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Story and photos by Jonathan Sandigio, Niev Sambas and Rico Locaba | Heifer Central Philippines Team
A Heifer Philippines community won first place for reducing disaster risk in September.
“The seeds of knowledge and values through training I received from Heifer taught me a lot,” said Mario Abaluado.The Self-Help Group (SHG) member is also the Barangay Chairman of Lamba, a Heifer Philippines assisted community.
In addition to the livestock, tools and other gifts, Mario, the other SHG members and the Barangay Council learned about risk reduction and worked to increase the resilience of their village of 1,286 people. The Office of Civil Defense conducted the search for Excellence in Disaster Risk Reduction and Management (DRRM). Barangay Lamba won first prize in the region. The Bicol Region has 3,471 barangays (villages), and the law requires that each barangay have its own disaster risk and reduction council.
Bicol has the two most active volcanoes in the country, and its shores are along the Pacific Ocean. The village’s location exposes it to natural hazards that include volcanic eruptions, mudflows, landslides, floods, storms, typhoons and even tsunamis. In the award ceremony on September 26, 2012, Mario and Evelyn Martinez, the disaster risk reduction committee chair, received the prize, which was a plaque of recognition and $1,200.
“I was thinking of Heifer’s great work in our Barangay, [and] we could not have achieved this without Heifer,” Mario shared during his speech.
KALASAG (KAIamidad at Sakuna LAbanan, SAriling Galing ang Kaligtasan), a Filipino word for shield, was used by early Filipinos to protect themselves from enemies or animals. The prize, Gawad KALASAG, was created to protect high-risk communities against hazards. Gawad KALASAG is awarded annually for different categories and levels in the local government units that include DRRMC from the province, barangays and NGOs for excellent disaster management, humanitarian assistance and preparedness work.
How did Lamba win the prestigious award?
“By simply implementing Heifer’s seeds of hope and knowledge through trainings and on-site community workshops,” Mario said.
During the past four years of the Anduyog sa Lamba Project, Mario implemented the Cornerstones principles. He also participated in values-based community development, environmental protection and enhancement training, including the disaster risk reduction initiative. Their barangay plan is the only values-based barangay development plan in the 70 barangays in the municipality of Legazpi.
All the other requirements for a disaster resilient community were institutionalized in Lamba . The community obtained disaster kits that included megaphones, whistles, radios, medicine, flashlights, raincoats, boots, large plastic bags that can be used as floatation devices, ropes and emergency food.
“The very first activity in risk reduction and management is to ‘know the risk’,” Mario said.
When Heifer’s gift of knowledge is used, it is as a powerful tool that enhances the capacities of the people to adjust, adapt and recover from the effects of climate change.
As former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said, “It is no accident that 90 percent of disasters worldwide are in developing countries. Poverty and population pressures are forcing great numbers of people to live in harm’s way – flood plains, earthquake-prone areas and unstable slopes and hills. Their extraordinary vulnerability is perhaps the single most important cause of disaster casualties. The better people prepare for a disaster, the better they will be able to survive it."