Habitat For Humanity for Yolanda Victims in Daanbantayan

Yesterday marked the first year since typhoon Yolanda hit the country and left thousands of people dead, missing or displaced. It was perhaps the worst natural disaster to ever hit the country. Thankfully, we weren't left alone when Yolanda left a trail of disaster. International aid came pouring in and a tide of volunteers came to help us get back to our feet.
Last May, the outreach club at work heeded to this call to arms and launched a campaign with Habitat for Humanity to help build homes in Daanbantayan, one of the northern municipalities of Cebu that got badly hit by Yolanda. Here's a throwback on what went down during our volunteer “mission”:
We had to leave early since the entire journey to Daanbantayan will take about 4 hours max! The municipality is in the northernmost part of Cebu and is one of the areas affected by the typhoon. On our way, we saw the extent of the damage even when months have already passed since Yolanda. There were some houses without roofs. A lot of debris like fallen trees were still lying around, too.

After hours of sitting in the bus, we finally arrive! We were greeted by the staff and were ushered to this orientation/general visitors area. It was a very hot day—-in the summer, no less!—- and this tarped area was our only source of shade.
I was a bit surprised to find that the area was still…er…quite bare. Although we were oriented (warned, really) that there will most definitely be hard labor involved, I was expecting to paint the model houses in bright vibrant colors, or do some cement work and pass around some hollow blocks like how they do it in a Gawad Kalinga infomercial, or maybe use a shovel for the first time in my whole, non-shovel-using life. That was the kind of hard labor I had in mind. But boy, was I wrong.

This was the only completed unit at that time. these houses, according to the project manager who oriented us, are especially designed to be weather-proof. It can withstand strong winds and even high-intensity earthquakes. Pretty cool right? The downside was, it was the only one standing when we went there. We volunteered around May, 6 months since the typhoon happened, so I was a teeny bit sad that construction was going on at such a slow pace. I thought about the victims who lost their homes and belongings. 6 months can be like a lifetime when you don’t have a decent home.I really hope that they've found a way to speed things up there by now.

So this was what they meant about hard labor actually being hard. Remember when I told you that the area was still bare? Turns out, they haven’t even dug the foundations for most of the units so…yeah. That was our huge order of the day: dig foundations. By hand, in high noon. It was crazy hard, especially for BPO people like us whose butts are glued to our swivel chairs for 8 hours. We had to use pickaxes and shovels and really get our backs into it. It was our (almost non-existent) upper body strength vs the hard hot soil. There were some occasional rocks too, which was tricky.
By the end of the day, I was burnt, my hands stung and my back in need of a really good massage, but I also felt a certain sense of completeness. Cheesy, I know, but having not done something as taxing and relevant in my life, the simple digging felt like a huge achievement. I also had a new respect for builders and masons and construction workers who go through that kind of work everyday. They might be superheroes and we don’t give them enough credit for it so here’s to all the construction workers out there!
My friend Chrislam looks exhausted!

Finally! Break time! The people onsite actually “ring” this metal makeshift bell to signal that we were about to be fed (at last!!). We had Jollibee for lunch and we recharged with lots and lots of ice water and Chickenjoy. 
It took us a couple of hours more until we finally threw the towel and called it a day. Most of us still actually haven’t slept, since they headed there right after their shift. It was a hard day but all of it well worth it, if it meant that we were making other people lives a wee bit better. Even if all we did was dig a hole in the ground.
So here we are! Smile friends! :)

This is my very first post! Tell me what you think! :)

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