl, are still asleep on a cement floor with a thin blanket for bedding.

This is when he walks towards a relief tent, also within the city hall complex, and queues to have his cellphone - an old one given to him by a volunteer - recharged. His own phone was lost during the scramble to safety.

Super Typhoon Haiyan levelled Mr Bacalla's house and most of the rest of Tacloban city in Leyte province on Nov 8.

Like most survivors, he and his family survived by climbing to the roof of his house before a 7m-high storm surge created by Haiyan's strong winds swept in.

After charging his phone, at around 7am, Mr Bacalla will then venture into parts of the city where the destruction is most severe - because police will not let them go into structures that are still standing - and, for hours, dig among the rubble and decomposing heap for whatever food items he can find.

He favours places that used to be markets or groceries. Most of the time, he finds nothing but debris. However, there are occasions when he stumbles on a "lucky find" - a can of sardines or a pack of instant noodles, for instance. Mr Bacalla took offence at the word "looting", when this reporter suggested that this was what he was doing.

"We're not looting," he said. "We're just looking for something to eat."

He says that since Nov 8, he has received just one relief pack of rice, canned food and water.

He was told by city officials when he asked for more help to look for his village chief, but the man had gone missing.

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