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Family in typhoon-hit Bicol town gets new home through bayanihan spirit

55-year-old Myrna San Jose, her children, and her grandchildren are among the families severely affected by the series of tropical cyclones that hit the town of Libmanan, Camarines Sur in the span of 3 weeks.  

Typhoon Quinta (Molave) hit the country on October 25. It was followed by Super Typhoon Rolly (Goni), then Typhoon Ulysses (Vamco) several days later.

San Jose is a single mother and the breadwinner of her family. She does laundry for a living. This, however, did not last after strict quarantine measures made it difficult for her to get clients. She eventually found herself jobless and barely making ends meet for her family.

Adding more to her plight, her house was left totally damaged from the series of tropical cyclones that struck Bicol. While two of San Jose’s daughters are now adults with their own families, her youngest daughter and two grandchildren still live with her.

TOTALLY DAMAGED. The house of Myrna San Jose and her family was totally damaged after it was hit by a series of tropical cyclones in November. Only the wire tied to the tree keeps it from falling to the ground.

Photo from Fr Granwell Pitapit

With no house, San Jose and her family had to move in to her friend’s place for almost a month . Her friend had long been offering their home to San Jose and other families in their neighborhood as temporary shelter whenever there is a coming typhoon.

But last December 6, exactly three weeks before Christmas, San Jose’s family received a gift – a new home. Their house was rebuilt through the bayanihan of various organizations, barangay councils, sponsors, donors, and volunteer groups.

San Jose’s family is the first among 10 target beneficiaries in Libmanan of Project BAHAYnihan: Pusog na Harong, Pusog na Tarabangan, which aims to build typhoon-resistant houses and strong communities through bayanihan.

These houses will be built where the families’ damaged houses once stood, organizers said.

Ang pagpapagibo sako nin pusog [asin magayon] na harong para sakuya asin sakong pamilya, dakula nin tabang sakuya. Dae na ako mahadit asin ang mga aki ko kung may maabot na bagyo,” San Jose said.

(By building this house for us, it is a big help. My children and I will not worry when there is an upcoming typhoon anymore.)

The BAHAYnihan donation drive was launched by the Libmanan for Reform, Accountability, Transparency & Empowerment (LIBRATE), a local non-governmental organization; Saradit na Kristiyanong Komunidad Farmer’s Corporation (SKK-FC), a social enterprise cooperative of 18 farmer organizations; and the UP Community Broadcasters’ Society (UP ComBroadSoc), a media-oriented socio-civic organization from University of the Philippines Los Baños. 

According to Fr. Granwell Pitapit, the general manager of SKK-FC, the idea for the initiative started when some of their members, together with a group of volunteer construction workers, helped an old utility worker rebuild his house within two days.

San Jose’s house was made possible through initial donations gathered from the project’s donation drive, which started last November 14 and was promoted on UP ComBroadSoc and LIBRATE's Facebook pages. Among the main donors is Maryknoll College Class of 1976.

Aside from the organizers, St James the Apostle Parish, members of the Tau Gamma Phi Fraternity, officials of Barangay Planza in Libmanan, and other citizens volunteered to help construct the house.

BAYANIHAN. Some members of Tau Gamma Phi fraternity work together to help in rebuilding Myrna San Jose's house.

Photo from Fr Granwell Pitapit

Families who have senior citizens, single parents, persons with disabilities, or unemployed individuals with totally damaged light material houses in Libmanan are the beneficiaries of Project BAHAYnihan. The consent of the landowner is required and the help of the family members in the construction is highly encouraged. 

Families who have families who are willing to help rebuild the houses are also included among the beneficiaries. They will be selected through interviews and ocular visits by organizers of the project.

The organizers of Project BAHAYnihan are continuously raising money to buy materials for the next houses to be built, which are estimated to cost around P85,000 to P100,000 each. They are also looking for volunteers who will help in construction labor. Volunteers may send a message to LIBRATE's Facebook page.

Project BAHAYnihan still needs more funds to rebuild the houses of affected families in Libmanan.

Interested donors may send donations to the UP Community Broadcasters’ Society Inc. in the care of Chief Anchor Neisel Lyca Petiza and Associate Producer Beatriz Aguila through the following accounts:

Account name: Beatriz Aguila
Account number: 0995-9483-343

Account name: Neisel Lyca Petiza
Account number: 2616 1814 27

Bank of the Philippine Islands
Account name: Neisel Lyca Petiza
Account number: 8839 1520 87

As of Tuesday, December 15, Project BAHAYnihan has raised a total of P432,370 from donations. It seeks to raise at least a million pesos so they can create 10 houses for the affected families. However, the building of houses will continue even past the target as long as donations are coming in. Organizers are now in the process of constructing a house for their second target beneficiary in Libmanan.–

Rosemarie A. De Castro is a BS  Development Communication student from the University of the Philippines Los Baños. She is currently the Public Service Head of the UP Community Broadcasters' Society.