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Sports sprouts spotlight: Winning back life’s delight through Basketball

BUNKHOUSE PRIDE. Six of the fourteen IDP members of Tulungatung Basketball team (L-R) Ambing Jopakal, Loy Jamdani, James Jammang, Alkadz Sappari, Izan Jopakal.

BUNKHOUSE PRIDE. Six of the fourteen IDP members of Tulungatung Basketball team (L-R) Ambing Jopakal, Loy Jamdani, James Jammang, Alkadz Sappari, Izan Jopakal.

“Primo” (or cousin in local term) as they fondly call themselves, is a group of fourteen young men ages 15-21 who found great companionship when their families were transferred in Tulungatung Transitory site. “Fresh” as they recall back from their young minds how they left their humble homes when the fierce battle on September 9 awakened the city which caused most of them sudden displacement.
Tulungatung transitory site is 18 kilometers far from the main evacuation camp which is the Joaquin Enriquez Memorial Sports Complex. With twenty five (25) bunkhouses available, the site currently shelters 401 families with 2, 336 individuals who are mostly fire victims. Showing their grins as they gathered around for an interview, who would have thought they have been into this traumatic chaos?

James Jammang, 21, member of the group said that he personally do not know anybody from the group when their family decided to be transferred in bunkhouses. Living in such new community would require them to fit again in new setting of community and learn to know people around and perhaps win friends too. These young men indeed showed resiliency after they tried getting back to their normal lives, routines and what delighted them most, playing their favorite sport- Basketball.

Jammang and his other companions agreed that basketball paved the way for them to acquire new fellows since it has been their most loved leisure. Few meters away from the transitory site, there stand a covered basketball court of the local barangay where most of young people from the community and from the site gather every afternoon to spend time and play. Workers from DSWD and CSWDO said that these IDPs have easily adjusted with the community in the area where most of them mingle with local residents too.

Fourteen for “Team”

Ambing Jopakal (left) shares their strategies and experience gained during the basketball match.

Ambing Jopakal (left) shares their strategies and experience gained during the basketball match.

“Masaya kami dahil nakalimutan namin ang gulo doon” uttered by Ambing Jopakal, 19, member of the group when they were asked how does it feel to play Basketball everyday. Some added that it purges boredom among themselves when they play the sport.

Seeing their potentials to win, Christian Flores who acts as their youth leader in the site informed them of the Summer Camp for Youth organized City Social Welfare and Development Office of Zamboanga-Field Office 1 (Ayala District). Said camp will hold basketball league where interested IDPs from the area can join.

Filled with excitement and enthusiasm,few members of the group searched for potential members who will complete their team as they draw so much interest to join in the said league. After forming the complete line up, they officially named their team as “Tulungatung Bunkhouse IDPs”. When asked why did they not use other names, members said that they would be very proud to represent the whole IDPs in the site as young members of the community. They would like to see their fellow IDPs bring back again the smiles through their participation. They also see it as one way to veer away the doubts of the community in them.

With so much willingness to win, the group committed to undergo training facilitated by themselves. ” Madalas kame magpractice, mga alas cuatro ng hapon hanggang alas otso ng gabi, kahit walang ilaw sa court nagpapractice parin kami” (“We usually practice every 4 in the afternoon ’till 8 in the evening. Even without lights, we still pursue our practice in the court”) proudly shared by Jammang. Others have also shared that they usually wake up as early as 4am in the morning to jog around the site and in the community to improve their endurance. ” Nung mas malapit na ang laro, mas pinaigting namin ang paghahanda” (When the actual game is fast approaching, we intensify our preparations”) Jammang added.

Victory amidst Poverty

The group have defeated other teams leading their way to fight for the championship round. With the cheers and presence of their co-IDPs during the game, they felt like they were instant Superstars “Parang pinasaya namin ang mga taga bunkhouse…Hindi namin iniexpect na matalo namin ang ibang grupo dahil malalaki sila” (We felt like we also share the same joy with those from the bunkhouse.. We didn’t expect to win with other group because they are bigger than us” ) said Jopakal while telling their experiences.

