Philippines: Rebuilding Lives by Rebuilding Homes

Date Publish: 
Philippines / Asia

A few days into the New Year, villagers in the provinces of Rizal
and Laguna are busy settling into their new homes. Small makeshift
decorations hang from the roofs of the blue and yellow houses of
people who last year spent the holiday season in evacuation centres
or on the streets wondering if they would ever have a home to call
their own again.

Last December 2010, IOM Philippines and its partners turned over
a last batch of 73 transitional shelters to families affected by a
series of tropical storms which battered the Philippines in late

An estimated 20,000 families were affected when Typhoon Ketsana
(known locally as Ondoy) dumped a month's worth of rain on the
country in a matter of hours.

The neck-high floods had barely begun to recede when another
storm, Typhoon Santi, hit just one month later. Rizal and Laguna,
located on the shores of the largest lake in the country, were
among the hardest hit.

"Our house was completely washed out. All that was left was the
flooring," said Wendelyn Jandoc, a beneficiary from Laguna who
along with her husband and three sons, sought refuge in an
evacuation centre before moving in with relatives.

The storms also destroyed their livelihood. Wendelyn's husband,
Juan, lost his job as the caretaker of a duck farm and had to move
to Manila to provide for his family. Although the city is just
three hours away, the cost of transport prevented him from
returning home everyday.

Wendelyn, who is as a seamstress, lost her sewing machine to the
flood. "We couldn't rebuild our home because our children are still
studying. We had no extra money because we had to focus on their
schooling needs," she said.

IOM Philippines responded to flood survivors' needs by launching
a Typhoon Emergency Response Programme (TERP), which included
provision of transitional housing and a component to help people to
restart their livelihoods.

"A home is more than four walls and a roof. A home, no matter
how simple, represents roots, security and dignity. Without it,
survivors of calamities find it extremely difficult to re-claim
their lives after everything they owned has been lost," said IOM
Philippines Project Officer Dave Bercasio.

Wendelyn’s family, living in a danger zone and with
nowehere else to go, was one of 270 selected from four villages to
receive a transitional shelter and help to restart their
livelihoods from the TERP.

The project was funded by the European Commission Humanitarian
Aid and Civil Protection (ECHO), and supported by the NGO Habitat
for Humanity and local government agencies.

Wendelyn's eight metre square transitional shelter is built from
marine plywood and concrete and is constructed to meet
internationally recognized SPHERE standards. It has a toilet, but
the family have to share other facilities.

Most importantly, the house is located at a safe distance from
Laguna de Bay, which in recent years has begun to violently
overflow during the typhoon season."

Families who received the shelters contributed to the project by
helping to clear the land and haul materials to the site.

"I made my husband take a leave from his work so he could help
with the building," Wendelyn said. Juan was scheduled to return to
his regular job after the handover of the shelters.

Beneficiary families also received livelihood assistance from
IOM in the form of business start-up grants. The Jandocs received
P15,000 ($343), half of which went towards purchasing a new sewing
machine for Wendelyn.

The remainder went towards buying processed meats, which
Wendelyn now sells. With her earnings, she purchases more stock to
ensure that she and her family always have a steady income.

Other TERP project beneficiaries received equipment for starting
small businesses, including pedicabs, stoves, for eateries and ice
boxes for fish vending.

"We’re very thankful for the shelters," says Wendelyn.
"Without them, we’d just keep trying to survive but now the
real recovery can begin. Every family needs a home they can return
to. My children will transfer to the school here which is just
outside the site. I’m happy they have a place they can call
home again".

© IOM 2010 (Photo: Ray Leyesa)