A Solid Foundation

A Solid Foundation: Building stronger and safer houses for typhoons

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Dennis Amata, CARE Philippines

Now with typhoon season already approaching the Philippines, the worry of people living in rural areas starts to grow. In the remote and agriculture-dependent village of Balagan in Santo Nino, Cagayan, the people have a different response.

While the strength of typhoons continues to intensify because of climate change, residents of Balagan in Northern Philippines know that appropriate preparation is key to minimize impact of disasters. The village is considered prone to flash floods because of its proximity to huge Cagayan River, the longest and widest river in the country. The village was severely hit by Typhoon Haima (locally known as Lawin) in October 2016 leaving people with damaged rice fields and destroyed houses.

“It was the strongest typhoon we’d experienced! My house wasn’t even spared and I wasn’t able to save my belongings,” shared Jocelyn Ancheta, a 48-year-old farmer who completely lost her house after the raging waters of Cagayan River swept it away.

Jocelyn used to live a few meters away from Cagayan River which is considered a danger zone. She later realized that she should have listened to warnings before the typhoon hit.

“Life after the typhoon was extremely tough. We lost our house and the rice fields were all damaged. We were about to harvest and we couldn’t help but witness how the destructive typhoon took our livelihoods away in a snap,” added Jocelyn.

Also living in Balagan for decades, Remedios Allorda also lost her house after the typhoon. Remedios, a 75-year-old widow, lives alone in her house since all of her children have their own families already.

“I immediately evacuated to my son’s house when I felt that that typhoon was getting stronger. The next day when I rushed to my house, I saw that it was totally destroyed. My roof was blown off and all of my clothes and personal things were washed out,” said Remedios.

CARE, in partnership with Cagayan Valley Disaster Response Center (CVDRC) immediately responded to the needs of the affected people in six remote villages in Santo Nino, including Balagan. Through the financial support of the Government of Canada, CARE provided cash assistance (128 CAD per household) that could be used for both construction labor and procurement of necessary repair materials.

Also, CARE conducted “Build back safer” (BBS) sessions with local carpenters and members of the community to help them build disaster-resilient houses. They were taught construction techniques such as proper bracing and roofing, using strong joints, building on strong foundations and safe locations. These techniques gave the project participants awareness and knowledge on how to make their houses safer and more durable. Tarpaulins and posters about the BBS key messages in Filipino language were also hung in strategic locations in the community.

The recipients of the support were also given the decision to buy materials based on their specific needs and to address BBS requirements. They were also able to save money on transportation and hauling of shelter materials when they procured as a group from a single supplier. The group was also able to negotiate for free delivery of shelter materials to their community and received other discounts due to their bulk order.

CARE and CVDRC also organized a “Shelter Roving Team” composed of a community mobilizer and two trained carpenters who would go around and check the progress of the repair or construction in the community.

“We visited the houses daily to check if they (project participants) were able to apply the BBS principles. Some households were able to build less than a month while others took some time because of the availability issues on some materials and additional funds,” said Jocel Ramos, roving team member.

“What’s good about our community is we practice mutual aid and cooperation or what we call ‘bayanihan.’ We helped each other during the repair. Some provided free labor while others also shared some extra materials to those who are in need, especially to older people and single mothers,” added Jocel.

Jocelyn decided to build a new house in a much safer location after attending the BBS sessions. She also learned about the techniques and jointly worked with her husband to ensure that these are applied in their new house.

“Now I feel more comfortable in our new house. I can already sleep soundly every night. Whenever we experience strong rains, I am more self-assured that this house will be able to withstand,” shared Jocelyn.

Also, on the other hand, Remedios thinks that her new house is even more long-lasting compared to her son’s house.

“My children were telling me that if there’s another typhoon, my house could now be their go-to place.”

“We really thank CARE, CVDRC and Canada for reaching our community. Probably, without the support, it would have been more difficult for us to recover. Now aside from having newly repaired and built houses, we are now more prepared for future disasters,” shared Remedios.

*All photos credited to Dennis Amata/CARE

Strong houses, an even stronger community. Everyone has a chance when we face the storm together. Photo Credit: Dennis Amata/CARE