“Tatlo lang sapatos namin, kapag may “Sub” ipahiram namin sa kasama namin. Ganun din ang shorts” (” We only have 3 shoes, if there’s someone who asks for “sub” in the group, we usually lend it to others, including our shorts” ) shared Jopakal when he was asked about their uniforms. They were the only teams who don’t have any uniform, common sharing of shoes and jerseys didn’t hinder them to lose hope nor feel disappointed.

The group bested other groups and placed Second to “Cawit Team” who emerged as champion for the feat. Though they did not win, the group felt it was an achievement for them to represent the entire IDPs of Tulungatung. They hope that such achievement would eventually simmer down stereotyping instead the public will realize that they also deserve such glory and opportunity.

Plans and Wishes

The group wanted to continue their participation in this kind of league not only to show off their skills but also to regain the lost pride in them as residents of this city. “Sana magkaroon na kami ng Jersey ” said by one of the member referring to the individual uniform they wanted to have. They also wished to join inter-barangay league to compete again with other barangay champs.

The IDPs are eagerly waiting for their real homecoming while the government is exerting gargantuan efforts in the rehabilitation of the affected barangays of the siege. The transitory site may just be a temporary shelter to them but it did not falter their hopes to rise again and bring back the normalcy in their daily living. The positivity of these young men did not only manifest pride and camaraderie but also a step to make a change amidst the situation. It was an intelligent initiative to make themselves feel be a source of inspiration to others and also to their fellow IDPs. ##

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It’s worth a second chance

The story happened in Barangay Barubuhan, municipality of Sominot in Zamboanga del Norte CIRCA 2011-2012. I, Chona Gorda was then a Deputy Area Coordinator (DAC) in the said area. Currently I am working as the Regional Infrastructure Assistant of Kalahi-CIDSS.

I was then the new replacement of an outgoing DAC for the second cycle implementation of Kalahi-CIDSS in Sominot. During the validation phase, wherein I was able to talk to the Barangay Chairman and other members of the community, they showed no interest at all in participating. I wondered why they seemed to shut me out when I was yet trying to discuss to them a Kalahi-CIDSS opportunity for their community. Later, I came to know that their community was not prioritized during the 1st cycle implementation of Kalahi-CIDSS. That instance disheartened everyone in their community and made them feel that there will never be any assurance that their proposed sub-project will be realized by KC after all.

Right then I realized that communities which were not prioritized in the previous cycles should really be given a special attention when dealing with. Since then, I gave this municipality my extra time to make them understand the whole process, why their proposed project was not prioritized in the previous cycle and how we can get a sure spot in the priority list this time when the Municipal Inter Barangay Forum comes.

Barangay Barubuhan’s road before the implementation of Kalahi-CIDSS

Barangay Barubuhan’s road before the implementation of Kalahi-CIDSS

Their proposed sub-project was a Spillway, a structure used to provide the controlled release of flows from a river which used to be the cause of their hardships in terms of accessing basic social services. The village chairman shared how the residents in Barubuhan had been faced with gruesome happenstances whenever hard rain would pour and they’d be left isolated as no one could cross the said river with strong current and high water level. This had caused children not being able to attend school, men couldn’t continue with their livelihood, affecting too the transporting of agricultural products and even pregnant women and sick persons could hardly access health services.

Because of this, they still wanted it for the 2nd cycle, and so we pushed it harder. Upon sight validation, I saw that there was a need of an additional project aside from the spillway. I suggested that they have to include the construction of sectional concreted pathway and 2 drainage canals. I’m happy to note that I was already seeing their interest and willingness to help out. They were even receptive of all the recommendations by the technical staff on the ground.

Eventually, their proposal was included in the priority list. However problems came our way. One of which was that the lot where the sub-project was supposed to be constructed was privately owned. This means that the Barangay and the volunteers had to secure the lot donation documents. It was another opportunity where I saw how the changes in the volunteers and the whole community took place. I personally saw the transformation of the community member from being resistant and passive to being enthusiastic and active in gathering all pertinent documents and joining the Kalahi-CIDSS undertakings.

