Tranquil waves crash along the shore in the humble town of Lawaan, a coastal community
along the shoreline of the Leyte Gulf. where people mostly rely on the sea for their livelihood. Houses of different shapes and sizes dot the coastline and surround the national road; one which stretches along the whole locality. Fishing and small-scale trade serve as their primary sources of income, along with other small retail and business establishments.
One of these local entrepreneurs is Eva Lozada, a barangay health worker in the community of Guinob-an, who owns a sari-sari store and ready-to-wear clothes stand in front of her house. Her husband, on the other hand, works as a tricycle driver. Both strive to earn a decent living for their family while taking care of their nine children. Albeit the apparent poverty and dearth in their area, Eva is hopeful that she and her family will be able to weather any storm that life brings them.
Having weathered the most dreadful cataclysm to strike their community, Eva now considers herself more resilient, as her passion for Disaster Risk Reduction and Management (DRRM) grows ever stronger. Now that almost three years had passed, Eva remembers how their peaceful town was ravaged by Typhoon Yolanda, and how she and her family managed to survive the most harrowing storm in their lifetime.
“Dida na han nag uukab-ukab na tam atop, namalhin kami ha day care. Kinanhi nam ha day care, kinmusog an hangin, dinhi la gihap kami parumpagi han hollow blocks” (When our roof started shaking, we transferred to the day care [center]. Once we reached the day care [center], the winds became stronger, causing the hollow blocks to collapse on us), she said. Eva describes the experience as “makaharadlok nga di maintindihan” (terrifying in a way that can’t be understood), and this ultimately compelled her learn more about DRRM.
Opportunely, the immense damage and destruction wrought by the super-typhoon paved the way for local and international civil society organizations (CSOs) to provide not only financial assistance and aid, but also various capacity-building initiatives relevant to DRRM. Having gained a newfound sense of awareness and vigilance toward disasters, Eva actively participated and attended these training sessions together with her fellow barangay members. Most of these trainings, according to the barangay council, became a bit too arduous for the local stakeholders because of the sudden spate of these activities.
Above all these initiatives, Eva noted that only the project implemented by the Center for Disaster Preparedness (CDP) and Arbeiter-Samariter-Bund (ASB) entitled “Persons with Disabilities: Empowered, Engaged” was able to empower local residents to actively engage and get involved in vital planning and decision-making processes. She said, “Nag e-enjoy pag attend ngan nadudugangan an ak pahibaro. Mayda [iba nga training], pero mga civilian man la kami, di kami ginpapa attend. An mga barangay official la an gin papa attend,” (I enjoy attending [these trainings] and it adds to my knowledge. There are other [trainings], but since we’re just ordinary civilians, they don’t let us attend. They only let barangay officials attend.)
Now more empowered to partake in the affairs of the barangay, Eva is even more convinced that her active participation is key toward the resilience of her community. This has not only resonated in her work, but also in their household, where go-bags are now a basic staple. Most of all, she says that the greatest change in her and her neighbors is the improvement in their confidence, enhanced by their dynamic participation in CDP and ASB’s Community-Based Disability-inclusive DRRM trainings.
Beyond this, Eva noted that the project’s special focus on persons with disabilities achieved milestone unlike any other, as it empowered not only the at-risk sectors of their community but also devoted more attention to the plight of the differently-abled. According to her, the project enlightened everyone that whether they’re a mother, a father, child, older person, or person with disability, they have fundamental role to play in their community’s journey toward disaster safety and resilience.
With the lessons of the project now etched in her heart and mind, Eva says, “Yan baga may kapas kami. Bisan la kami sugad na mga civilian la, may kapas kami pag atubang ha sugad ha iyo. An am pagkaintindi han una, an mga barangay official la an puydi umatubang ha iyo. Diri ngani ak maaram kun ano an DRRM han una! Yana, maaram na.” (Now, it’s like we have a sense of worth. Even if we’re just civilians, we have what it takes to face other people. Before, we thought only barangay officials could teach about things like DRRM. I didn’t even know what DRRM was before! Now, I do).