Tour of Ormoc and E-CARE projects

The E-CARE staff are Gideon Bustamante, Manager, Julius Suson, Zena Caytab, and Lenon Jake Baybay. Julis oversees the projects in Ormoc and Lenon Jake is the engineer for the housing project. I haven’t met Zena, she’s in Manila because her mother died last week, so I’m not sure of her role on the staff.

Up, well rested and had breakfast at the hotel with Gideon and Julius. First stop was the Naungan community, a fishing community near the docks of Ormoc, on the banks of the river outlet to Ormoc bay. A community of about 1000 families, of whom, 27 participate in the “Receivers to Givers” program of E-CARE. The entire community, along with all their boats, nets, fish traps, fish cages, and homes were completely destroyed by typhoon Yolanda in 2013. Part of the community is on the land side of Ormoc and the other located on a peninsula across the river. We met the president of the community project and took a boat the size of a canoe with outriggers from the dock to the other side. Most of the houses are wood frame with tarps, wood, or tin covering the sides and roof and are built on stilts as the water comes up several feet during high tide. Some are cinder block built on higher ground. We met the chairman and he took us in his powered boat up the river to see the fish traps and fences and see the remains of what was destroyed by the typhoon.

The river is lined with mangrove and palm trees. The men who were tending their nets and traps were in the water working. It is a water-based lively hood and life. The kids swim like fish.

After going up river for a while, we turned around and went out into the gulf to see the fish traps and the areas where they have sunken used tires and other materials to create habitat. The community farms fish, uses what they call “drop down” nets, and uses fish traps to catch fish as the tide goes out both in the river and the bay. Their catch is usually grouper, crabs, and shrimp.

As we came back into the community ,the chairman stopped at one of his fish cages and took out fish that would be our lunch. We returned to his home and they cleaned and cooked the fish, and we had lunch.

The president of the project had several nets, cages and traps before the typhoon and everything was destroyed, so he went into the internet cafe business. He has one cafe next to the chairman’s house and another on the city side of the river. His internet connection is LG 4 LT and better speeds that I can get in Olympia. Use of his computers cost 5 peso for 20 minutes.

The life style of the members of this community gives the impression of the poorest of the poor, yet they have food, housing, and a lively hood.

As we left, the tide had come in and the area we walked in on dry land was now under water, no one seemed to take notice, we just had to go along a raised walk to get to the boat to take us back to town.

After lunch we drove to the Sabang Bao community to see the housing project. On 1 Hector of land they are building 38 duplex units. The project is mostly build by the participating families, who do all the work except the carpentry – for which they hire carpenters. The land owner next to their property will not allow trucks to cross his property, so all the materials have to be carried the last 100 yards to the building site. The wood is coconut wood and a local hardwood. The houses are framed with steel rods and wood framing with the lower 1/3 of the walls made of blocks. A group of women and men were cutting steel, tieing steel, mixing and pouring concrete, and making building blocks. Everything is done by manual labor, including making the blocks using a mixture of earth, sand, and concrete. Julius told me that when the carpenters came, the local dog population declined. The carpenter who rode with us from Davao was among the workers and I saw his two boys during our visit. The carpenters live onsite until the project is completed, providing their own food. Gideon said he was a little concerned about the two young boys being there with their father.

The families involved in the project are mostly tenant farmers and this is their first opportunity to own their own home, and they are given loans to pay for the land and the house. The initial loan is interest free, and pays for the land, the second has 1.5% interest, of which .5% goes back to E-CARE, .5% is invested for the family, and .5% is invested to support a community church (when one is built). Project completion is scheduled for 2017, and the families will draw lots to see who gets which house.

Our next stop was another housing project, this one is a group of 27 families who are building homes on property they own. We stopped and watched their building block making process. Using a white clay dirt, mixed with concrete and a little water, the make the blocks using a hand-operated press. The blocks are taken from the press and cured for 7 days and are ready for use. Gideon tells me these blocks are a better building material than the normal cinder block (called hollow blocks here).

Driving through rice and sugar care fields, our next stop was an organic rice farm. We walked the levies between the paddies to a paddy of organic rice, the first experimental crop on this farm. It is the same variety as the paddies around it, but obviously larger plants, planted the same time as the commercial.

The use an insecticide to kill grub worms before planting and for the organic paddy, plant one or two seedlings (the norm is to plant 10 to 20) in one hole. The organic planting also is closer distance between seedlings. Only organic fertilizer is used and the end result is a taller, more full plant (harvested in the same time period as the commercial), and a higher yield.

Our last stop was at Julius’ home for coffee, and them we made the 2+ hr drive to Tacloban, All along the route you can see evidence of the typhoon damage in buildings and the many broken and bare palm trees on the mountain side. It is beautiful country. I hope my photos do it justice.

In Tacloban there are many buildings, large and small that have not been rebuilt, including the UCCP hospital. Gideon had a room for me at the Luxury Suite Hotel. After I cooled off and showered, I decided to go out for a while and found a videoke bar and had a couple of JD & water and even sang one song (the place was almost empty). Tomorrow a tour of Tacloban, getting some laundry done and ready for my trip back to Manila.