Leyte and Samar Visit Report
In November 2013, Typhoon Haiyan — the strongest typhoon ever recorded to make landfall — devastated one of the poorest regions in the Philippines. Members of UNISON Filipino Activist Network (FAN) met to discuss a collaborative plan of action in response to the crisis. It was decided that we will support the Rural Missionaires of the Philippines’ livelihood restoration program. Through their cumulative efforts, UNISON FAN raised over £8,000 (PHP 595,553).
On the 15th and 16th of December 2014, Susan Cueva and I, representing the UNISON Filipino Activists Network and Kanlungan Filipino Consortium UK, together with representatives from the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines, visited two communities who were recipients of aid from the collaborative fundraising efforts of the aforementioned organizations. We had initially planned for a longer trip, visiting a third community, but we had to adjust our itinerary given the then recent difficulties posed by Typhoon Ruby and the closure of the Tacloban airport.
Our first visit was at Baranggay Talisayan, Albuera, Leyte, an area which has been a main focus of our fundraising campaign in the UK. Our arrival was met with much enthusiasm, and the residents prepared a short welcome program. Even though their houses were, again, damaged by the recent typhoon, the residents were in high spirits and were keen to meet representatives of the Filipino migrants in the UK. Five trisikads and a farming buffallo, purchased with the funds they received, were already in operation and were on display during the program.
After the program, we had a meeting with the leaders of the community to discuss in more depth the status of and subsequent plans for their livelihood rehabilitation program. To date, they had purchased a farming buffallo, five trisikads, and some of the seeds for farming. They showed us the plot of land where they intend to implement their communal farming plans, as well as where they were planning to excavate for their fish farm.
Susan led the discussion with the residents. She asked probing questions on the specificities and sustainability of their livelihood restoration program — from how they are sharing the income from the water buffalo, the terms of the trisikad rental and plans for its upkeep, and how they intended to feed the fish in their prospective fish farm. Some members of the community were not literate, and they had assigned a secretary and an accountant to keep a record of their expenses and their implementation plans. The community leaders generally gave satisfactory answers to the questions, demonstrating ample practical knowledge in the logistics of their plans for the communal farm and fishpond. The representatives of the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines, who have extensive experience in the field of farming, also assured us of the close monitoring and extensive support program they have for the farming community, to see to it that the funds are maximized and that the livelihood restoration program is sustainable.
Baranggay Lamingaw, Villareal, Samar
Lamingaw, Villareal, Western Samar was one of the towns that was hit hard by Typhoon Ruby last December 2014. The Rural Missionaries of the Philippines requested that we divert some of the funds originally intended for Haiyan victims’ livelihood rehabilitation program to help with the immediate relief of communities victimized by Ruby. Villareal has always been among the communities that were supposed to be recipients of the Kanlungan and UNISON funds, as they were also affected by Haiyan and have not received any livelihood support from International NGOs.. After consulting with Nalin Cooke and the board of the UNISON Eastern Region, we agreed that some of the funds from the Eastern Region can be re-allocated for Typhoon Ruby victims. So, on the 16th of December, we went to Baranggay Lamingaw to distribute aid packages to families. Included in the aid distribution, which were divided among the 325 families in Villareal, were rice, mongo, sugar, coffee, and canned goods.
Lamingaw is an isolated island off the coast of Villareal. Upon arrival, the destruction by Ruby was most conspicuous. There was no electricity on the island. People were working on the coast, repairing damaged boats. The houses along the shore were almost completely dilapidated, with entire walls blown away, roofs and floors were on the brink of caving in. With the help of Tabang EV and RMP, we gathered in the town’s covered court, explaining the terms of how the goods were going to be dispersed and divided amongst the residents.
Immediately after the dispersal of relief goods, we went to the house of one of the leaders of the Lamingaw Fisherfolk Association, the main recipients of aid in Lamingaw. They explained their plans for recreating a mussel farm, which had been devastated by Ruby. Since they already had one in operation previously, they knew what and how much they needed. We expressed worries about the sustainability of their livelihood, given the inevitability of future typhoons. Upon learning that the crucial raw material for their mussel farm is a type of tree which is easily grown, we agreed to allocate funds for the purchase of the seedlings of the plant, so that they have the ability to grow the wood that they need to use regularly for growing the mussels. One of the community leaders offered half a hectare of his land for growing the wood. This will enable the sustainability of the livelihood as this wood is the most expensive capital outlay for growing mussels.