GETTING back on one’s feet after a disaster isn’t just about having resources to start again. For those who have none, sometimes, all it takes are courage and determination.
For the Sampaga family, it was their desire to share meals together again under one roof that drove them to weather the odds.
The Sampagas—Gisela, her husband Isagani, and their five children—survived Yolanda while holed up in their neighbor’s house in Barangay Lanao. Their house had long been blown away by strong winds.
To get back on their feet, Isagani, a carpenter, first made a makeshift house out of materials salvaged from the rubble.
"Insecurity of land tenure creates cycles of vulnerability. As natural disasters are predicted to be more frequent, lack of land tenure continues to reduce resilience and increase inequality in the Philippines. Typhoon Yolanda gives us the opportunity to address this issue"
Oxfam Country Director Justin Morgan, in the study "Beyond Safe Land: Why security of land tenure is crucial in the Philippines' post-Haiyan recovery"; study included Bantayan Island along with Tacloban City, Tanauan, and Palo in Leyte; and Guiuan and Quinapondan in Samar
Because the family relies on farming, they fixed their garden so they could plant crops again and borrowed money to buy seeds. By December, they harvested some 35 kilos of eggplant, which they sold at P20 per kilo, and 80 kilos of bitter gourd, sold at P50 per kilo.
A sow that they kept safe at the height of Yolanda gave birth to 11 piglets, which they sold for P2,200 each.
Aid from the local government and international organizations then started to trickle in.
The family used the housing materials that they received to build another house, sturdier and stronger than the one they first built. They hope to finish it before the New Year.
They were also swamped with food supplies that lasted them several weeks.
The Sampagas turned their makeshift house into a sari-sari store to augment their income.
The family is under the government’s Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps), a poverty reduction strategy that provides grants to extremely poor households to improve their health, nutrition and education.
Every month, the Sampagas receive P2,800, which Gisela said is enough for her children’s needs. Isagani and Gisela have five children, with the eldest now in college.
“We are very thankful for the cash grant but if we rely on that alone, I don’t think we could make ends meet,” she added.
Marveling at the Sampagas’ spirit and resilience, the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) 7 chose them as the town’s model family.
During the 2014 Huwarang Pantawid Pamilya in Cebu Province, the Sampaga family was awarded second honors.
“We saw that they didn’t just rely on their cash grants. They did many things just to survive,” said Jorgiemay Mantalaba, municipal link of DSWD 7 in Daanbantayan.
Gisela hopes their win could inspire other survivors, saying that diligence is the solution to overcome any difficulty.
A different story
While the Sampagas have already bounced back from the disaster, one family in Barangay Bitoon, Daanbantayan is still struggling to make a fresh start.
Gaspar Coyoca, his wife Christine and three children are still living in a tent donated by Shelter Box, an international disaster relief charity that provides temporary shelter and life saving supplies to displaced families.
With no stable income, Gaspar told Sun.Star Cebu he doesn’t know when they will be able to move out. He relies on fishing and construction jobs, which come in occasionally.
Inside the white rugged dome tent, Gaspar said the heat is unbearable in the morning. When it rains, they have to move out because water gets inside the tent.
During the interview, Gaspar criticized the local government unit for his family’s failure to receive housing materials until now.
“Only those close to whoever gathered the names of survivors received aid immediately,” he said.
Gaspar said he also heard that some beneficiaries have already received enough housing materials that they sold it instead to earn money.
“The problem is those who need help the most are the ones who haven’t gotten any,” he added.
The Sampagas and Coyocas are among the 20,426 families or 81,704 individuals who were displaced by Yolanda.
Their houses are also among the 8,857 that Yolanda destroyed across 20 barangays in Daanbantayan, apart from the 12,127 houses it damaged.