Dino Manrique: This event is the first of the Countdown events to November 8, the first year anniversary of Haiyan/Yolanda super-typhoon. Rosana and Joel published Surges: Outpourings in Haiyan/Yolanda’s Wake and are among the coordinators of Operation Hope: Transformational Ministry for Haiyan/Yolanda Survivors that covers Relief to Rehabilitation. Another project is the Taclobbags, pioneered by Jourdan Sebastian, which Justin can explain to you. I’m helping them out as the founder of Philippine Typhoon Calamity Watch. Our job is to coordinate the various efforts. I’m also the publisher of the community website Filipinowriter.com.
Rosana Golez: This is an event called Love Surge Open Mic. It was put together by a bunch of us advocates—JoelGarduce, Jourdan Sebastian &Dino Manrique—of rehabilitation and rebuilding life in the Haiyan/Yolanda-ravaged areas from the Eastern Visayas all the way to Palawan. As you know, the super-typhoon, called Haiyan internationally and Yolanda locally, wreaked insurmountable havoc in various parts of the Philippines. Today we’re doing an Open Mic as part of the Countdown to November 8. One can have the mic and take hold of this creative space, do a song or a dance or read a poem. We’ll do this again on Nov 7-8 in Manila and in Tacloban City simultaneously. At midnight we’ll have a moment of silence and concerted prayer. The following morning, November 8, there will be a Rise-and-Shine on climate change, which can join with the Climate Change Walk, a different initiative, but we hope to see everything as connected.
On December 19 my partner, Joel Garduce, and I published Surges, a collection of stories, art work and photographs on what we felt when Yolanda happened, from the onset of landfall until later. (Link). The book is also available at Fully Booked.] After we published the book, we decided to help rebuild Tacloban, Leyte, Samar, Iloilo and Palawan, which were all affected by Yolanda. Putting this into the larger perspective, there are so many man-made and natural disasters, so eventually we would like to stand together in helping out, whether the disaster is natural or man-made.
In January and February we called together a Roundtable for Rehabilitation and invited Japanese, American and Filipino architects, contractors, engineers and inventors to make a better model for durable homes and empowered living. We had a carefully selected panel of presenters. The goal was to come up with a prototype for a safe place to live, not only for the rich, but also for the marginalized in society. During the discussion we analyzed models and designs, pretty much like America’s Got Talent, to see which would be the most suitable empowerment and sustainable community model beginning with devastated areas in Leyte and Samar.
At the Roundtable was an American, Eric Leach, who gave a presentation on the Earthbags used in Haiti. Homes built with these Earthbags had withstood the big earthquake. (Link) The sandbags are now being produced in the Haiyan/Yolanda-stricken areas in partnership with Operation Hope. Other presenters from a Japanese consulting firm showed us how coastal areas could be protected with submerged water buffers. A Filipino inventor, the famous Architect Eduardo Urcia, presented his invention, environment-friendly blocks that were durable, heat-resistant, bullet-proof and over 1,200 psi. The blocks can be used for roofing, flooring, walls and ceiling. (Link)
We chose the house type presented by Architect Urcia, which is designed so that the family lives on the second floor, with the ground floor being used for another purpose, like perhaps livelihood projects. If the family is on the second floor, then people are safer. If the blocks are also used for the roof, then the roof can become an extension of the home—like another bedroom eventually—as well as level for household evacuation.
The durable blocks can also be used for churches, hospitals and hotels, but we made a humanitarian contract in which Architect Urcia agreed not to collect royalties on homes for the underprivileged. We have a model, and we’re waiting for donors/investors who would like to finance the durable-blocks factory and the houses. We plan to set up a factory in Tacloban City, centrally located and serving as a bridge to Samar and Leyte mobilization, and to hire local people to produce the blocks there instead of shipping them from Manila. Giving people work will also give them a sense of being part of the whole nation-building. Another set of workers can construct the homes. People in the area need work. Producing 2,000 blocks a day would mean 10 homes a day. Schools and the barangay centers could also be built with this resilient material and good designs. For serious parties, please contact: email@example.com
Justin Capen: I didn’t design these bags. I’m a project proponent. The first one is called Compassion, and this is the one that’s for sale to the general public. It’s an up-cycled backpack made of a red Japanese truck tarpaulin and denim. It’s water-resistant. All of the denim sections come from jeans that were donated by Germany for the purpose of creating jobs. Every Compassion backpack is made by Haiyan survivors. So our main premise on doing this was that we would create an opportunity for the survivors. So it was really jobs creation, the ability to give them the dignity of providing for themselves once again.
