Babatngon, Leyte — Barangay Planza is one of the three island barangays of this  municipality where around 800 individuals reside. Farming and fishing are their main sources of income.

At present, there is only one day care center and one elementary school in the locality. Students wake up as early as 4 a.m. to travel to Brgy. San Agustin, where the nearest high school is located, to be able to avail of secondary education.

Most of the vital and medical needs of Brgy. Planza come from Tacloban City. From Brgy. Planza to Tacloban, one must travel to Brgy. Bagahupi, to Brgy. Guinti-gian, and then ride a pump boat to Tacloban that would cost around P110 for a one way fare of one person.

Situation worsen upon the onslaught of Typhoon Yolanda. This already hard-to-reach community became even harder to reach when it was isolated for some time. Food became scarce. But, due to the precautionary measures that the community has observed, unlike other barangays, there were no casualties reported in Brgy. Planza.

“Isang araw bago dumating ang ‘Yolanda’, nag-evacuate na kami sa eskwelahan kasi mas mataas ‘yun na parte (A day before ‘Yolanda’ made landfall, we already evacuated to the elementary school because it is on a higher ground),” Brgy. Captain Erwin Sembrero shared.

“Pero ang problema na talaga noon, wala nang pagkain. Dati meron kaming mga gulay at prutas. Pagkatapos ng bagyo, wala na lahat (But the problem during that time was the scarcity of food. Before the typhoon, we produce our vegetables and fruits. But after the typhoon, nothing was left to us),” he added.

The villagers, however,  agreed to bring back what ‘Yolanda’ has taken.

They started a communal garden through the Sustainable Livelihood Program (SLP) of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).

Under the SLP, a long-term livelihood assistance project is being granted to identified program participants.

Aside from the livelihood project, some 156 individuals  participated in the Cash for Work (CFW) program implemented by the DSWD and the local government in the barangay.

Likewise, the community is determined to continue the construction of a barangay health center which they have proposed for the Kapit-Bisig Laban sa Kahirapan Comprehensive and Integrated Delivery of Social Services-National Community Driven Development Program (KALAHI CIDSS-NCDDP) of the DSWD.

KALAHI CIDSS-NCDDP is one of the poverty alleviation programs of the government which aims to apply participatory, community-led and community- driven approach to development. Accordingly, the center will help in the improvement of the health status of the residents in the barangay.

With the communal garden and the health center, villagers need not go to Tacloban City for their basic needs.

 A solo mother’s journey

Among the residents of Brgy. Planza is Marlyn Lacaba, 47.  Marlyn has nine children and also nine grandchildren. She fulfills her role alone after her husband died after committing suicide. But this did not to hinder Marlyn from being a responsible parent to her children and grandchildren.

 “Dalawang taon na akong solo parent. Apat sa mga anak ko ay may asawa na, lima ang nasa akin pa. Yung dalawang binata, nagpapasuhol. Elementary lang ang tinapos nila (I have been a solo parent for two years now. Four of my children already have their own families, five of them are still with me. Two of my sons are laborers. They only finished elementary),” Marlyn shared.

“Gustong-gusto ko na makatapos ‘yung tatlo ko pang anak na nasa akin (I really want my three children who are living with me to finish their studies),” she added.

This dream of Marlyn becomes closer to reality as her household is one of the 50 Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program beneficiaries in the area.

“Parati kong sinasabi sa kanila na kahit wala silang tatay, makakapagpatuloy silang mag-aral (I always tell them that even if they don’t have a father, they can continue to go to school),” Marlyn emphasized.

“Dahil sa tulong ng Pantawid Pamilya, nakakabili na ako ng uniform at sapatos ng mga anak ko. Nagmumukha na silang tao (Because of the assistance from the Pantawid Pamilya, I can buy my children their school uniforms and shoes. They now look like school children),” she added jokingly.

Despite the challenges they faced, Marlyn’s children are top school performers. This year, 10- year- old Bea received second honors when she finished Grade 4 while  Khen, 7, received first honors as he finished second grade.

“Noong grade one kasi siya [Khen], third honor lang siya. Kaya ang sabi niya sa akin, sa susunod, first honor na siya. At talaga namang tinupad niya ‘yun (When he [Khen] finished grade one, he received third honors. But he said that next time, he will finish first. And he really fulfilled what he said),”Marlyn narrated.

Depending on herself alone, Marlyn also gets inspired to work harder as her children showed great interest in going to school.

“Maglalabada ako o kaya titira ako sa ninong ko sa Tacloban para makapag-aral (I will wash other people’s clothes or stay with my godfather in Tacloban so that I can continue going to school),” Khen expressed his strong will to finish his studies.  While Bea intends to go to San Agustin to attend high school and eventually become a teacher.

“Gusto ko pong makapagtapos. Gusto ko pong maging teacher para magturo po ako rito (I want to finish my studies. I want to become a teacher and teach here),” Bea shared.

As for Marlyn, she actively participates in the activities in their community including in the setting up of their communal garden.

“Maganda kasi kapag meron na kaming communal garden, lalo na at maraming batang payat dito sa amin (It would be good to have our own communal garden especially that many children in our area are undernourished),” Marlyn shared.

For Marlyn and the rest of the people in Brgy. Typhoon Yolanda taught them the importance of self-sufficiency – the lesson which they are now using as their motivation to work harder. #

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