A Solid Foundation

A Solid Foundation: Building stronger and safer houses for typhoons

Publication info

Dennis Amata, CARE Philippines

As typhoon season in the Philippines approaches, people living in rural areas begin to worry. n the remote and agriculture-dependent village of Balagan in Santo Nino, Cagayan, the people have a different response.

Residents of Balagan in Northern Philippines know that appropriate preparation is key to minimize the impact of disasters. The village is prone to flash floods because of its proximity to the huge Cagayan River, the country's longest and widest river. 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,” says Jocelyn Ancheta, a 48-year-old farmer who lost her house after the raging waters of Cagayan River swept it away. “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."

Remedios Allorda also lost her house after the typhoon. Remedios, a 75-year-old widow, lives alone. “I immediately evacuated to my son’s house when I felt that the 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,” Remedios says.

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 community members 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. Tarpaulins and posters information on smart construction in Filipino were hung in strategic locations throughout the community.

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

“We visited the houses daily to check if [project participants] were able to apply the BBS principles. Some households were able to build in less than a month, while others took some time because of the availability issues on some materials and additional funds,” roving team member Jocel Ramos says. “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 shared some extra materials to those who are in need, especially to older people and single mothers."

Jocelyn decided to build a new house in a much safer location after attending the BBS sessions. She also learned about the techniques and worked with her husband to ensure that they were 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,” Jocelyn says.

Remedios thinks that her new house will be 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," she says. "We are now more prepared for future disasters."

*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