Philippines: Jesuit Missions update on Typhoon Haiyan

Coastline houses in Culion
Coastline houses in Culion

When Typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines in 2013, Jesuit Missions responded with an immediate emergency appeal to support local partner Simbahang Lingkod ng Bayan (SLB) a Philippine Jesuit run organisation. This partnership has continued as SLB has developed long-term projects for this disaster-prone area.

Supported by Jesuit Missions, SLB began the construction of Ecoville in Culion, Palawan in 2015. Ecoville is a housing project designed to be more resilient and safer from future typhoons. It is located uphill, not far from the fishing grounds, but well protected from natural disasters.

Tyhoon Haiyan had exposed the dangers of living along the shorelines, which had always seemed the most practical due to the fishing nature of the community, and since Haiyan there has been an increased frequency of damaging typhoons. More than a hundred vulnerable families will benefit from this housing project which aims to be complete by June 2018.

SLB have been working alongside SAMAKASI, an organisation which develops sustainable and integrated livelihoods for the disaster-prone community. It is a multi-faith group that has been working with Haiyan survivors in Culion, Palawan.

Part of the work has been to train people on how best to be prepared in the future should another disaster occur. Local indigenous residents were able to sign up to the Ecoville program, providing they were willing to participate in the activities and training seminars by SAMAKASI.

Nanay Genelia is one woman who has benefitted from this scheme. It took her family one month to reconstruct their house after the typhoon, but their shelter was still prone to disaster. Ecoville will provide a more stable and safe concrete unit. As part of her membership with SAMAKASI, she is able to sometimes sell produce from the group fishing unit when her husband is unable to fish. It allows her a safety net to fall back on. SAMAKASI also works with other enterprises such as growing livestock and selling souvenirs.

There have been many factors which have slowed down the building process of Ecoville, mainly the complex political dynamics in the locality but the local government is now on board and SLB is hopeful that the work will be completed by the end of the year.
Nanay Genelia proudly resonates with this ultimate vision: “Sama-sama kaming maging matatag ba (Together we strive to be resilient).”

The road to their dream might have proven to be tough, but the locals of Culion, like Nanay Genelia, have also proven to be determined to make this dream their norm.

Richard Greenwood, Outreach and Communications Manager at Jesuit Missions, visited the area in May 2015 and says:

“It’s great to see the work continue and see such significant progress since 2015. We know that these new homes will make a huge difference for the community, protecting livelihoods and providing greater protection from future threats.”

This article was originally published on Jesuit Missions' website.