For the past two weeks the team has been conducting community risk assessment workshops across Cabiao. This is the second phase in our DRRM programme and is an essential step in making the flood reduction plan a community based one: by extracting local knowledge we can make the plan specific and effective for each barangay. What became apparent was that even within the small community of Cabiao, people have had very contrasting experiences with flooding. In the barangay of Polilio, some of the people we spoke to have had little or no personal experience with flooding. Yet, a 15 minute drive to Bagong Sikat revealed a community which has been devastated by flooding: the workshop participants identified that ALL areas of the barangay are at a high risk of flooding. Most recently, this community was severely affected by typhoon Santi, in October 2013. They spoke of flood waters that reached up to 6ft and told us about the damage to their homes and possessions. Furthermore, the community's whole livelihood was affected when the farm lands became flood ridden; for several weeks the people lost their way of life and in some cases, their homes.
What I found really inspiring was the resilience of these people in the face of natural disasters. Perhaps a characteristic of the Filipino people is their unshakable optimism and ability to smile in spite of bad luck. When life throws them lemons, they make lemonade and somehow still manage to laugh about it. There is no time for a pity party here, because the people just pick up the pieces and carry on. They are practical, not pitiful. Mindful instead of miserable.
So far my working group has conducted 3 CRA workshops. Unfortunately, the fourth and final workshop has had to be delayed due to political instability in the barangay of Santa Isabel. Since the shooting of Captain Romeo, the barangay hall has been taken over by police and consequently communication with the barangay staff has been very difficult (we have been informed that their mobile phones have been seized). What makes this situation more frustrating is that the barangay in question is one of Cabiao's most vulnerable areas: no other community in Cabiao needs the DRRM infrastructure more than Santa Isabel. Yet at present, we have not been able to carry out our work with the local people. I guess this is one of the 'road blocks' I was told to expect whilst working in community development. It can feel infuriating, time-consuming and at times, impossible- but as with all road blocks you just have to find another route. My team is still in the process of plotting a diversion, but rest assured we are a pretty persistent bunch, determined to help where we can!
As for the three CRA workshops that have taken place so far?...
Well I hate to blow my own trumpet, but they went swimmingly! And not because of my efforts- it was the people that made the sessions effortless and informative. We were able to collect detailed data about each barangay's history with flooding- and from a very diverse group of people. On average, 30+ people showed up to volunteer their time to us! To top that off, we were fed delicious dishes (my new favourite being pansid- it's like homemade 'Supernoodles') and fuelled with coffee for the duration of the workshops. I am definitely repeating myself when I say that this is one of the most accommodating cultures that I have ever encountered.