Melissa Gibson
Melissa Gibson campaign leader

Part 2: 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

The scene in Barangay Bantigue was similar. Houses and boats destroyed and the community subsisting on relief goods. In one area four massive tamarind trees crushing boats and houses. However, Bantigue is the first place to organize their association for the Back to Sea project. Hope was in the air as the Bantigue Fisherfolk Association elected its officers.

After choosing their leaders and completing their list of estimated damages to boats and implements, TIGRA , on behalf of all its donors, proudly gave P107,000 (or $2,500) through the barangay and association officers. With this money, they can buy the necessary materials and hire builders to repair their boats. It was agreed that Luckie, a local resident and staff of the Bantayan Nature Park and Resort, will monitor the project as it rolls.

The following day, we went with Luckie to survey and verify the submitted list of damages in Barangay Sillon, Bantayan. It was sad to see boats ripped in two, parts scattered meters across the sandy beach. People gather whatever is salvageable, pieces of wood, fishing nets, and boat engines. As a sign of hope, however, some of the boats in Barangay Sillon have been repaired and are out at sea.

While the Back to Sea project is beginning to revive the spirit of bayanihan (similar in meaning to Ubuntu in the African tradition) TIGRA is very aware that this is a painstaking and long-haul process. Fisherfolk are frontrunners to feel the impact of typhoons. But more than that, fisherfolk are frontrunners to feel the impact of big problems like climate change and overfishing. With the long-term recovery of Bantayan still in its early stages, we are hopeful that community organizing will mobilize people to find local solutions to big problems. Lack of education, commercial overfishing and the dearth of local value-added fishing infrastructure are among the big problems that have kept fishing communities the poorest of the poor across the Philippines. Building resilience to disasters needs to also acknowledge that coastal communities are vulnerable to typhoons in large part because of poverty and marginalization.

We have begun to ask some of those hard questions regarding the sustainability of fishing in Bantayan Island and the potential for alternative livelihoods. Other means of livelihood include, planting corn, selling fruits, raising chickens and eggs, seaweed farming, and community-based ecotourism. While livelihood issues are certainly different in each place, there is an overwhelming need to empower local people to assert community participation and community-based solutions. We are looking forward to a more thorough organizing and consultation process in the coming months as we help build local governance capacities through the Back to Sea Project.

If you've already given, please consider making another modest gift. If you haven't, then make a donation to support us in our work to restore boats and re-build lives!

Maraming Salamat! Thank you!

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