Barangay Barubuhan’s sectional concreted pathway and spillway completed on December 10, 2012

Barangay Barubuhan’s sectional concreted pathway and spillway completed on December 10, 2012

Submission of all these documents even caused a near-death experience to the Barangay Sub Project management Committee (BSPMC) Chairperson’s wife. Floro Ahat rushed to Kalahi-CIDSS office to submit the remaining documents. Since he was rushing, he forgot to inform his wife about the fired pit kiln that he left covered with a metal piece. Unaware, his wife stepped on it and fell off. She sustained 2nd degree burns on her legs and some parts of her body. She was immediately rushed to the hospital and was fortunately cured in due course.

The sub-project was completed in no time, with the help and the power of cooperation among the people of Barubuhan. Everytime I get to visit the barangay to monitor the progress, the residents would gladly share how their situation has changed. ###by Chona Gorda

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IDPs vacate schools, transfer to Mampang transitory site

In preparation for the opening of classes on June 2,  spadework has been doubled-up to finish the construction of the transitory sites for the internally displaced persons (IDPs) temporarily housed at the elementary schools of Mampang and Arena Blanco.

Transferring to the temporary shelters are women Noraida, Dia and Repa.   They all came from the Cawa-cawa evacuation site and stayed at the Mamang Elementary School for almost 2 months.

With their belongings on board government  trucks, the seventy-nine (79) families from Mampang and Arena Blanco Elementary Schools moved in yesterday to the new Mampang Transitory site which is approximately 1.5 kilometers from the main city-road bordering both barangays.

The new site

Dia, who hails from the houses-on-stilt community of Mariki, relayed her excitement of settling in the new temporary site where they will be housed for a period of 6-10 months as projected by the City Government.

Excited ako na makalipat sa lugar na malapit sa dagat dahil marami akong pwede mapagkakakitaan ng hanapbuhay.  Pwede akong maglatu o magsigay” (I am excited to transfer as the place is near the sea where I could gather latu or shells for me to sell) Dia said.

The vast marshland lot owned by the City government of Zamboanga is situated in the southern part of the city overlooking the Basilan Strait.  ‘Bakawan’ or mangroves partly obscures the area from the open seafront.


The Department of Social Welfare and Development financed the construction of 10 bunkhouses in partnership with the 52nd Engineer Brigade of the 545th Construction Battallion of the AFP.  Total cost of the project is P10M.

Each bunkhouse has 24 rooms with each partition having a floor area of 8×12 feet.  Each room can accommodate a family of 5 members.

The bunkhouses are designed to adapt to wetland conditions that concrete posts were used to elevate the flooring.  Catwalks or boardwalks were part of the blueprint that would interconnect the bunkhouses.  Corrugated G.I. sheets and plyboards were used for the roofs and walls for a more-durable refuge for the IDPs.

Construction of latrines and wash areas is still on-going however, portalets are in-placed temporarily until the needed facilities are completed.

Water facilities as well as electricity lines were also installed.

As the family heads kept busy in the hauling of their luggages and other belongings, DSWD provided mosquito nets and food packs good for 2-3 days to ensure their food supply as they get settled into the new environment.    International Organization for Migration (IOM) also distributed new kettles and thermos jugs.

With more bunkhouses to be completed soon, the Shelter and Camp management clusters are now working on the transfer of IDPs from other schools like the Talon-Talon ES and more families from the Cawa-cawa site###

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Listahanan fieldworkers undergo 3-day training on Special Validation

Area Supervisors review and examine the Barangay Community Characteristics (BCC) Form.

Area Supervisors review and examine the Barangay Community Characteristics (BCC) Form.

Zamboanga City-A total of Sixty (60) newly hired field workers composed of Area Supervisors and Enumerators have successfully completed the 3-day training on Special Validation for Social Pension and MCCT Beneficiaries

Said training was conducted on April 28-30, 2014 at JKC, Liloy, Zamboanga Del Norte. It gathered all fieldworkers of Region IX covering Zamboanga del Sur, Zamboanga del Norte, Zamboanga Sibugay, Zamboanga City and Isabela City. These workers shall validate the 6,799 identified Social Pension grantees and 2,616 Modified Conditional Cash Transfer for Families in Need of Special Protection (MCCT-FNSP) beneficiaries that are not in the NHTS database.

