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Special Features | National

WATCH: BAGONG BUHAY SA BANTAYAN | Disaster-resilient housing unveiled to island folk

This array of disaster-resilient houses in Barangay Maricaban, Bantayan, is part of Prudence Foundation's housing project. Photo by CHAD DE GUZMAN
The online news portal of TV5

CEBU, Philippines—Three years after Typhoon Yolanda struck the Visayas, badly-hit Bantayan Island looks nothing like the disaster-stricken area that it was before, now drawing in tourists eager to lodge in numerous resorts dotting the pristine white beach.

But while travellers can stay in Bantayan Island at ease, permanent housing for the 126,000 island folk remains a problem as most were displaced after the 313 kph winds of Haiyan (Yolanda's international name) toppled over their homes—made of plywood and yero [galvanized iron sheets].

Relief and recovery operations concentrated on Tacloban and other Leyte towns, where storm surges seven meters high wiped out communities, leaving more than 7,000 people dead or missing, and 60,000 families homeless.

“When we first got there it’s like all disaster zones: you see people living in tents, you know their homes are destroyed. Ironically, people in the Philippines seem to have an amazing attitude. That always surprised me,” Prudence Foundation Executive Director Marc Fancy said recently, after assessing the island’s need for support.

Prudence Foundation had initiated a $2-million housing pledge for the homeless residents of Bantayan.

“When you see any humanitarian story or crisis, it hits you,” Fancy adds. “The world reacted very quickly for a reason. It was a devastating storm, and unfortunately it’s becoming more and more frequent in Asia.”

On the program's fourth leg which ran from June 18 to 25, Prudence Foundation had managed to contribute a fourth of the construction requirements for the 62 houses as part of the Bantayan housing program, inviting volunteers from countries in Southeast Asia as well as benefactors of housing projects in the area.

Jimmy Elbuena, a 46-year old fisherman, received a house last December which is situated 12 kilometers from the shore, their family’s primary source of income.

“It’s not bad here, because it’s far from the storms,” Elbuena says. “We just have to bear it. That’s where we make our living.”

Depending on the season, Elbuena is able to earn P6,000 a month to feed his wife and six kids.

“If there’s a storm, I can just look for another work,” he adds.

At least 64 of the 133 completed disaster-resilient homes in Barangay Maricaban were turned over to island folk in September 2015. The houses, powered with solar-panels, could withstand winds up to 275kph and magnitude 8 earthquakes.

“We’re working on the areas which are on the fringes, which are not necessarily getting the support either from the government or the NGOs and actors. And Bantayan came about from a conversation with Habitat [for Humanity].”

The remaining houses are being constructed in Barangay Sulangan in Bantayan town, 15 minutes away from the original village.

“When you’re building, you will find, as we found out in Maricaban—the limestone is so strong--it’s very hard to do the foundation, and that costs money. So therefore that might cost more than the houses.” Fancy adds.

Prudence Foundation also donated 183 motorized boats and 140 pedicabs as sources of sustainable livelihood to its home partners. Beneficiaries of the housing and livelihood program were decided upon by the local government of Bantayan and Habitat for Humanity.

At least 83 volunteers - employees and friends of Pru Life UK - helped in building walls for the houses to be erected on Barangay Sulangan.

The volunteerism project dates back to 2013, inviting volunteers from over 13 different neighboring countries: Singapore, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, among others.

“It was emotional. I met these guys when they didn’t have anything, and you’re trying to tell them it’s okay when you build them a home, and they’re actually helping you build their own home as well, and then you see them move in. It’s a nice story,” Fancy notes.