Melissa Gibson
Melissa Gibson campaign leader

Report from Bantayan, Cebu:
Building Community Resilience in the Wake of Typhoon Yolanda
By Melissa Gibson and Taks Barbin, TIGRA-Philippines
who visited Bantayan Island in early December 2013

Twenty days after the disaster, the people of Bantayan Island are far from forgetting Typhoon Yolanda. Houses and boats are in pieces and trees felled or turned bald of their crowning husks. The island used to look like an oasis, but now there is nothing to protect the land from the scourging heat of the sun. With only the rough road cleared from debris, the island's natural environment and its 120,000 people are facing years of recovery and rehabilitation work.

Out of the 25 Barangays (similar to a ward or district in the United States, usually comprised of at least 100 families) in Bantayan, 20 are majority fisherfolk communities. Since Yolanda destroyed their boats, fishnets and crab cages, the people have no other choice but to rely on relief efforts for food.

"One to two weeks," one of the survivors answered when, Allan Monreal, TIGRA's key partner in Bantayan asked a leading question: "how long will your supply of relief goods last?" Bantayanons realize that they cannot go on like this forever, waiting for food to come. Out of the many organizations sending aid, only few are really concerned with long-term impacts. TIGRA is one of them.

Through its local partner the Bantayan Island Association, TIGRA is supporting the Back To Sea Project. It is a project that encourages fishing communities to organize themselves and administer the repair and replacement of boats and fishing implements damaged by Yolanda. Where there is no organization, TIGRA is helping to form community associations who elect their officers, list the damage and cost of replacement, and begin planning for the future. In each barangay there will be a boat repair station that hires skilled local boat-builders.

TIGRA has pledged up to P100,000 to each barangay so that they can buy materials for repairing their boats. In the long run individual beneficiaries of the Back to Sea project will have to pay half of the money back to a rolling fund of the association. It is an initiative that recognizes the capability of the community to trust each other, organize, and decide amongst their membership. The project recognizes that community organizing is the core requisite for real resilience.

We were able to visit with residents of a few Barangays. In Barangay Atop-Atop, we saw a fisherman rebuilding his boat with materials from his destroyed house. The houses and boats were destroyed either by strong winds or fallen trees. In Barangay Malbago, we spoke with a fisherman in his relief tent, having canned sardines for lunch. He said that he and his family have 20 more cans of sardines for the coming week. It was pretty ironic to see a fisherman eating fish from a can.

To be continued.... See Part 2

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