It aims to prepare the workers on field who will be assessing the poverty status of the indigent senior citizens and families covered by said programs. It also seeks to capacitate the workers in conducting household assessments since the new Family Assessment Forms (FAFs) shall be its main tool in the validation.

Series of topics were presented to the participants which helped them to understand the conduct of special validation processes. The Program Rationale and Implementation arrangements were given by DSWD’s Focal Person on Social Pension Mrs. Josefina Reyes and Mrs.Germiah Karim Bongabong for MCCT. Mr. Al Raschid Nandu, Regional Field Coordinator of Listahanan-Field Office IX also oriented the participants on their roles as Listahanan field workers and discussed briefly on how to handle Enumeration problems.

The technical part of the training started on the orientation of the Barangay Community Characteristic (BCC) Form to the Area Supervisor facilitated by Sharon Faith Marzan, Listahanan’s Regional Associate Statistician. The supervisors were given copies of the said form to understand the important variables they have to know and accomplish during the conduct of the assessment. The Area Supervisors will be deployed seven (7) days in advance of the Enumerators to complete the BCC forms.

A comprehensive yet detailed walk through on Family Asssessment Forms (FAFs) was also delivered to the fieldworkers on the 2nd day of the training. It was facilitated by Mr. Hasan B. Alfad, Focal Person for Listahanan. The Philippine Standard Occupational Classification (PSOC) code was also introduced to them which also play an importance in filling up of the FAFs.

ZamPen fieldworkers pose with excitement as they prepare for the Mock Household Interview at Brgy.Baybay,Liloy, Zamboanga Del Norte.

ZamPen fieldworkers pose with excitement as they prepare for the Mock Household Interview at Brgy.Baybay,Liloy, Zamboanga Del Norte.

Meanwhile, a mock interview was done in the afternoon of the 2nd day where fieldworkers conducted actual household assessment at Brgy. Baybay in Liloy. The drill aims to determine the gained knowledge they have acquired from the sessions presented to them. It will also test the fieldworkers’ ability to conduct interviews. The activity was supervised and guided by the Listahanan staff with the help of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program Parent leaders in the Area. Processing of the activity followed after the fieldwork facilitated by Mr. Euberto Gregorio, National Project Coordinator of Listahanan with Mr. Al Raschid Nandu and Mr. Hasan B. Alfad respectively. The results of their fieldwork were checked and commented during the evaluation.

The training capped with deployment planning and brief presentation on their reportorial requirements such as Progress reports, Family Asssessment Logs and clearances.

Listahanan staff challenged all fieldworkers to commit and be true to their work as they will become the hopes of these Senior citizens and their families for the continuance of their monthly grants.

The special validation will run for fifteen days including weekends to meet its targets provided in their master lists. ##



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DSWD reveals efforts on protection, assistance to IDPs

In response to negative reports received by the Department of Social Welfare and Development, the Regional Office IX in Zamboanga City gave clarifications regarding the plight of Zamboanga City Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs)

On cases of Prostitution

DSWD 9 Regional Director Zenaida Arevalo said that the Protection Cluster which was organized as early as September has been monitoring this issue. She said that when the cluster learned of these prostitution incidence, several efforts were done with the aim of bringing an end to this social problem and preventing further damage to the social arena. Efforts include identification of Barangay tanods for all 4 Zones in the Joaquin Enriquez Sports Complex who were organized and trained to monitor such cases. Coordination with the Philippine National Police has also been carried out to strengthen security on entrance and exit points at the JFESC during night time while coordination with TESDA and DOLE to provide skills training and cash-for-work to ensure that these women are provided with income-generating ventures.

“We cannot confirm that prostitution is really happening at the JFESC, as we neither the police have caught anyone engaging in such demeanor, however, we are not setting aside these reports and coordinated with the City Health Office. In initial interviews done by our social workers, we found out that these women are already sex workers when they were displaced by the Zamboanga crisis.” Director Arevalo said.

The Director further revealed that regular meetings are being done by the five (5) social workers assigned to these women for the rigid case management.

Past emergency response

DSWD reiterates that the situation in Zamboanga is already in the rehabilitation and recovery stage and post emergency response. This indicates that provision of emergency needs has ended which is usually good for only 2-4 weeks after a disaster.

