The journey to resilience after Haiyan

Written by: Dennis Amata, Information & Communications Manager, CARE Philippines

“All of the houses in my village were destroyed in a snap. We nearly lost everything.”

This was what Analita Garcela shared when asked about her experience when super typhoon Haiyan smashed its way through Central Philippines on November 8, 2013.

Analita, 47, is the captain of the upland village of Cambucao in Tabon Tabon, Leyte – one of the hardest hit communities in the Eastern Visayas region.

Though it is already two years after the biggest recorded typhoon in history, Analita said that the tragic experience is definitely hard to forget.

“It was devastating but we had no choice but to move forward. People in my community worked hard to recover and I must say we are on the right track,” said Analita who also works as a coconut and rice farmer like her husband.

CARE and local partner Assistance and Cooperation for Community Resilience and Development (ACCORD) has supported Cambucao through emergency food distributions, shelter repair assistance, financial support to restore livelihoods, and trainings on disaster risk reduction (DRR) and climate change adaptation.

Since the Philippines has become one of the most disaster prone countries in the world, Analita, also a hardworking mother of five, is well aware of the possibilities of experiencing strong typhoons in the future.

“Good thing that we were able to rebuild and repair our damaged homes through the support of CARE. We were taught how to apply the ‘Build backsafer’ techniques that definitely improved the quality and durability of our homes,” she added.

After the shelter repair and livelihoods recovery support, CARE and ACCORD implemented a disaster risk reduction training in the affected communities. CARE also conducted a series of DRR trainings and community drills in Cambucao involving all the members of the community to increase their capacity in preparing and responding to natural calamities and emergencies.

“Everyone in my community participated, from the youngest to the oldest. They saw its relevance and importance and the people themselves wanted to be well-prepared for next disasters,” she added.

CARE and ACCORD also supported the community in preparing a contingency plan for their village which also helped them to fill in the gaps in their disaster preparedness. A drill was then initiatedwhere people were given a scenario to respond to: a Haiyan-like typhoon to hit their village.

“Everyone joined the drill and I noticed that they took their roles seriously. Even it was just a simulation, they acted like it was really happening. They went to designated evacuation areas, they brought their important belongings with them, wore raincoats and boots, and even rescued those who needed help such as trapped older people.”

“If the people know how to prepare, adapt and respond, it will lessen the damages and avoid cases of casualties. We thank CARE for addressing that concern,” she added.

Analita also saw the importance of sustaining the support they received from CARE so she is very appreciative of the training on sustainable agriculture.

“Most of the people here are coconut farmers. When Haiyan destroyed our primary source of livelihood which is our coconut plantation, we had to look for alternative sources. We all have to eat and survive,” she added.

She said that they learned how to plant other viable root crops, vegetables and fruit-bearing trees that could give them income to support their families. Sustainability is what she keeps on reminding her people.

“It is already my last term as a village captain this year but looking back at how my community was able to get back on their feet from scratch, I feel accomplished already.”

Analita will leave the public office this June but she still remains as the president of her community’s farmers’ association that has partnered with CARE towards economic empowerment.

“We are very happy that CARE still supports us but we also know that we should take our part to sustain all these blessings we received, she added.

“I could say that my community is now disaster-resilient.”

Help support communities rebuild themselves after natural disasters by providing training, materials, and education.