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Fear No More

“ Taong 2010, bago akong sesaryan, binuhat ako nang asawa ko papunta sa Barangay Hall, mga 3PM dahil rumaragasa na yung tubig, at mataas na yung baha. Sobrang takot ko noon dahil hindi ako marunong lumangoy, inisip ko baka ako naman yung mamatay.” [It was year 2010, i was newly cesarean and my husband carry me to the barangay hall. It was 3pm and the flood was getting higher. I was so afraid because I do not know how to swim, I was thinking i might die. ]

 Irene Milagrosa, 51, a resident of Barangay Pili recounted her experience before as she faced the cruel and ravaging Looc River that had also took the lives of the people dear to her in year 1988. Irene recalled when she received a call in Manila from her family in Romblon which shook her from her seat. Their house was taken by the huge flood together with his nephew and brother-in-law.

From then on, Irene always feared for huge floods whenever their community is drummed by heavy rains and severe weathers.

 

Danger amidst thriving community

Roughly three (3) kilometers from Poblacion, Barangay Pili is considered as one of the poorest Barangays in the Municipality of Looc. Nevertheless, it is blessed with fertile land and enough water coming from the Mt. Bongan-bongan that allowed the people to produce crops mostly of rice, banana, and rootcrops to feed their family and their community.

The people of Pili have a dream of an improved life by producing more crops and by sending their children to school. However, on the onset of heavy raining, their crops die and their children are not able to attend school. Heavy raining also raises the water in Looc River which then poses threat to the lives and livelihood of the people in Pili.

Over the years, the flooding gets worse and eventually erodes huge parts of the road used by people to transport their produce and by the pupils to go to their school.

Amelia Ibabao, 59, BSPMC Secretary of Pili, narrated how she felt whenever she crosses the said road before. “Mahirap dumaan nakaka-kaba at nakakatakot, dahil ang lupa kasi unti-unti siyang nakakabkab, lalo na kapag umuulan at bumabaha.” [It was difficult to cross, I was noervous and scared because the path is slowly eroding, mostly when its raining and flooding].

Parents and teacher will always fear for the safety of their children, especially during the severe rainy days.

Levie Palacio, the principal of Pili Elementary school had been worrisome to the pupils during breaks and after class as many of them play in the river. “May mga tanod na nag babantay doon (sa tabing ilog) para mapigilian ang mga bata,” said Principal Levie. Yet, she recalled that the pupils still jumped into the water as if there are no threats to them being taken away by the strong river currents. [there are security officers guarding (by the riverside) to prevent the children from playing there.]

More so, Principal Levie also shared the worries of the parents whenever heavy rains started pouring. “Pag uumulan na, sinusundo na ng mga magulang ang anak nila, wala naman kaming magagawa kaya hinahayaan na namin.” [When heavy rains started pouring, the parents start to fetch their children, we cannot do anything about it so we just allow them the parents to do so.]

During days of continuous raining, the school mandatorily suspends classes to prevent casualties among the students.

Principal Levie added, that she was grateful whenever the pupils are able to attend class on rainy weathers, but they still fear for the safety of their pupils as the river may rise anytime.

 

Standing up for safety

 The continuous erosion of the riverbank  and the threat brought by the flooding of Looc River had made the people of Pili anxious about their family’s and livelihood’s safety. When Kapit-Bisig Laban sa Kahirapan, Comprehensive and integrated delivery of social services (Kalahi CIDSS) came to barangay pili, the people had identified their most pressing needs through the process of Participatory Situational Analysis (PSA) wherein the people will analyze the root causes of their problems and identify the solution to these root causes.

The flooding caused by Looc River had topped the problems faced by the community. In that case, the people had identified the long-term solution to their problem which is the extension of the flood control.

It was never an easy task, as attested by Segundino Nadal Jr., the BSPMC of Barangay Pili.

His dreary eyes speak of the difficulty they faced during the project implementation as he recalled how they built the project. “Two weeks kaming naghukay, at sa panahong yun, ay nagkaroon pa nang baha at landslide. Ang hirap nang pinagdaanan namin, kasi maghuhukay ulit kami. Pero hindi kami sumuko, nagpatuloy padin kami.” [ We’ve been digging for two weeks, and by that time, a landslide and flooding had occured. It was very difficult becasue we need to start digging again.]

