MANILA, Philippines – Before she passed on her crown, Miss Universe 2015 Pia Wurtzbach visited a far-flung Tagbanua community on January 21 in Coron town in Palawan to see how they recovered from Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan).
The community told the beauty queen their stories of resiliency.
Many residents in Barangay Malawig, Coron lost their homes. No one died in the village but their livelihood was crippled because the waves washed away their boats.
"When Yolanda struck, we were all panicking. We didn’t expect the winds to be that strong that night. Everyone evacuated but not everyone had a place to go to. Many went up the mountain and took shelter in cashew trees," Clemencio Carpiano, a village elder, recalled in Tagalog.
It took 3 days before relief reached the village.
With the help of non-government and aid organizations, Barangay Malawig is back on its feet. They received help mainly from the Catholic Organization for Relief and Development Aid or CordAid. (READ: How Tagbanua communities in Coron recovered from Yolanda)
The organization built more than 200 typhoon-proof houses and 30 community-managed projects like bridges and schools in Malawig. CordAid also taught the community to do communal farming to help with the Tagbanua’s livelihood.
"As an organization, we believe very strongly that action, the dignity, and the ability of people to stand independently is very important. Whether it’s because they live in a fragile setting or if they are exposed to very high risks, they still need that dignity," Anat Prag, CordAid Country Director in the Philippines, said.
She added: "And so being able to invest in capacities on how the community can be stronger together is really a critical issue which is very much undermined if we just distribute aid."
According to Fr Edu Gariguez, the executive secretary of Caritas Philippines, this kind of support is what is needed to address long-term rehabilitation in areas prone to the effects of climate change.
"I think the right orientation in recovery is that we shouldn’t only focus on the immediate needs but also address long-term rehabilitation. Our indigenous peoples are among the poorest sectors in the country. Help should not just focus on relief but also on how to alleviate and empower them to face their own problems," he added.
The Miss Universe Organization is one of CordAid’s donors for the projects. Wurtzbach promised the support would continue.
"I hope you continue your work and ensure that you have enough knowledge so that you and your families will be safe when the next typhoon comes," she said.
Though short, Gariguez said the visit was symbolic for the public, and inspiring for the indigenous peoples. (READ: Pia Wurtzbach's Coron visit highlights resiliency, IP issues)
"So this visit is really a call for the public and the government to focus and see the success of these projects. We want to tug at people’s (heartstrings). In the church, we always tell people to have a heart for the poor, for the marginalized. Pia’s visit to this far-flung area is indeed very symbolic," he said.
As for the community, they believe they are ready when the next typhoon comes.
"Even now, our livelihood continues to grow. We are now ready so that if another typhoon comes, we already know what to do and where to go," Carpiano said. – Rappler.com