Seawall built by villagers breaks down barriers

Rosa Gonzales, 76, sighed with a relief when she recalled how she and her colleagues erected a great wall which eliminated doubts from others.

Even more, her worries subsided when that 60-meter seawall was completed in June 27, 2014 though Kapit-Bisig Laban sa Kahirapan-Comprehensive and Integrated Delivery of Social Services (Kalahi-CIDSS).

Kalahi-CIDSS is a DSWD program that seeks to alleviate poverty through community-driven development (CDD) by giving the people the opportunity to make informed decisions on locally identified options for development and manage resources to implement community projects that address needs identified by the people themselves.

Rosa is one of the 1,278 residents of Brgy. Tinago who was chosen to become a Kalahi-CIDSS volunteer for the construction of their seawall for the protection of their village from big waves specially during typhoons.

The coastal village of Tinago is one of the 31 barangays of Viga, Catanduanes where most of its inhabitants rely on fishing and agriculture for their livelihood. Rosa was just lucky enough to graduate from one of the reputable schools in Manila and went home to Viga to spend 41 years as a teacher with a stable job to support her family.

However, most people of Tinago, 20 km east of Viga town, yield low income because of expensive transportation of products to the market in town and typhoons usually damage crops while fishing activity is held in abeyance due to bad weather.

Not only the people are scourged with relatively small income, the threats of typhoons pummeling the area bring dangerous surges to this coastal village extremely endangering the lives of 135 households in its two puroks/sitios.

Worst storm to hit Tinago
Another volunteer, Estelita Bayaban, also Rosa’s colleague, formerly resided near the shore but relocated after Super Typhoon Rosing, one of the worst storms in the Philippines, hit Tinago,

In November 1995, Rosing lashed Viga and washed away houses in Tinago and turned them into rubbles. There were no reported casualties that time but the homes of Estelita and Rosa were not spared from this catastrophe.

During the height of Super Typhoon Rosing, both ladies and their families left their homes and evacuated to their neighbors for their safety. They brought nothing except their lives and the clothes they were wearing.
Estelita’s stilt house was swept away by the strong winds and big waves reaching more than five feet high and her neighbor, Rosa, discovered after the typhoon that her concrete house was roofless and all their belongings were drenched.

With the extensive damage of Super Typhoon Rosing to Tinago, transportation to Viga was difficult that time. The community plunged even more into poverty wherein food supply was extremely scarce that they need to tread for hours to buy something to eat in Gigmoto, an adjacent town to Tinago.

That fateful experience led Estelita to relocate her family away from the shoreline.

It was also a motivating experience for both of them to perform their jobs as volunteers wholeheartedly.

Small deeds, great impact
Recently, Rosa and Estelita submit themselves in volunteerism to ensure that the additional 60-meter concrete barrier to the existing 40-meters seawall was totally constructed conforming to the highest quality standards.

Both knew that the seawall would reduce the exposure to disaster risks for the residents of Purok 6 and 8 when typhoons visit them.

As volunteers of Kalahi-CIDSS, they devoted their time and effort to the extent that they would rise at two in the morning, their earliest, to supervise the construction of the said seawall during a low tide.

They would guard the construction materials so that all must be put into proper use based on the plans.

Rosa, a volunteer under Monitoring and Inspection Team (MIT), acted as a bodegera or warehouse checker. She would never leave her post during her duty and persistently checked that the construction materials are properly stored and audited.

“Dapat dae mawara ang materyales (materials should not be stolen),” she said.

While Estelita, the head of the community volunteers, would join the rest of the laborers during their shift to watch over them. She would check if all of them are present and reprimanded those lax workers to take their jobs more seriously.

Cooperative endeavor
Good working relationship is the key to successful endeavors.

Rosa compared the relationship of the volunteers and the barangay LGU to a broom wherein it cannot be ripped apart when in bundle.

“Kayang-kaya palan ang dakulang proyekto matapos basta tarabang-tabang kami (We can complete a big project as long we are united),” Rosa said.

The local officials and the residents worked perfectly in harmony by demonstrating respect, patience, understanding and commitment to the community. Juan Soreta, the barangay captain of Tinago, supported the volunteers even from the beginning.

However, certain people in their village doubted the seawall’s completion. It sounded demeaning but Soreta and the volunteers remained loyal to their responsibility.

“Ang ibang tao daeng tiwala kaya nagging challenge samo sa council and volunteers (Other people did not trust us so we thought of it as a challenge), Soreta said.

Rosa and Estelita can relate to Soreta on how others underestimated them but became thankful because they were able to gain the confidence of these people when they have shown a constructed seawall in the community last year.

“Nawara ang paksyon sa Tinago ta gabos naging parte asin namulat ang iba nung natapos ang proyekto, (Factions were dissolved because everyone participated and others were convinced when they saw the project completed),” Soreta said.

The seawall amounting to P2,137,752.00, was the product of bayanihan in Tinago. The barangay local government unit had provided P136, 420.00 for their counterpart while the in-kind contributions from the community amounted to P109,918.00.

The Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), an independent U.S. foreign aid agency created in 2004 aims to achieve the Millennium Development Goals by helping countries promote economic growth, provided a total grant of 1,576,178.00 to realize the construction of the seawall in Tinago. Also, the remaining amount was the counterpart contribution of the provincial and municipal LGUs.

In spite of that, the volunteers of Tinago had moved their resources to put these into the right project through honest service to the community expecting nothing in return through volunteerism.

“Every cent was well-accounted,” Estelita said.

From 2012 to present, MCC had already funded 479 community subprojects under Kalahi-CIDSS with a total grant of 591,300,000.00 in Bicol region. ###