Philippines: Rising After the Storm

When typhoons Koppu and Melor (locally known as Lando and Nona, respectively) hit Central Luzon, a region north of Manila, in the latter part of 2015, Edna lost her home and hard-earned savings in an instant. The typhoon brought catastrophic damage to infrastructure and the agriculture sector, all of which added to the burden of the affected people. Recovering from the typhoon’s devastation is another story.

Rebuilding after a major disaster is a huge hurdle to overcome. But for Edna Pelayo, a 27-year-old mother of three from Nueva Ecija in the Philippines, it is possible.

Communities in Edna’s town of Laur were hit by three destructive typhoons. While farmers were still recuperating from typhoons Mujigae and Koppu, typhoon Melor mercilessly slammed her village hampering their recovery efforts. Laur’s farmers are mostly landless labourers who generally earn 200 pesos (approximately €4) a day.

“The typhoon was so strong. We immediately evacuated our neighbour because our house was shaking and our roof got blown off. Unfortunately, the typhoon also destroyed my neighbour’s house so we braved the heavy rains and strong winds to find a safer place,” Edna recalled.

“When we returned to our home the next day, it was devastating to see nothing but debris and scattered clothes,” she added. Edna was still thankful that even though they lost their house, nobody in her family got hurt after the tragic experience. Edna’s husband works as a rice farmer while she stays at home most of the time to take care of their children and the household.

“After the typhoon, the farmers in our community struggled to earn money because the farm lands were damaged. Our crops were destroyed too, so we relied heavily on support we received from the government and various organizations until we were able to slowly get back on our feet.”

Edna recalled that when her husband couldn’t earn enough money for their family because of the situation, she decided to go to the city to work as a house helper for two months. “It was hard for me to leave my children because they’re too young but I had no choice. We needed to provide food and save for their school expenses.”

A New Beginning

Edna’s family received corrugated iron sheets from the government for their shelter repair. Her neighbours also helped each other to rebuild houses. To provide emergency support to people affected by typhoon Melor, the Consortium of international non-government organizations composed of CARE, Action Against Hunger and Save the Children implemented a livelihood recovery assistance program for communities to have sustainable food sources and income-generating activities. The programme is funded by the European Commission. The livelihood assistance was carried out in Gabaldon and Laur municipalities and reached over 1,700 families.

Edna and her neighbours participated in the Consortium’s business planning session to help her identify a viable enterprise. Armed with determination, she utilised the money she received by starting a buy-and-sell business. “It's a good thing that my previous employer makes curtains so I was able to buy from her at a lower price. I sell the curtains here in my village and in other nearby communities. I am happy that I am able to sell all of my goods,” said Edna.

Because Edna starts to earn money, she is now able to buy and sell more items like slippers, bags, wallets and clothes. “I think what’s really important now is I can support my husband in buying food for us and provide a school allowance for my children,” she said.

Edna's husband couldn’t work for a week because he accidentally slashed his foot with a bolo knife (large cutting tool used by farmers) while clearing out a big area of weeds. “It was a blessing that I have my business that supported my family when my husband needed to rest. It also became our source of money to buy his medicine.”

In case another strong typhoon threatens her village, Edna also feels that she and her husband are now more prepared. “The Consortium taught us disaster preparedness and sustainable agriculture. We participated in various sessions to help us protect our house and our livelihood,” she added.

Edna and her neighbours now maximise their backyard space by doing container gardening. Using recycled plastic containers as her pots, Edna planted aubergine, squash, tomato and cabbage that she can easily relocate whenever the situation calls for it. “We really thank the European Union and the Consortium for reaching our village. Recovering from typhoon Melor would be difficult without their support. We will continue to make this grow and flourish,” said Edna.