When Super Typhoon Odette hit the Philippines in December 2021, one of the provinces heavily damaged was Palawan. Reports from the province’s provincial information officer state that Palawan sustained an estimated P7.8 billion damage in “agriculture and farm structures, government and private infrastructure, utilities system and residential houses.” This is from their partial assessment of Palawan’s 23 towns, including Puerto Princesa City.
The Center for Disaster Preparedness (CDP) surveyed the needs of two barangays (four sitios) affected by the typhoon and validated the results through community consultations. After these, aid was delivered to the respective communities.
Sitio Bagong Lipunan
Seeds for backyard gardening and farming
Arlene Bacaltos, 36 years old and a resident of Sitio Bagong Lipunan in Puerto Princesa City, said their roof was blown off due to the strong winds and rains. At that time, she was with her child and her pregnant sister who also had two kids with her. The five of them huddled under the sink, where they felt comfortable and safe since they could not hear the gusting winds. They stayed there from 7 pm to midnight. When the storm subsided, they found an area in their house that still had a roof on it, so they moved their bed there and stayed there. While their floor tiles were covered in mud and their house collapsed by the wind, Arlene is thankful to the Lord because they are safe and were not hurt. She said they still get by as her husband still has his job in Batangas.
Lourdes Ayson Pastrana, 67, recalls her shock upon seeing the water flooding their house. “It was a downpour. We don’t get flooded when it rains here. This is the first time this has happened to us.”
She remembers going down their stairs, but the water was already up to her neck and she did not know how to swim. She had no choice but to go back up and pass through a window to get out. She went to the Adventist church, where her neighbors and some relatives had already evacuated. At about 7 or 8 pm that night, the winds got stronger and blew off their church’s roof! They held on to the chairs all night and did not dare stand up, for fear of being blown by the strong winds and getting hurt.
When the winds subsided, a neighbor went to see them at the church and asked if they could also stay there. They then arranged the church chairs and placed sheets on those for their shelter. They were eight families at the Adventist church at that time. Lourdes says they were wet from the storm all night, shivering from the cold, but they were okay since they had a makeshift shelter where the rain could not pass through.
In the aftermath, she went home to find that her house did not have a roof anymore. The mud reached up to her thighs and they had to shovel those out. Their things, including their refrigerator and television, were all destroyed by the flood.
Arlene and Lourdes are just two of the residents in Sitio Bagong Lipunan who were affected by the typhoon Odette. Others also suffered damage to their homes and livelihood.
Based on the survey, the community needed seeds for planting in their backyards or farms. Two batches of assorted seeds were delivered to them, the first batch given to 70 families. One of the residents said these were a great help as come harvest time, they would not need to buy food for their family anymore, and they could also sell their extra harvests for livelihood. Another said that it would help them financially as they could start farming again without needing to buy seeds for planting.
The next batch of relief came from DMPFI. Manna rice and solar lamps were also given to selected families.
Sitio Bagong Silang
Water hose and roofs
Residents of Sitio Bagong Silang had the same experience with the typhoon. Grace, pregnant with her third child, recalls leaving their home with her two kids and nothing more. She had no radio and did not expect the flood as it has never happened in their area before. She and her children were soaked the whole night, and in the aftermath, they looked for dry clothes they could change into. As of March 2022, they already have someplace to sleep– not in their previous location but somewhere higher – Grace is now afraid and could not sleep whenever it rains.
Nanay Bienvenida, former chieftain of the Tagbanua tribe, had another story. Households in their community had partially damaged houses and were therefore not a priority when it came to aid, but she still went up, hoping for some help. When aid does come to them, they first ask for whom it should be given. She said they understand that not everyone will be given, especially those whose houses were only partially damaged.
Sitio Bagong Silang’s purok leader initially wanted a water hose as relief for their community, but some of the residents, especially those with totally damaged houses, did not agree as their priority was their roofs. CDP tried to cater to both of the community’s needs and after a community consultation, it was agreed that the roofs would be the priority and the remaining budget would be used for the hose that would bring water from the source to the main part of the community.
True to their sitio’s name, residents of Sitio Pinagkaisa united and helped each other after typhoon Odette. Those with sturdy houses willingly sheltered their neighbors whose houses were damaged.
Residents with totally- and partially damaged houses wanted roofs, and the CDP team was able to provide each one of them, for a total of nine roofs.
The community assessment and response were made possible with the help of several partners and donors. CDP partnered with the National Anti-Poverty Commission and the Palawan Adventist Community Service on the ground, the Philippine Preparedness Partnership (PhilPrep) funded the assessment, and online donations, Global Giving, and DMPFI funded the response.