“We have provided food supplies up to December last year with some of our humanitarian partners affording our IDPs with food supplies until March of this year. However, this is already way past the emergency phase and rehabilitation and recovery should already be observed for our IDPs to start things on their own”. The director said.

Transition homes

The DSWD Field Office IX said that there is no truth to the claims of some malicious reporters that ‘no transition sites have been prepared nor are there decent jobs made available’. Per records, todate there are 5 transitory sites with more being developed. About 6,700 individuals have already transferred to these areas, after the government have initiated the immediate decongestion of the JFESC and clearing of the Cawa-cawa boulevard. Humanitarian partners like the International Organization for Migration (IOM), Habitat for Humanity and the AFP 52nd Engineering Brigade has been helping in the construction of the bunkhouses and temporary shelters .

The Sustainable Livelihood Program unit (SLP) of the department in partnership with the Livelihood cluster members continually provide earning opportunities like the Food for work and Cash for Work programs. The project development workers have already started assessing individuals and groups for program requirements.###

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Retro Payment: There still lies a silver lining

Across Region 9 there were a total of 2,969 households who received cash grants through Retroactive Payment. These were the beneficiaries who appear in the Pantawid System with No grants or Lack of grants, however upon careful validation, they were found to be compliant with the conditionalities hence Retro payment is being processed. The Grievance Redress System (GRS) will process the complaints upon submission of the beneficiaries the Certificate of Compliance, GRS will verify the said complaint in the PantawidPamilya Information Sysytem (PPIS) and if found beneficiaries were compliant, GRS will now prepare for the payroll, it will then be uploaded in the database for approval, once approved the Regional Office will then schedule for the disbursement or fondly known as the payout for Retro grants.

rp1Ilyn Flores, 28 years old, a housewife from LogoyJutay Talon-Talon, Zamboanga City, said that the retro grants were timely as it was disbursed last December. I didn’t expect that I would still receive the Retrogrant, it was more meaningful for us to celebrate Christmas. I bought new clothes for my children and had a little celebration for our nochebuena. Plus I started a small business. I used the remaining grants to sell gasoline for Habal-Habal Drivers.  I can say that the Retro payment brought joy in our life specially last yuletide season.

Ilyn who was married to Raymond Flores 30 years old who is a farmer, expressed her gratitude to the program for its continuous support to her children Ricky 5 years old and to Irylle 2 years old. Ilyn added that she never lost her trust to the program even those times she did not receive her grants, she also shared that beneficiaries should not always rely on the financial assistance given by the program.



Another resident of  LogoyJutay, Talon-Talon is Jessica Montaño, 29 years old and married to Alex Montaño, a mother of 3 children. Jelex 8 years old, Alex Jr. 5 years old and Trisia Mae 2 years old.  In an interview, Jessica mentioned the hardships her family went through. My husband is just a labourer in a dried fish warehouse and raising 3 children with a minimal income is next to imposible. That is why we are forever thankful to PantawidPamilya Program for helping us in the augmentation of our needs. When I received the Retro grants last December, I was very happy. I bought them Vitamins as recommended in the Health Center to ensure their good nutrition.We also bought a surplus Television since my children use to watch movies in our neighbour. Now that we have our own TV my kids have the liberty to watch movies without going elsewhere.

Ilyn Flores and Jessica Montaño were just amongst the few who had received the Retro Payment. With the continuous efforts of the Pantawid staff in ensuring the transparency and upright implementation of the program, there would be more beneficiaries who would be supported during their trying times.

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Women IDPs Turn Trash into Treasure

Zamboanga City – While Joaquin Enriquez Memorial Complex (Grandstand) has been in the news for all the wrong reasons — thousand displaced people from the recent standoff, foul smell emanating from camp site caused by sanitation problems; still, there is a community activity that the IDPs are proud of.

LEFT: Women IDPs in Grandstand Camp making handicrafts using newspapers, straws and used clothings. UPPER RIGHT: Hats and fans made of newspaper and plastic flower crafted by the women IDPs

LEFT: Women IDPs in Grandstand Camp making handicrafts using newspapers, straws and used clothing. UPPER RIGHT: Hats and fans made of newspaper and plastic flower crafted by the women IDPs

The women IDPs have come together to conduct a community activity to generate artefacts out of newspaper, straw and other biodegradable materials. They make artworks, decorations and even household items such as doormats, fan, vase, flowers and curtains.

