Gov’t too slow? ‘Yolanda’ victims rebuilding on their own
Amid the controversy over alleged overpricing of bunkhouses in communities ravaged by Supertyphoon “Yolanda,” a coastal community in Dulag, Eastern Leyte, is trying to get back on its feet without help from the government.
Tapping their innate community spirit and using only their own strength and resources, 180 families in the coastal village of Luan in Dulag, 33 kilometers south of Tacloban City, are rebuilding their homes.
But instead of bunkhouses, where numerous families live crammed together in one shelter, the residents of Luan are rebuilding their houses where these once stood, or, at least, in places near the original sites.
“All the residents are in their own places. No one is in the evacuation site or in a tent,” said Dr. Marie Ann Corsino, a pediatrician based in Tacloban and Dulag who started the project.
“From the donations of our three biggest donors, we are now assisting 79 families for less than P900,000. Isn’t it amazing?” Corsino said.
Corsino said the residents owned the land where their former houses stood, making the construction of bunkhouses “inappropriate.”
Luan is one of the 45 villages in Dulag, peopled mostly by farmers (85 percent); construction workers, mostly carpenters and laborers (10 percent), and fishermen (5 percent).
Most of the houses in the village before the typhoon hit were made of light materials.
Corsino, who also manages a lying-in clinic in Dulag, said most women in the village were housewives. Of the 400 adults there, only 15 to 20 finished college.
Corsino said the idea of providing shelter for her neighbors came to her right after the typhoon.
“Out of about 180 houses in our village, only about five were left standing,” she said. “Our (house) was the only one left with an intact roof, except for part of the garage that was damaged by a fallen tamarind tree.”
Plea for help
Corsino recounted how, after spending two weeks asking for donations from relatives in Manila, she returned home to help rebuild the houses in the village.
She said she knew food and water would not be a problem because most families kept stocks of rice and there were deep wells in the village.
Corsino had prepared well for the typhoon. She had an extra 20 liters of gasoline for her car, 8 liters of kerosene, a small chest freezer with about 50 kilos of meat and fish, four sacks of rice, 30 sacks of paddy and a cupboard full of groceries.
But after nine days of sharing the food with neighbors, the frozen goods started to run out.
“When we were about to open the canned goods to eat, I decided to go to Manila to secure my mother and ask for assistance from my relatives and friends,” she said.
She posted her plea for help on her Facebook wall, and numerous friends and relatives immediately responded.
From the initial donation, she bought a chain saw, enabling her family to cut fallen coconut trees and turn them into lumber for distribution to the families whose houses were destroyed.
Corsino said it took her two weeks to solicit help in Manila, and the rebuilding of the houses in the village has been going on for four weeks.
“It takes two to three days to complete the set of lumber for each house. We have provided the needed lumber to only 16 families so far,” she said.
“We are in our fourth week of actual work now and at the rate that we are going, I hope to finish this project in Luan before summer and move on to another village perhaps?” she said, winking.
Corsino said the reconstruction was moving fast because of tremendous support from private donors.
Aside from lumber, which Corsino’s family gives out for free, the residents receive corrugated galvanized iron sheets for the roofing, plywood for walls, and nails—all bought from a local hardware store, which delivers the materials for free.
“I go to each house to determine whether the family needs assistance, that is, if they don’t have other relatives to help,” Corsino said. “I estimate and compute what they need, and ask if they are willing to help other families and join the [community] project.”
Amount of aid
The amount of aid each family receives varies, depending on the damage to the house.
“For those whose houses were destroyed, we build a 4×5-meter house, which usually needs 12 pieces of GI sheets for roofing, 10 pieces of marine plywood for walling and a set of lumber,” Corsino said.
“For damaged houses, we provide the GI sheets needed and the plywood to cover the entire floor,” she said.
Depending on the damage, the cost of rebuilding a house ranges from P8,000 to P20,000 or P25,000, excluding lumber.
In return, the recipients of assistance join the community project and work for free.
The villagers have divided themselves according to their skills: carpenters help rebuild the houses; some cut coconut trees; others transport the lumber. The rest help clear the village of storm debris.
It takes five to seven days to rebuild a house, Corsino said.
“We have two to three groups of carpenters and helpers but the availability of lumber and other materials usually prolong the building process,” she said.
“As we have only one chain saw, the lack of finished lumber delays the completion of the house even after we have distributed the other building materials,” she said.
All of the aid came from private individuals and groups, she said.
“Most of them are my relatives and friends and colleagues in UP-PGH (University of the Philippines-Philippine General Hospital), UP Manila and FNRI-DOST,” Corsino said.
Philanthropist couple Mai Ling Turner and Hamish Bowden and teacher photographer Tash McCarroll donated more than P500,000, she said.
Dr. Rhodora Ocampo of Healthserv and Madre de Amor Hospice Foundation also gave P150,000, she said.
“The beneficiaries are very grateful,” she said.
Corsino remembered an old woman who tried hard to express her gratitude in English.
“I told her that the donors were English-speaking,” she said.
The old woman first expressed her gratitude in Filipino then translated it into English.
“How can you not want to help these people?” Corsino said.
More donors, other towns
Corsino thanked all the donors, who allowed her to help the people of Luan.
“At first, I expected only some friends to help but their generosity was amazing,” she said.
She said she hoped that what the donors have done for Luan will attract attention and encourage other donors to help other communities in Leyte that have been destroyed by Yolanda.