As the new year 2015 greeted me with a positive energy, I am also about to start another volunteer project — Balik Balay Shelter for Typhoon (Yolanda) Survivors. The said project has been originally planned to start early 2014 in response to the aftermath of the super typhoon Yolanda. However, due to some uncontrollable circumstances, the project had to be pushed for a later date.
About the Balik Balay Project
The Balik Cebu Committee under the umbrella of the Cebu City Tourism Commission (CCTC) has rolled out the red carpet to welcome balikbayans during the Sinulog celebration for the last 12 years.
This year, the committee has decided to respond to the call for aid in the aftermath of supertyphoon Yolanda. Many balikbayans have expressed their willingness to help typhoon survivors. In fact, donations of cash have been sent to CCTC which funded some relief packages distributed in Northern Cebu.
To provide a more rational and systematic channel for the donations, the BalikBalay campaign was created. In order to rebuild lives and provide a more habitable dwelling than the tin roofed-plywood shack, the committee turned to our rich cultural traditions for answers. The best alternative? The Nipa Hut, Bahay Kubo or in Visayan, Balay nga Payag. (Source: Balik Balay on Facebook)
Collaboration among Balikbayans, CCTC, the LGU and other organizations
The Balik Cebu Committee knows its limitations in the implementation of the said project and accepts any kind of help and contribution to make this project successful. Cebuano Balikbayans themselves have been very supportive since after Yolanda left Northern Cebu in devastation. For us to be able to implement effectively, the local government — from the barangay unit up to the Province of Cebu, has also been present at all times for the preparation of the Balik Balay campaign.
What Balik Balay promises to give is a venue for these different sectors to come together towards the same goal of rebuilding the lives of the survivors by providing a place they can definitely call their own home. Through the Balik Balay campaign, other organizations are welcome to contribute their own projects into the community chosen for the pilot project, combining all efforts and realizing the progress from ground zero to a new better life.
Pilar, Camotes – a remote island on its way for a sustainable living
Pilar, one of the three municipalities of Camotes Island, has been the chosen community for the pilot project of the Balik Balay campaign. Camotes Island as a whole is one of the Yolanda-affected areas that took a couple of weeks before they got help aside from what its local government unit provided. Other Yolanda-hit places have been all over the news, receiving aid from different NGOs and INGOs while Camotes Island had to act upon it on their own.
On the other hand, Camotes Island is not strategically located to be accessible which made it even harder for those who wanted to extend their help but couldn’t, considering other factors in sending relief aid like transportation, communication and schedule.
Though there was only 1 casualty recorded in Camotes during the typhoon, a lot of families have lost their homes and livelihood. More than the trauma they had to go through, they also had to find ways on how to move forward.
One of the badly hit areas was Barangay Esperanza in Pilar, a place right by the coast with families who depend on fishing and agriculture for a living.
The locals have expressed their gratitude to the people behind Balik Balay and their partners and donors even before the actual project has started. The survivors are as excited and committed to do what they can to contribute as beneficiaries to the housing project. As fragile as they are now after Yolanda, the people of Esperanza have been very warm and welcoming to the people who visit them, showing the Filipino resiliency.
With this, I am very excited that things are now starting to unfold for the Balik Balay group and the community beneficiary after a year of anticipation. At the same time, I am proud to be tasked as the Project Coordinator from the social preparation to the construction phase up to the implementation of various programs that will help the community have a more sustainable way of living.
Because together, we can do more good things for each other.