Balik Cebu organizers to focus on rebuilding

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Monday, January 6, 2014


TO MAKE this year’s welcome party for balikbayans arriving for the Sinulog festival more meaningful, organizers of the Balik Cebu hope to raise funds to rebuild homes damaged in last year’s super typhoon.

The Balik Cebu organizing committee announced yesterday the creation of the Balik Balay Shelter for Typhoon Survivors campaign, a fund drive to rebuild a community in Pilar, Camotes Island.

During the launching of the Balik Cebu booth at the Ayala Center Cebu, committee chair Tetta Baad said they chose Sitio Esperanza in Pilar as their pilot project because it had not seen large-scale relief operations due to the difficulty of getting to the area. Cebu Vice Gov. Agnes Magpale, a member of the committee, also sought their help in rebuilding Camotes.

Call for aid

And to promote Cebu’s cultural traditions, the committee decided to build bahay kubo huts for their beneficiaries. The project will be launched at the Balik Cebu welcome dinner on Jan. 16.

“This year, we are doing things differently. We are toning down the welcome party for a reason. We are responding to the call for aid in the aftermath of super typhoon Yolanda,” she told reporters.

Baad noted that although Pilar is a part of Cebu Province, it is actually closer to Leyte, which was the worst-hit province.

Provincial tourism officer Mary Grace Paulino said that before the typhoon struck, Pilar was considered an emerging tourist destination and was popular among the Suroy-Suroy Sugbo participants. It has also received accolades for its marine conservation program and was awarded most child-friendly local government unit by the Provincial Government.

Separated from the main island of Camotes, they noted that Pilar is difficult to get to because there is no regular shipping company that serves it and is accessible only by pumpboat.

Paulino said about 75 percent of the homes in Pilar were destroyed.

Materials for one hut will cost P35,000 and as of yesterday, they have received pledges for 14 homes. Beneficiaries will be asked to do the labor.

Organizers explained that they chose the bahay kubo design to “provide a more habitable dwelling than the tin roof shack.”

With materials made of bamboo, wood and nipa, Baad said a bahay kubo is practical because the materials are readily available. She added that it is more suited to Cebu’s tropical climate as it is cooler than concrete and, if built properly, can withstand heavy rains and strong winds.

Not fatal

Cebu Daily News editor-in-chief and publisher Eileen Mangubat, a member of the committee, added that if parts of the kubo collapse during an earthquake or are blown off by typhoon winds, injuries of those in the way won’t be as fatal unlike those of a concrete wall or corrugated galvanized iron sheet. She said portions that are damaged can easily be replaced. If materials are properly treated, a bahay kubo could last 12 to 15 years.

Baad said felled coconut trees could be harvested for this purpose.

The hut they have in mind will be 15 square meters with a porch on two sides for visitors and raised on stilts to protect against flooding.

Though they are targeting balikbayans, Baad said they accept donations from anyone
interested.

If funds exceed the target 100 homes, they also plan to build support projects like outhouses, vegetable gardens and training. Donations will be accepted until January next year.

Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama credited Cebu’s progress to the support of its private sector, whom he praised for the Balik Cebu project.

Thankful that Cebu City was spared from major devastation, Rama said the Sinulog celebration this year should be all about helping, which is what the Balik Cebu committee is doing this year.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on January 07, 2014.

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