Fatra Omar, 36, one of the women IDPs in Zone D inside Grandstand was known to be the one who initiated this activity. She shared how she has acquired this skill. “Dati nung dalaga pa ako may taga DSWD po na pumunta samin tapos tinuruan po kame gumawa ng mga ganito, mga tsinelas, mga basket na gawa sa newspaper at mga plastic na napupulot lang.” (Before when I wasn’t yet married, there were DSWD workers who went to our barangay to teach us how to make things like these, like slippers, baskets that are made of newspapers.) Fatra was referring to the Practical Skills and Capability Building for Disadvantaged Women (PSCBDW), an old program implemented by the DSWD Regional Office but was eventually devolved to its local counterpart.

Fatra demonstrates how to cut and fold newspapers into strips

Fatra demonstrates how to cut and fold newspapers into strips

Fatra gathers her co-IDPs within their area for 3-4 days in a week to teach and train them how to reprocess used materials and turn them into new products creatively. “Gusto ko sila matuto din kasi pwede din nila ito pagkakitaan. Pwedeng ibenta. Gaya ng ginawa ko dati.” (I want them to learn because they can earn from this. They can sell these just like what I did before.) said Fatra, disclosing that she used to sell all her products when she didn’t yet have children to attend to.

Fatra rears 4 children. She happily shared and even shown us the picture of her son graduating in high school last March. Now that she’s so worried about having a bigger responsibility of sending her son to college, she sees this as an opportunity to earn money by herself and not merely rely on her husband’s income from doing carpentry. “Ngayon po plano ko na bumalik sa paggawa ng ganito kasi kailangan po sa pag-aaral ng anak ko.” (Now I’m planning to make recycled projects again because I really need it for me to be able to send my son to college.) Despite her worry, she is still thankful that her son was able to graduate amidst their situation.

Jenelyn shows off the hats they made out of newspapers and plastic flowers

Jenelyn shows off the hats they made out of newspapers and plastic flowers

Together with Fatra is Jenelyn Ismael, one of the camp leaders in Zone D. She also helps Fatra gather and encourage women in their camps to join their activity. “Ngayon 29 na po kame lahat. Mas madami na kesa nung nagsimula kame nung January.” (Currently, we are already 29 in the group. Bigger group than the time we started in January (2014)) she proudly states.

Fatra added that what she likes most about this activity is aside from learning, they also get to bring out the creativity in them and benefit from the things that they thought before are of no use.

Materials like the newspapers, used colored papers, scissors and glue are donated by their City Link of Pantawid and Camp Managers from DSWD, while straws, plastics and used clothing were picked up and collected by the IDPs themselves.

One of the participants added that the activity helped them become occupied in a way that they no longer dwell themselves on problems they are faced. “Mabuti na yung ganito na may ginagawa kami kaysa yung lagi naming isipin ang mga problema o di kaya mag-chismis at matulog lang buong araw.” (It’s better this way that we get to make ourselves busy than think about our problems, or gossiping and sleeping the whole day.)

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Fueling the Hope: The IDPs’ Homecoming

Zamboanga City – Homecoming is one of the best things in the world. It reunites families, relatives, friends and even neighbours who have not seen each other for a long time. It may be an OFW who’s been longing to see his family back home or those returning from military service to spend some precious times with loved ones and in some rare cases, a family going back to their hometown to start anew.

Boundless Hope

Inglan Osmena, waiting for his turn to be enlisted by the CIU personnel as one of the gas recipients.

Inglan Osmena, waiting for his turn to be enlisted by the CIU personnel as one of the gas recipients.

Seven months and twenty three days, Inglan Osmena counted in exact their length of stay in Cawa-Cawa shoreline. The crisis that lasted more or less three weeks in the city last September has forced thousands of families, including Inglan to flee their homes for evacuation centers. “Way kuna nara in mga panyap namu. Basta dimagan na saja kami. Katangisun aku bang kutumtuman byariin ku sila lyaruk ha Bangka.”(I wasn’t able to carry and save our things. We just ran away immediately. I almost cry when I think of us jumping out of our house and I had to throw them into our boat.) said Inglan, recalling how he and his family escaped gunfire in their seaside home in Rio Hondo.

