How a forest of mangroves saved a village from ‘Yolanda’
TACLOBAN CITY, Philippines — The tale of two villages (barangay) in the municipality of Giporlos, Eastern Samar is a clear example of how mangroves can protect people from the wrath of a typhoon’s storm surge, even one as strong as Yolanda (international name: Haiyan).
Barangay Parina is nestled comfortably between two large mangrove forests approximately nine hectares in size which served as a protective cover for the storm surge that rushed inland nearly a year ago.
In contrast, Bacjao (local term for mangrove trees), is located outside of the mangrove area and was completely destroyed when the storm surge swamped the village.
Although both villages didn’t suffer casualties, it was Parina that got off lightly because the mangroves that surrounded the area absorbed the force of the storm surge as residents waited out “Yolanda’s” wrath inside the school and church, said Kagawad (councilor) Serafin Balais Jr., 26 in an interview with INQUIRER.net.
While Bacjao didn’t have mangroves, it’s residents survived because of their early evacuation knowing that their area was a danger zone.
“The rush of the water was not powerful, it just streamed in and also receded slowly for a duration of about five to 10 minutes,” Balais said in Filipino. “In Bacjao where they didn’t have any mangroves, all the houses were destroyed, even the foundations.”
“Most of the houses were made of light materials and were blown away by Yolanda’s winds, around 25 houses remained but were partially damaged,” he said.
The Mangrove forests however, paid the price for standing up to Yolanda. Balais said that only 30 percent of the forest remained intact after facing the world’s strongest typhoon to ever make landfall.
“We are now replanting the forest because it will serve as our protector when future typhoons come,” Balais said. “Mangroves are not uprooted easily, their roots are many and deep which make them really suitable as shield against waves.”
The mangrove replanting is part of Plan International’s cash for work program where local residents are the beneficiaries.
“The Barangay Council already has plans to protect the mangroves because they are not just a good defense for us but also for the future generations. We hope to expand the forest and maintain it. We already have ordinances to outlaw the cutting of mangroves,” Balais said.
Balais told of stories from the older generations that the very ground where their barangay stood was once also part of the Mangrove forest.
Because they have personally experienced the protection of the Mangroves, Balais said that they did not hesitate to advocate to other local governments about their importance.
“Anybody who comes into our barangay, we always tell them what a big help the mangroves have been for us,” Balais said.
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