Beyond the overflowing relief goods and the modern-day display of bayanihan(people-helping-people), I have been trying to pinpoint what the gravely-affected Taal Volcano victims and evacuees or bakwits really need.
TV and Social Media channels keep showing destroyed houses, cracked roads, ongoing activity of Taal Volcano, the once-inhabited island being declared as No Man’s Land, and political debates for the reorganization of the NDRRMC to better prepare for future calamities. Low media mileage goes to what’s really important — the lives of the bakwits. I am a semi-bakwit myself, and I write this to give voice to all the people I spoke with in the Evacuation Centers (govt people, volunteers, affected families) and start the discussion to long-term solutions for this pressing issue. Read on and let me know what I’m wrong about or what I missed so that I can update this post.
- The bottom line is that those who are gravely-affected by the Taal Volcano Eruption need cold hard cash. What do they need it for?
- To travel to their relatives to other towns and provinces, where they can work and taken better care off compared to what they are experiencing now in the Evacuation Center (EC).
- To rent a simple room, apartment or house. The current setup for evacuation centers is not sustainable. Soon most everyone in the ECs will tire out. Our teachers, govt officials/employees and private volunteers are doing a great job, but they cannot take care of a whole village week in and week out. It will be a full-week soon for these restless people and they have to start going back to their families. On the other side, evacuees are now bored, hungry and need to attend to their own lives. The public schools that act as ECs need to be opened again for its main purpose – education.
- To buy and cook their own food. It is nice that we are providing for them now. But imagine yourselves as adults and not having a choice in what you eat and feed your family with.
- To start over and make a living.
TO DO : When you go to Evacuation Centers, talk to the bakwits and listen closely to what they are telling you. Some of them just need a couple of thousand pesos to go to Laguna, Quezon or Manila to their relatives. There is an oversupply already of neatly packed relief goods. What are the kids going to do with several tissues, soaps and toothbrushes?
2) LONG-TERM LIVELIHOOD
This, unfortunately, rests on the hands of the government and depends heavily on the acceptance of the bakwits. Officials can think, plan and talk all they want, enforce the implementation of their programs with a huge fund and achieve nothing in the end. All of these happen while taking precious time away from the people affected.
The planning for livelihood must start by convening with the community leaders, so that their own needs and plans will be heard, along with the business community, the planners and builders. After which the leaders can lead and guide their people to the implementation of the programs.
TO DO : In appropriate time, engage evacuees in business talk. They do not necessarily need or want employment. Most of them are business owners in their own capabilities. Explore social entrepreneurship programs that they would be happy to participate in.
3) A NEW HOUSE AND NEIGHBORHOOD
Most people from the affected areas know how to make a specific living and will have a hard time going somewhere else. Some can adjust and learn new work and thus can probably relocate anywhere.
Both their situation are complicated because they feel that the government owes them their houses. In this regard, the talking TV heads are right–we cannot rely solely on the government to resolve this issue. As a community we need to secure the proper registration of bakwits so that they can hope to receive something from the government in the future. Immediately after that, we must enable them already to move to a better location.
The sooner bakwits accept this ridiculous timeline in their lives, the sooner they can provide a better shelter and community for their families.
TO DO : Help a small group or family of bakwits to relocate to a respectable room or apartment. Livelihood will follow with a better roof over their family’s head, providing security and comfort. I am currently in Real Estate and Construction and already thinking of ways on how to use the ashes from Taal Volcano to build new houses. #ashestohouses
– JR Cantos
President, LikhaInternet Inc.
- Gravely-affected Bakwits are mostly from the towns of Agoncillo, San Nicolas, Talisay, Laurel, Balete and Lemery. As of last count, these number to more than 125,000 people. Most of them will not be allowed to go back to their houses and previous lives. Right now, they are in the same evacuation centers as forced evacuees from the danger zones, while others are with friends and relatives already.
- We are not out yet. PHILVOCS is right in warning us that a bigger explosion can happen at any time.
- No one is to blame under these circumstances. The Taal Volcano has a mind and purpose of its own and has been doing this for hundreds of years. It is what we do after as people that will matter.
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