He and thousand other families were brought right away to Joaquin Enriquez Memorial Complex (Grandstand) for proper intake and interventions. Eventually they were transferred to Cawa-Cawa shoreline after expressing their felt need of staying near the coast since they have to watch after their bancas— and the rest was history.

Although most have already returned home, some are still taking temporary shelters at the evacuation centers, such as the Cawa-Cawa grounds.

As of April 22, 2014, there are still 762 families housed in the said evacuation center. Here, Inglan maintains a makeshift shanty where he, his wife and two children share a space. He shared that nothing significant has changed in their life now compared to what they had before the siege, except for one. “Tagna byaini da isab kami. Asibi da isab in bay namu sah amu saja way na kami byaun mga panyap. Amu tuud yatu in mahunit di.” (We were like this as well before. We had a small house. It’s just that now we have no belongings. That’s what makes it difficult to live here.)

But despite the unpleasant happenstances, Inglan never gave up the only thing they have— a courageous heart and boundless hope to fight.“Amu saini pagiyanun namu miskin na asal, byaini pa. Sah in pikil haja namu, di ini dihilun kamu sin tuhan bang di namu kaya.”(This is what we have always thought of, that we are poor and then we are still confronted with these happenings. But we still try to see the positive side that God will not give this to us if we can’t get through this.)

What’s in store for Inglan and his family?

Plight of Naima

Naima Lagrono attentively listening during the Social Preparation for IDPs returning to their provinces conducted by their camp manager.

Naima Lagrono attentively listening during the Social Preparation for IDPs returning to their provinces conducted by their camp manager.

In between sobs, Naima Lagrono related that she has never heard news about her mom since the gun battle between the government forces and MNLF fighters.

“Dugaing na kasi in panghula niya. Didtu na sya ha Arena Blanco ampa kami ha Mariki. Na di ku na kynatan hain na sya byaun. Way na kami nakapagkita ubus yatu.” (She lives in a separate house. She was in (Barangay) Arena Blanco while I used to stay in (Barangay) Mariki. We haven’t seen each other after that (standoff). I have no idea where she is now.)

Naima, 26 years old is a mother of 3. With all the things that happened to her, she says she sometimes finds herself wondering what she has done to deserve this degree of misfortune. As her misery didn’t stop at losing her mother, her father was arrested and put to cell a month ago.

“Di namu kynatan myta sya syagaw. In kyahatihan ku bahasa naka-agad kunu siya ha mga bagay nya nagdugsu tau ha Sinunuc.”(We don’t know why he was arrested. What I heard was he was one of the suspects in a stabbing incident in (Barangay) Sinunuc.”

Unlike Inglan, Naima is no longer staying at Cawa-Cawa EC. She and her family moved to her aunt’s residence a week ago as she wanted their children to continue attending school in Barangay Lower Calarian. “Didtu na kami nakabutang byaun ha anti ku ha (Barangay) Lower (Calarian). Paiskulun sana namu didtu in mga anak namu.”(We just moved to my aunt’s house at Lower Calarian last week. Because I really wanted my children to continue their studies.) However she also disclosed that her aunt didn’t allow them to stay there for long.

Will her children be able to continue school?

Tied to the Sea

On the 762 families in Cawa-Cawa, 712 of which belong to the badjao tribe. They are one of thousand villagers displaced from their settlements in the shallows near or within a stretch of mangroves facing the sea.

Inglan and Naima are both badjaos. They are part of the indigenous population whose culture and livelihood are tied to the sea. Their traditional homelands in Rio Hondo and Mariki were the entry points used by the MNLF rebels during the siege. The government has since declared parts of these villages as “no-build zones” and designated them for environmental protection under the National Integrated Protected Areas System Act (NIPAS Act). This is why there were previous efforts of transferring thousands of internally displaced persons (IDPs) from evacuation centers to another temporary site while the government leads the construction of bunkhouses. But these sites are far from the shoreline. This caused them to resist. They reasoned that they could not bring their main source for livelihood – fishing boats that were left tied along the shoreline.Consequently, most of them opted to stay in Cawa-Cawa.

