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Trekking steep ranges and bridging gaps

When Typhoon Yolanda ravaged the province of Eastern Samar, many communities both upland and coastal were isolated for days. Many international and local non-government organizations (I/NGOs) and local government units (LGUs) had a hard time reaching out to far flung communities, and took hours or even days to reach them. But these communities were able to manage themselves through their common practices of Pintakasi and sharing of resources to their neighbours. These communities exhibited internal capacities that need to be recognized and systematized.

To the people of barangay Anislag and San Miguel, pintakasi is an integral part of their community life.

Anislag is one of the upland barangays in the municipality of Quinapondan, Eastern Samar. It takes forty-five (45) minutes of habal-habal (motorcycle) ride to trek the rough roads of Anislag. It would also require crossing the mighty Kadak-an River to get to the scenic barangay.

The river’s water level usually increases during the rainy days, making the adjacent communities to the river isolated, especially during typhoons. “Our main problem here in our barangay is our river. Because we don’t have a bridge, we get isolated whenever the water is high during rainy season and sometimes, makes it difficult for us to access services or even for our daily living and transportation, we cannot sell our goods in the market,” Ms. Evelyn Sadongdong, barangay secretary of Anislag explained.

In the case of barangay San Miguel, an upland barangay in the eastern part of Giporlos, it would take thirty (30) minutes of habal-habal from the town proper and an hour hiking to reach the small and humble community. Like Anislag, the ranges are rocky and steep, which makes them isolated during typhoons that even LGU officials were not able to reach them.

A first

“This is the first time that our barangay has been able to conduct trainings on Disaster Risk Reduction and we are very happy about it,” Evelyn shared.

Ms. Abigail Abuyen, barangay secretary of San Miguel agreed. “The people are happy that the Center for Disaster Preparedness and the LGU hiked the mountains of our humble barangay to help us become prepared.”

The trainers from the local governments of Giporlos and Quinapondan led the conduct of community-based DRRM workshops ranging from risk assessments, contingency planning, and barangay DRRM planning workshops. These workshops, as part of the project’s thrust to build the confidence of LGU trainers, facilitated the identification of risks, vulnerabilities and capacities of the community. Said sessions also helped in strengthening the Barangay Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Committees (BDRRMC) in the two barangays.

For barangay chairman Eleuterio Ogsimer, the workshops complemented the initiatives of the barangays to develop their localized mechanisms on DRR. “Before Yolanda, you could see people act like it’s not Signal No. 2 in our province. The workshops and trainings we have conducted really help our constituents increase their awareness and preparedness during disasters.”

It also paved way for the barangays to appreciate the importance of planning for DRR. “Before they were contented on the idea that we have our budget but were not prioritizing the purchasing of DRR equipment of the barangay but today, you can observe in the sessions of the council, whenever they were discussing the budget, their number one priority is DRR,” sec Abigail related. She also took pride in being part of the trainers that facilitated the workshops in her own barangay. “I am happy that I am also able to impart what I have learned to my fellow ka-barangays in San Miguel.”

For the communities like Barangay Anislag and San Miguel, strengthening their own capacities and cohesiveness is essential because of their limited resources, equipment, and even facilities such as evacuation centers. After the workshops, their practice of bayanihan or pintakasi during emergencies was fostered. It was manifested during the conduct of community drill and tabletop simulation exercises where the community people had their share of support and tasks: a big step in changing behaviors.

“Change in our community would not be achieved in an instant. We might not able to easily accomplish what was written in our plans in a very short period of time but slowly, we believe that if we put it in our hearts, then we’ll learn and achieve resilience,” said kap Terio.

“Through the help of the step-by-step lectures you have taught us, these will serve as our guide in our future plans on DRR,” affirmed sec Abigail. “Dako nga bulig. Nachallenge hira. Napaka importante talaga na andam an usa nga barangay (it was a big help, the barangay was challenged and recognized the importance of preparedness),” she concluded.

Linking Communities and LGUs

For Ms. Amelita Avila, a survivor of the typhoon herself, she thinks that the barangays can be prepared if they are adequately capacitated. A staff of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) in Giporlos, Ma’am Amie, as she is dearly called by colleagues in the LGU, advocates in strengthening preparedness mechanisms in barangays through capacitating the BDRRMC and planning.

“An akon batasan, dapat maaram an mga barangay, diri la ha akon kalugaringon kundi dapat an mga barangay maaram hiya (it is important for the barangays, for each families to understand and know how they can prepare during disasters),” Ma’am Amie stressed.

Before the project, ma’am Amie mainly worked on DILG-related work in the municipality until she got involved in the project. “Pinaka karuyag, an ToT, ngan an ha brgy yung roll out na, CBDRRM ngan an drill hin Anislag. Nakakita ako hin actual na eksena ng pagrescue, first time ko pumunta sa Anislag nung drill usa ako nagconvince ha tawo na sige na sumali na hiya kay ipapakita la iton ginbubuhat in case mayda emergency (I really liked the TOT especially the roll-out and the drill. I got convinced on the importance of drill as it teaches us what to do in cases of emergencies),” she warmly said.

According to her, the project provided her an opportunity to become directly involved in DRR work and link it to the barangays. She became a trainer after the TOT, she was among the facilitators in the CBDRRM Sessions and became an observer in the simulation exercise of Barangay Anislag in Quinapondan. She believes that the project was an opportune time for her to engage the barangays to become proactive in DRR.

She was also the one to push in the LGU that there should be a representative from the barangay in the TOT to make it more localized during the roll-out. True enough, Ms. Abigail Abuyen of San Miguel became a trainer herself.

As a LGU staff and trainer, she believes that it is important to help the people enhance their capacities through various trainings especially those in far-flung communities. She also commits herself to bridging the gaps between the barangays, LGU, and DILG. “I believe that all barangays must know how to prepare and respond during disasters not only for my own family or barangay, but all barangays must know how.”

She vowed to continue what the project has taught her: the culture of preparedness especially among the families. “Kami, ha barangay, nakakapagadvise na kami ha mga pamilya ano an ira dapat gawin. Damo it akon nahibaruan na naitututdo ko (I have learned a lot and this motivated me to teach and advise the barangays on what they should do),” she maintained.

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