We just set up our factory this month. We brought in about twenty pieces of industrial sewing equipment and trainers and bag makers. Senior machine technicians have helped us with setting up the facilities and the production line, with identifying the skills of each individual and training people. As of today we’ve had orders from twenty different countries, everything on pre-orders. Now that we’ve finally raised the necessary funds to put the facility up, we’ll be looking at filling all of our pre-orders first, and then we’ll be looking into putting products into retail outlets. Right the Compassion bags are available on our website. (Link) You can buy with a credit card or Paypal or direct deposit.
When you have compassion, you give courage. And Courage is our survival backpack. We donate one to a schoolchild for every Compassion bag that’s purchased. We’re producing the Compassion batch first, and then we’ll be moving on to producing the Courage backpacks.
Courage fills the functions of a school backpack. It’s filled with school supplies and art materials. The bags are donated to the children as a way of encouraging them to go to school and also of relieving the parents of the obligation to provide the school supplies. But we wanted to go a bit beyond the regular backpack. With floods and typhoons there is a great deal of psychological trauma and a lack of preparedness, as we’ve seen from the results of Haiyan. So we designed Courage to have a compartment for an empty two-liter water bottle, which turns into an instant flotation device. The bottle goes in this pocket. We made sure there were reflective stripes across the front and shoulders and also along the back and handles for pulling the child out of the water. Basically the backpack gives the children courage so they don’t have to be afraid of storms anymore. Right now, there’s really big trauma towards the weather, and rightfully so.
Imagine, these children, bless their souls, who have really gone through so much. If you look at soldiers who have post-traumatic stress, you see people who voluntarily go into this line, they train for months knowing what situations they’re going to encounter, and yet after going through this experience they still have PTSD. So look at these children who did nothing to bring this disaster upon themselves and were not psychologically prepared for it. Suddenly within six hours they’ve lost almost all of their possessions, their homes and even their family members and friends. It’s very difficult to make up for what happened to these children. We said, “How can we really give them courage?” Suppose I know that, no matter what, if a storm comes I can float. The extra help gives me some comfort. It allows me to say, “Okay, I know there’s rain coming, but I don’t have to cower, I don’t have to cringe in fear, I can continue on going to and from school.” That’s what we wanted to be able to give back with our Courage backpack.
It’s been a long, long work in progress. From concept it started in late December and January, and we are just now able to put up the facilities. So it really took us about nine to ten months, using all our energy, hearts, souls and resources, just to get to the point where we could finally put up a facility to produce these backpacks. It’s been your passion. Our core disaster, if you will, is disaster resiliency, which means being ready and able to respond. Our livelihood programs involve manufacturing, despite all of the challenges of putting up a facility and training and working with people in a disaster zone.
There are a lot of challenges. The stability of the area is disrupted. With the influx of international agencies, all the rental prices and all the prices of goods go up. When the electricity lines are in, the price of electricity doubles. There are the logistics problems of having to repair so many different things. A lot of goods arrive for support, so now you’re competing for space. Under the ordinary circumstances of setting up a business you’ve already got complications putting everything together.
It’s complicated by trying to put together a work force made up of people who have really gone through the worst typhoon in the recorded history of the world. So you’re not just sitting there thinking, “I’m going to push it, I’m going to get as many products out as possible.” You’re trying to work with people to help them understand. You want to know, “How can we work with you so you can rebuild your life?”
In some areas you have an entitlement issue because for the last ten months they’ve been surviving on dole-outs. Sometimes that turns from immediate relief to dependency. So you also have to work on the mindset of being independent, controlling your own destiny, being in control of your own life through your own efforts rather than saying, “When is the next cash-forward program? When is the next donation arriving?”
We said with some people, “How is it with getting a job now?”
“Well, I haven’t really gone out and looked.”
“How come you haven’t been trying to find a way to get your own income?”
“If I leave, who will be here to receive the next batch of goods that come in? What if my family has to go without?”
In addition to human resources, there are other factors that have an effect: the land, the logistics, the normal resources of power. That’s why you don’t see people who’re doing what we’re doing.