But the escalation of the number of deaths here fuelled the attempts of the villagers to leave the evacuation center. Eventually, Inglan and Naima finally decided to return their homes, hometowns at that.

The Homecoming

Children and the elderly represented the majority of mortality recorded in Cawa-Cawa camp. The poor sanitation of the surrounding has been blamed for the rising death toll.

“Maulung na ako ha mga anak ku mam. Gana-gana masakit pa mas mahunit na. Hangkanda, madtu na saja kami pa ina ku ha gensan. Gana-gana didtu katabangan kami.”(I pity my children. I don’t want them getting sick. It will be more difficult for us. So we thought of just moving to General Santos, my mom’s hometown. She might help us.) Inglan spoke in anxiety.

Naima also expressed her desolation about their current situation. So she and her husband opt to leave Zamboanga for Sitangkai, where her other aunt resides. “Plano na tuud namu sin bana ku madtu na haja pa anti ku ha sitangkai. Didtu na haja kami mangusaha.” (My husband and I are really planning to just move to my aunt’s place in Sitangkai. We’ll continue to look for a living there.) Together with Inglan and Naima, 55 other families had raised hopes that they too could soon go home.

Balik-Probinsya Program

IDPs lining up for gasoline distribution facilitated by DSWD RO 9 Operations Unit staff.

IDPs lining up for gasoline distribution facilitated by DSWD RO 9 Operations Unit staff.

Upon learning, the Cawa-Cawa Camp Coordinators immediately informed the Crisis Intervention Unit of the Department of Social Welfare and Development Regional Office 9 about this.

The CIU offers transportation assistance dubbed as Balik-Probinsya (Back to province) intended for disadvantaged and less fortunate people who can hardly afford financial requirements to return to their respective hometown. But instead of giving out cash or purchasing tickets, like what it used to do, the CIU provided litres of fuel for the IDPs who own banca.

Morning of Tuesday, the Crisis Intervention Unit headed by Ms. Rowena Mendoza and some of the CCM staff brought some 22 individuals to a gasoline station to fill up their gallons.

Inglan and Naima were just too happy to line up and get their share. “Makug tuud kami dihilan na kami ticket.Makauwi na tuud kami kamu.” (We are really happy that we will be given (transportation) ticket for free. Finally we can now return to our hometown) Naima blurted happily.

Meanwhile, Inglan was a bit emotional. He expressed how grateful he is to DSWD for giving him the chance to be with his family back in their hometown. “Maglabi sukul tuud kami na way kami pyasaran sin DSWD. Daing ha tagna yatu sampay byaun mig na kami. Iyayuput tuud nila kami.” (We are really thankful to DSWD because they never left us unattended. Right from the start until now that we are leaving the camp, they really took care of us.)

A total of 88,400 were provided by the agency to the Cawa-Cawa evacuees. They are expected to head back to the provinces of Tawi-Tawi, Basilan, Jolo, Zamboanga del Norte and other nearby cities of the Peninsula.

IDPs boarded on their outrigger canoes and some were waiting to board to return to their respective hometowns.

IDPs boarded on their outrigger canoes and some were waiting to board to return to their respective hometowns.

Aside from the transportation assistance, the IDPs were also given 2 food packs containing that will serve as their “baon”. Not only that, the IDPs have also undergone Social Preparation Orientation facilitated by the Camp Coordinators which mainly tackled on Human Trafficking, Drug Trafficking and other social issues that can possibly intercept them on their way home.

“This is a form of educating the IDPs about the risks that they might encounter and we wanted to make them understand that their vulnerability shall not hinder their plans of living a new and improved life.” Ben Isnain explained, Cawa-Cawa’s Camp Manager.

As of this writing, a total of 348,030 have been disbursed by the agency for the transportation needs of some 416 displaced families since the standoff. Rowena Mendoza, added that they send referral slips to each returning family addressed to Local Government of the Province where they are heading. This is so the displaced families can still avail of the government programs and services when they reach their respective hometown.

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