The mishap caused by the landslide had caused a delay in the construction. However, for BSPMC Segundino, it was not a setback. “Sa kabila nang mga kinaharap na problema, mabilis padin yung naging trabaho dahil nagtra-trabaho din yung foreman namin. Magagaling din yung mga laborer namin. Nakatulong din na pinapa-snacks nang mga tao at nang Barangay ang mga nagtra-trabaho. Siniguro ko din na lage akong nandon para ma-monitor yung proyekto at mga trabahador at volunteers.” [Despite the hardships we’ve faced, the work has been relatively fast because our foreman also worked in the project. Our laborers were also excellent workers. More so, the people and the barngay officials gave snacks for the laborers. Nevertheless, I always ensure that I am present in the project site to monitor the laborers and my co-volunteers.]

Not everything went smoothly during the implementation as, PIT head Jenny Fontamillas shared how she mediated the conflict among the laborers. “Nagrereklamo sa schedule nang pa-trabaho (ang mga laborers), pero naipaliwanag naman nang maayos, at naintindihan naman nila na kailangan bigyan nang pagkakataon ang iba nagusto din magtrabaho (sa sub-project).”

PIT Jenny also noted how her family complains as she usually go to attend the Kalahi CIDSS meeting. She noted how her children complains about her being away and working for kalahi without pay. Nevertheless, Fontamillas explained to her family how she enjoyed her work as a kalahi cidss volunteer and how she appreciates the praise and gratitude of the people because of the sacrifices she made as a kalahi cidss community volunteers.

 

Safe at last

 At present, the people of Pili, no longer worry about rising water during severe weathers. Classes are no longer cancelled and the people’s crops reach the market place even during severe rainy weathers. Most importantly, the people realized that their unified efforts could make a difference in their community.

“Namulat yung mga tao na pwede sila makagawa nang project. At makikita mo talaga yung difference nang project ng KALAHI at ibang project ng gobyerno, sa quality.” [The people are enlightened that they can have a project built.A nd you can see the difference of KALAHI and other government projects in terms of its quality.]  Barangay Chairperson of Pili Rey Dalisay said as he recalled how he saw the bayanihan spirit of the people of Pili even after the completion of the flood control.

The .80 Meters Flood Control Project, truly made a difference in the lives of the residents of Barangay Pili. Despite the flood and landslide that occurred during the implementation, and the misunderstanding among volunteers and workers, they persevered and rose above their situation. Their sacrificial investment of time and effort just to finish the sub-project, motivated with their own and their children’s welfare and safety had made the sub-project into fruition and can be summarized with BSPMC Chairperson Nadal’s note–“the Kalahi Experience was all worth it.”

The Barangay officials having witnessed the practice of good governance during the implementation of the sub-project, which led to the volunteers and the Barangay officials in pursuing funding for their non-prioritized sub-project during the MIBF-PRA.

The flood control built through the efforts of the people of Barangay Pili

They lobbied the sub-project to the Local Government Unit and were granted with multiple sub-projects, which funding even extended to the provincial level as Governor Eduardo Firmalo himself offered to fund the extension of the flood control.

With grateful hearts, the people of Pili continue to hope for more projects from KALAHI-CIDSS as they see it of good quality, and because of the sense of involvement and ownership that they felt. The people together with the Barangay Officials, assured that they will continue to work together as one community towards the development of their Barangay.

Now, Irene and the rest of the people of Pili will no longer have to worry on their lives and property’s safety as the flood control has finally been built and is protecting the people from the ravaging waters of Looc River.

With a wide smile on her face, Irene said, “Wala na kaming takot ngayon, at para mapangalagaan ang proyekto, kami po ay lagi namang tumutulong sa mga bayanihan na pinapatawag nang barangay sa kalahi man o hindi.” [We are no longer have fear, and to help with the maintenance of the project, we will always assist in the bayanihan in the barangay whether it is for Kalahi or not.]

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