Ugnayan at Bahaginan: The Haiyan Experience | Rising Above Flood Waters: Reaching the Path of Resilience or The Reluctant Kapitan that Could
Strengthening BDRRMC capacities as a sustainable mechanism for IRM
by Brgy. Captain Edilberto Lacaba, Brgy. Badiangay, Sta. Fe
Barangay Badiangay is one of 20 barangays in the municipality of Sta Fe that is high-risk to flooding. It is four kilometres away from the town center, and situated in the interior part of the municipality. To reach Badiangay, one needs to ride a motorbike or “habal-habal,” the primary mode of transportation going in and out of the barangay. There are three sitios in the barangay namely Sitios Kamalig, Batoon and Proper. A total of 175 households or 710 individuals make up the whole barangay in which majority are children.
Both sides of the road leading to the barangay are bordered by rice fields, with a few houses dotting the sides of the road. Areas that used to be planted with coconuts have now been broken up to small patches of land planted with vegetables and root crops. Majority of the people work in rice fields as tenants or farm laborers. As farm laborers, they get paid P150-200 pesos for a whole day’s work. During lean months they work as laborers, house helpers or sales ladies in the neighbouring town of Palo or Tacloban. There is no water system that brings water into the homes directly. Drinking water in the barangay is delivered once a week by a truck from the Leyte Metro Water District (LMWD). The residents pay P5.00 per container of water. For bathing and washing, they fetch water from an open well near their houses. This has been the situation in the barangay for the longest time and is considered as normal for everyone.
Such is the situation of the barangay which Edilberto Lacaba calls home.
Edilberto Lacaba is the soft spoken and shy barangay chairman of Badiangay. Once you engage him in a discussion, however, he speaks with seriousness and sincerity. He explains that Barangay Badiangay is a low lying barangay surrounded by the Bobonon River from neighbouring barangay San Isidro and Dapdap and Malaihaw rivers from barangay Gapas, all in the eastern part of the barangay. Water coming from these rivers traverses their barangay thus with only a few hours of strong rain, flood is an inevitable hazard they experience. This constant flooding exacerbates the already difficult economic and physical conditions of the residents of Barangay Badiangay.
According to some elderly in the barangay, in the 1960’s they already experienced flooding. Back then they just stayed within the barangay and wait for flood waters to recede. They would only evacuate to the barangay proper or in some private houses that have second floors when water is knee or waist high. Flooding, at that time, does not reach the barangay proper. Only the two sitios (Batoon and Kamalig) were heavily flooded. Kap Edilberto says it’s different now. Flood waters reach up to 8 feet high, covering their roofs and also reaching the barangay proper. When Typhoon Senyang hit Leyte in the last week of December of 2014, it brought the worst flooding ever experienced in the barangay. The whole barangay was inundated. Left with no choice, they evacuated to the municipal gymnasium of Sta. Fe. Most of their belongings were left behind because they could only bring what they can carry. The fathers were left to take care of their farm animals and other valuables left behind. They built bamboo rafts and stayed on guard of their properties until the flood water subsided.
This was also the time when Edilberto, then the first Kagawad of Badiangay, was forced to act as the head of their barangay because of the untimely death of their Barangay Captain. He did not wish to be a First Kagawad in the first place. Being a Barangay Captain was farthest from his mind. His reluctance was based on his idea that being a Chairman is an enormous responsibility and this would require a 24-7 commitment from him. He was not sure then if he was up to that challenge. But he did heed the challenge after the people of Badiangay showed their support for him.
When ACCORD conducted the series of trainings on Disaster Risk Reduction as part of Promoting Recovery and Enhancing Resilience of the Most Vulnerable Communities that are Most Affected by Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines, the barangay officials of Badiangay were not so enthusiastic to participate. Their initial reaction was the usual reaction ACCORD gets from almost all barangays and municipalities encountered for the first time. Flooding was a normal occurrence in their barangay and they have gotten used to it and besides, they have already attended numerous DRR trainings conducted by other organizations. But out of respect to ACCORD, the trainings pushed through.
As the series of trainings unfold, they started to see the difference. They observed that the activities during workshops are hands-on and based on their actual experiences. Every activity involved the community’s participation, and they can proudly claim every output as their own. Above all, the successive DRR trainings by ACCORD made them realize that they can do something to minimize the ill effects of flooding in their barangay, that they have capacities to improve their situation. After the community-based DRM training for barangay officials in Sta. Fe, Kap Edilberto surprised us when he made the commitment to accept the challenge posed by ACCORD. He will try to the best of his abilities to pursue the path towards resilience.
Indeed, because of the firm commitment Kap Edilberto made, and the changes showed by his fellow barangay officials, the BDRRMC of Badiangay evolved into a learning and responsible organization. Even Kap Edilberto said that BDRRMC officials and members were not active at first, but they showed they can change. Even the community members were not as participative at first. So much so that when ACCORD chose Badiangay to be one of two barangays to conduct a community flood drill, Kap Edilberto was worried if they could muster the support of the majority of the residents to participate in the drill. But he was challenged because this is what their community needs.
The community flood drill was nothing but successful. BDRRMC members and the whole community actively participated in all of the community activities leading to the drill. He was amazed at the seemingly unending stream of volunteers to do all the technical jobs required and all the public awareness activities that had to be done to ensure that everyone in the community was adequately informed. He also acknowledged that part of the strengthening process of the BDRRMC is the opportunity it provided to work with the MDRRMC. And they are happy to note that the MDRRMC has started to recognize its role in supporting the actions of the BDRRMCs.
When asked about his reflections of the project, Kap Edilberto said that what he appreciates most was the series of DRR capacity-building activities that aimed at strengthening their BDRRMC. He still could not believe that they were able to formulate their Contingency Plan and was able to test it through the community drill. Lessons learned were that if people are informed, they will participate. If the BDRRMC members understand DRR, and their responsibilities, they will eventually be active. Just like him, he said he also learned by doing. And what one does must be propelled by a sincere resolve to increase the capacities of a very high risk and vulnerable community.
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