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Brgy. West Crame’s Journey towards widening the narrow path to resilience

It usually happens in December.

In the last 5 years, the residents of West Crame in the city of San Juan, Manila suffered from major losses of livelihood and properties due to fire. Instead of preparing for the holiday season, people living in narrow streets braced themselves for disaster that could set their dreams aflame.

For the barangay council, illegal connections, octopus wirings and overloading remained the top reasons why Christmases were not merry in some areas of West Crame since 2014. Also, the lack of preparedness from the barangay added to the burden of the said human-induced hazard.

“Iyong pinakaworse noon, hindi pa kami handa sa pagresponde, wala pa kaming gamit, wala pa kaming BDRRM structure. Hindi pa kami handa,”

- Kagawad Lino Trinidad


Even before the child centered urban DRR project commenced in West Crame, members of the San Juan City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (SJDRRMO) identified the communities surrounding the barangay as susceptible to fire. Aside from the issues of electrical connections and preparedness, houses are congested and made of light materials. Roads are narrow and sometimes hindered by double parking. The 2015 study made by the Center for Disaster Preparedness (CDP) and Plan International affirmed that fire is one of the top hazards that put children and community people at risk.

To contribute to the prevention, and eventually reduction of loss of lives and damages to properties, barangay West Crame, took part in several initiatives of the child-centered urban DRR project. Through the project activities, the barangay analyzed their risks collectively and plan concrete actions to ensure the safety of their constituents. Also, the recently concluded fire drill made them realize the importance of giving exceptional effort to preparedness.

“Sobrang laki ng naitulong sa amin [ng mga aktibidad]. Naayos namin ang Contingency at BDRRM plan namin at nadagdagan ang kaalaman namin. [Nakatulong] para mapag-usapan namin ang pros and cons ng aming mga gawain, at nakatulong sa evaluation ng council.”

- Kagawad Azon Catueza

“Doon namin napagtanto ang mga kakulangan kasi may mga ilang kakulangan kami. Kapag natataranta ka na, hindi mo na alam ang ginagawa mo. Kaya napag-usapan naming itatama namin ito.”

- Treasurer Glenda Baldovino

Setting priorities

Despite the lack of material and human resources, the council of barangay West Crame came to realize the need to strengthen their governance mechanisms. Kagawad Lino and his colleagues identified the enhancement of their early warning systems, evacuation maps and their public awareness mechanisms, as well as recruitment of additional human resources as priority areas for improvement.

Kagawad Azon reiterated that they would launch massive information drive about fire through seminars and distribution of IEC materials despite their limited budget to continue what the project had started. Also, the council included awareness-raising of children and youth as one of their priority areas.

“Marami kaming mga proyektong naiisip para sa kabataan, sa TFYD; may mga proyekto rin kami hinggil sa disaster, leadership traning, at bubuo rin kami ng organisasyon para sa kabataan ng

brigada sa pamatay sunog.”

- Kagawad Lino Trinidad

Governance as crucial element

The council of West Crame considered governance as a key element in transforming their communities and ensuring the safety of their people. According to them, cooperation and strong leadership allowed them to discuss the issues and propose measures to address the underlying risks. For secretary Raina Dominga, the child-centered urban DRR strengthened the council’s cohesion.

“Ang naging impact sa council ay naging mas tight ang relationship ng isa’t isa. Nagbe-brainstorm, naiisip ang mga consequences ng mga gagawin nilang decision. Nagkakaroon sila ng cooperation at good relationship,”; “We were happy to experience such grand community-involved activity so that we may learn more in preparing ourselves

and the whole community in case of occurrence of any calamity.”

- Secretary Raina Dominga

The project also paved way for them to identify important areas for mitigation such as double parking and illegal connections. Apart from the electrical wiring and illegal connections, they also pushed for the city government to resolve the double parking of jeepneys which causes obstruction during emergency situations. For kagawad Lino, the barangay’s formulation of DRRM plan and EWS served as an important milestone of their participation in the project. Despite the project’s nearing completion, the council was certain that the gains would continue.

“Buong community ang nakinabang dito kaya proyekto ito ng buong barangay. Kaya naman nasisigurado kong maraming handang tumulong para maipagpatuloy ito.”

- Kagawad Azon Catueza

“Sisikapin namin paunti-unti para kahit papaano’y matugunan namin at maipagpatuloy ang pagkakalat ng kaalaman at kahandaan.”

- Kagawad Lino Trinidad

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