But this is the time when people really need it the most. They need to have that extra jump-start. They need have normalcy restored. In a lot of natural disaster zones, the immediate relief comes in: water, medical attention, food. The effort is put into the immediate needs, but not the sustainability from short-term to medium-term to long-term.
Of course, you see in the newspaper that these big amounts of aid have been given, so you think everything’s going to be okay. But if you’re there you a lot of needs haven’t been addressed, a lot of small factors that still need attention. Like sustenance, allowing the victims to sustain their own lives. We’re trying to make a shift towards the rebuilding side.
How do we shift our monetary vote? Every day we vote with our money, and that means making a big choice. “Okay, I’m going to Burger King to buy a Whopper.” Whether you acknowledge it or not, you’re supporting Burger King and all their practices. Your monetary vote has been cast. Let’s raise the social awareness of how companies do their work, source their materials, make an impact on the community. With social media more and more people are becoming aware of the choices they’re making—whether it’s for fair wages or whether it’s genetically modified organisms. I’m not saying don’t patronize certain companies. I’m just saying we should be aware of voting every day. It’s those small, daily modifications that allow us to contribute to what we want to see happen in our time on this earth.
Aisa Mijeno with her brother Raphael Mijeno: We’re co-founders of SALT, Sustainable Alternative Lighting, one of ten tech start-ups selected for early funding. (Link) I used to work for Greenpeace Philippines, traveling across the Philippines to promote environmental campaigns. I am also a part-time faculty member of engineering at De La Salle University. I was teaching environmental engineering when I conceptualized the lamp.
The concept behind the lamp is similar to batteries. If you submerge two dissimilar metals in salt water a certain amount of electricity will be produced. The lamps can power up LEDs or charge smart phones. We’re just starting up. We’re still in the process of developing the product, and then we’ll do scaling, and then we’re going to partner with NGOs and foundations which will help us make lamps for families without access to electricity.
These lamps can use a combination of water and salt, or they can run on ocean water. We’re currently accepting pre-orders. We will be delivering the projects by early next year if we can find someone who’ll help us. We’re in in-house production. The parts were made with a 3D printer. Our first project is to donate a hundred lamps to Mindoro, one lamp donated for each lamp purchased.
They can be used for disaster relief. I can imagine having a power failure, and my battery-powered lamp dies. I have to go outside to buy batteries, and it’s raining. And aside from using it as a light source, you can also charge your phone.
Many of the islands in the Philippines don’t have access to electricity. The people who live on these islands use battery-powered lamps or kerosene lamps or gasoline lamps or candles as their sustaining light. They spend around 5000 pesos [$114] a year sustaining their light source with batteries or kerosene or candles. Another problem is the distance they need to travel to buy gasoline or to acquire batteries. It’s hard. The people who use kerosene lamps have to refill their lamps every other day, and the nearest place where they can buy kerosene is about twenty kilometers away, and they can’t afford transportation, so they walk twelve hours, so a whole day is spent getting kerosene. So this lamp powered with salt water is a simple solution. We’re surrounded by oceans, so why not use natural resources?
Jourdan Sebastian: Why am I doing the things that I’m doing, setting up these things with all you guys? I do it because of survival. It’s a basic instinct. Climate change is a reality. Typhoons and earthquakes are only going to get bigger and bigger. Hello? Because of global warming because of the tectonic plates. The question is will we be prepared? This is what it’s all about. This is what Love Surge is all about. The survivors on the anniversary of Typhon Yolanda, the survivors themselves, many of them are going to paddle out from the beach into Tacloban Bay at the exact time that Yolanda/Haiyan came to their shores. They’re going to paddle out as a symbolic message to the world. There are martyrs who said, symbolically, the argument about climate change was over. Their lives were sacrificed. At midnight they will tell the world, “The wind came to your shores at 375 kilometers per hour, came to your homes and destroyed you and killed your family. There is no question of whether there is a problem of climate change or not. The question is what do we do?” This is what love surge is all about. At the end we’re saying we have one world, we are one family, and when we see each other as family we’ll take care of each other. We’re going to take care of our home, which is Mother Earth.
There’s a Disaster Volunteer Summit on Nov. 5, 2014, Wednesday. This will be a reunion of all individuals, affiliated or not, who helped in the Yolanda relief efforts. Everyone is welcome. Skydome in SM North EDSA. Anniversary events are being planned for in Tacloban for November 7-8. Check the Facebook page Philippine Typhoon and Calamity Watch for details.