In this spring 2014 picture, residents of the Anibong shoreline shanty community coexist with cargo ships that ran aground in their neighborhood after Super Typhoon Haiyan slammed the central Philippines in November 2013. CNS photo/Simone Orendain

CRS, Filipinos who lost homes in typhoon, to build sustainable community

By  Simone Orendain, Catholic News Service
  • June 24, 2017

In the days and months after Super Typhoon Haiyan struck the central Philippines, the badly battered seaside community of Anibong became a graveyard for colourful cargo ships that were tossed onto shore by 195-mph winds. The November 2013 typhoon killed or left missing more than 7,300 people, most of whom were from the eastern city of Tacloban, where Anibong is located. It also decimated more a million homes, affecting more than 16 million residents across the central Philippines.

The government designated Anibong, one of the poorest communities in Tacloban, a "No-build zone." "No-build" signs told residents with no formal address except for tarp and scrap wood shanties on the ravaged shoreline they needed to stay away. Still, hammering could be heard regularly as residents scrambled to rebuild homes alongside the ship carcasses.

Now, more than three years later, Catholic Relief Services plans to break ground on a sustainable community for Anibong residents.

Today Anibong "looks probably very similar (to then), with the exception that the ships have been removed," said Renee Lambert, head of the Tacloban office of Catholic Relief Services, the U.S. bishops' international relief and development agency.

CRS is rolling out a $12 million project that would relocate 900 families from Anibong to a community on higher ground. CRS purchased the land and hopes to make the people self-reliant. The groundbreaking was scheduled for the week of June 19, and families were to start moving in in the fall of 2018. With a move-in date far off, CRS put disaster preparedness plans in place for Anibong residents while they wait for the houses to be completed.

"We're facilitating processes within the community," Lambert told Catholic News Service. "So we're working them through the process of identifying what each family needs to make that family more resilient."

The subdivision will have houses made of sturdy materials that will have rainwater catchments, and it will have roads with drainage systems and sanitation for better hygiene. CRS also assessed the skill level of each of the 900 families to try to link them up with government livelihood programs. Residents learned about savings plans and financing options to help them become first-time homeowners. A CRS project house runs about $4,500, nearly four times the annual salary of a minimum-wage earner and even more out of reach for "informal sector" workers who mostly populate Anibong.

One lifelong Anibong resident, Erlinda Jackson, told CNS she was looking forward to moving to the planned community.

"They're making sure we have a good attitude and disposition toward this move," she said. "Even for us older folks there will be job training. ... The house will be in our youngest son's name ... all so that we can sleep peacefully at night."

Jackson, 66, a high school graduate whose shack was washed away by the cyclone, readily used words like "amortization" and "mortgage." She said she especially liked that the residents had a say in planning for the new community.

Lambert said CRS held two months of workshops with all 900 families to teach them about urban planning and urban design, in which they learned about building codes, how to lay out a road network, water connections and the other basic principles of designing a subdivision. The components were designed by the experts and presented to the residents, who voted on them.

Jackson, whose nearly blind husband is unemployed, said she never imagined a storm could be as powerful as Haiyan, and she said her family could have tried to get into a government housing plan that was moving more quickly than this one. But she said she was determined to stick out the three-year plan so she could own a home with electricity set along a well-built road.

Lambert said CRS' role is "to provide financial resources and technical resources and to guide" residents.

"It's intended to help these families get more stable financially, socially and more resilient. So they really know best how to get there."

And that, she said, is something that takes time.

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