PALAWAN, Philippines – Miss Universe 2015 Pia Wurtzbach visited one of the beneficiary communities of the Catholic Organization for Relief and Development Aid (CordAid) in Coron town in Palawan on Saturday, January 21, to see how the non-government organization (NGO) helped the village recover from Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan).
Warm smiles and loud cheers welcomed the reigning beauty queen as she docked the port in Barangay Malawig, a far-flung Tagbanua community. Wurtzbach toured the town’s communal farms and water sanitation systems which were provided to the community by CordAid to help them recover from Yolanda.
“Masaya po ako na nakarating kami dito at nakita po namin ang sitwasyon sa aming mga mata hindi lang base sa mga kuwento o litrato na nakita namin sa Manila. Natutuwa po kami sa mga balita na maayos na po ang pag-unlad ng komunidad dito matapos ang mangyari noong bagyong Yolanda,” Wurtzbach told the community.
(I’m very happy that we were able to reach Malawig and see the situation here with our own eyes, not just based on stories and photos we see in Manila. I’m very happy to hear that this community is already is experiencing growth after Yolanda.)
CordAid was supported by the Miss Universe Organization in its post-Yolanda intervention in Malawig to make sure the community becomes sustainable.
Malawig’s Yolanda experience
Clemencio Carpiano still remembers that fateful day of November 2013, when he lost his home and his boat.
“The strong winds and waves caught us by surprise. We told our women and children to evacuate. People had nowhere to go so they ran to the mountains and hid under the cashew trees,” the 69-year-old said in Filipino.
He added: “When morning came, we gathered everyone and thankfully, we didn’t lose anyone. But all our boats and most of our houses were taken away.”
The local government and aid agencies did not know Malawig’s experience and it took a while before helicopters brought in relief goods.
In the aftermath of Yolanda in the Philippines, most of the assistance of international and national aid groups were focused on Eastern Visayas, where the super typhoon made landfall. Little attention was given to towns affected in Palawan province, some of the affected residents said.
Yolanda displaced about 6,000 people in Coron, and of the 1,000 tourist boats registered then, only 10 remained. (WATCH: Coron remembers Yolanda as it recovers)
“Thankfully, groups like CordAid came to help. They helped rebuild our homes and gave us livelihood,” Carpiano said in Filipino.
CordAid helped build more than 200 typhoon-proof houses and 30 community-managed projects like bridges, schools, and daycare centers.
The organization also taught the community to do communal farming and introduced new crops to the Tagbanua farmers.
“Now, we know how to plant vegetables for our own consumption. We can also sell the crops to the town. That gives us extra income,” Carpiano said.
With the help of its partners like Samdhana Institute, the indigenous peoples were also taught to create their own evacuation and disaster contingency plans.
“Every time there’s a typhoon, we tell our (people) to evacuate. We are now ready any time a typhoon strikes. We know where we can evacuate,” Carpiano said.
For the Tagbanua people of Malawig, Wurtzbach’s visit brings hope to their community as they recover from the disaster.
“We were the only community she visited in Coron,” Carpiano proudly said. “We saw that she knows how to be with us simple people. We thank her and CordAid for the support.”
Wurtzbach encouraged the families in the village to continue building a resilient community.
“If another disaster occurs, we need to be ready and knowledgeable so that we can ensure our family’s security,” she said in Filipino, vowing that “we will continue our support so that Barangay Malawig will continue to grow.” – Rappler.com