Ang Kalusunan: Pursuing disaster risk reduction and management

By Aimee Oliveros

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It’s been over 30 years since the devastating earthquake in my hometown Baguio. I remember that I just got home from my pre-school class, it was just me and our boarder Kuya Rick at home since my parents were both working while my siblings were in school. I thought Kuya Rick was intentionally shaking the house. I remember calling him out to stop because I was getting dizzy.

 

I had no idea what was happening; I don’t remember feeling scared but just confused and even curious. The next thing I remember was being grabbed by Kuya Rick and we were running outside of our house. As we were on our way out, I saw my father on the top of our stairs and he had blood on the back of his shirt; he had this worried look that I can still remember until now. That was the time that I got profoundly scared. We camped outdoors in a vacant lot with our neighbors. The nights were cold but I remember feeling warm thanks to my long red-striped coat and the comforting embrace from my mother. We prayed the rosary every night. I prayed extra hard for the aftershocks to go away because I can feel how scared we all were.

It was only years after this that I would have a clearer picture of what happened to my beloved city—buildings were completely destroyed, the cost of damages was millions worth, and thousands of lives were claimed, some of them would have been the same age as me.

It is still very painful to see the pictures or hear news about this even until now. The memories came rolling back just last week when another earthquake hit Baguio and the northern part of Luzon. You will never completely get over the trauma. You just forget it for a bit but it will find its way to the surface and will still haunt you.

According to UNICEF, one billion children are at extremely high risk of the impacts of the climate crisis. Children and the younger generation are extremely vulnerable to the devastations caused by disasters and climate change. The risks of disasters have increased over years, and the impact and frequency of these extreme weather conditions will likely continue to increase.

The disruption caused by climate change will affect children’s health, wellbeing, safety, education, and of course their future. As young as they are, they will be compelled to face the harsh realities and deal with the dangers, most especially in climate and disaster-vulnerable areas.

Surviving these disasters is one thing, but living through them is another story. Proactive action, support, and education are necessary to build resilience, strength, and knowledge among the younger generation. After all, they are not only victims. They also play a critical role in climate action, disaster risk reduction, and the future of our one and only home. 

The Do’s and Dont’s 

As we celebrate National Disaster Resiliency Month this July, it is critical for Climate Reality Leaders and advocates to understand their critical role in climate action and disaster risk reduction. This month we asked our leaders in Luzon, “How should we prepare for climate change disasters?”

“Climate Change is no longer subtle; everyone is responsible to take care of themselves and to look after the welfare of people around them. Climate disaster is taking place almost every day and everywhere. Preparedness should be a way of life. Be a wise consumer. Don’t waste food, energy, and everything that we need daily. Always keep a moderate stock of food and medicine during storms or rainy season. Don’t expect to be led, but be a leader. Help the authorities in disseminating info on flood warning, possible rain induced landslide and the like. Know the alert levels on flood and make it a habit to wear on your body whistles (silbato) to be used in case of emergency. Do not believe that you live in a safe place, disaster has no boundaries and it is your duty to keep yourself safe. Wherever you are, know the location of escape plan. Help keep the community clean to prevent spread of disease. Take note of the need of the elderlies, the sick and babies in your home. Animals and pets need to be saved too. Try to keep calm. Maintain a healthy body.”

– Lena Vergara, 2020 Global Training

“Help our agency's stakeholders or the MSMEs to create their business continuity plans that are also green, inclusive, and sustainable.”

– Nikki Limlengco, 2021 Global Training

“Having experienced disaster response work beginning with Sendong in CDO in 2011, all the way to Typhoon Lawin in October 2016, I realized that the work is more often a reactive initiative and remains daunting for all responders, from logistics to the very specific response one’s organization will choose to do (in my case it has always been about shelter and at times donor dependent too). After Yolanda, our organization decided to embark on a proactive stance regarding disastersmm especially with typhoons since this specific disaster can be predicted and organizations such as ours and other like-minded NGOs and civil society organizations seemed in synch with this idea sometime in 2013. Hence, “prepositioning” became a by-word and the actual position. The National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council (NDRRMC), Office of Civil Defense (OCD), United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN-OCHA), and other international non-government organizations and civil society groups found themselves in coordination meeting days before a typhoon hits the country. Each INGO/NGO would commit itself in specific areas where the typhoon is expected to landfall and will respond according to the immediate needs of the area after a so-called DANA (Damage Needs Assessment). During “peace time” (prior to any predicted typhoon), our organization usually conduct Disaster Preparedness initiatives among vulnerable communities. We usually gather community leaders and members, let them identify real threats in their areas, let them create an escape route, let them create their own Early Warning System to properly warn the community, let them identify community resources for their immediate inventory so they can at least estimate if said resources can help their community members survive (no. of days apart from their GoBags), etc. All of these we try to conduct prior to any disaster so that every partner community will be prepared and casualties are eliminated, if not minimized. We always make sure that every community, given the context of their most common disaster, is prepared. The key word is being PRO-ACTIVE instead of being REACTIVE when it comes to Climate Change Disasters.”

– Rommel Miles Corro, 2016 Manila Training

The Highs and Lows 

This month, we continued with our regional hang-out with Climate Reality Leaders from National Capital Region (NCR), home to over 650 Climate Reality Leaders. This session was incredibly intimate with the reunion of mostly Climate Reality Leaders trained in 2016.

Zandro Amador is an advocate of active mobility and supports the shift away from the car-centric mentality and towards mass transportation to reduce carbon footprint and mitigate the climate impacts.

Arnel Caranto is a media practitioner, content developer and currently engaged with climate and ecological work with his current organization Life, Inc. He shared about his experience about organizing house party events (now 24 hours of Reality) way back in 2007 as well as his work in developing educational materials on climate change and environment through comic books to support the education of students and teachers.

Rommel Miles Corro shared about his latest climate talk in San Beda College Alabang to new faculty members and administrators, where he was formerly connected prior to joining the social development space. He is actively engaged in green mass housing, advocating for green architecture, and exploring biophilic designs. He is an advocate of renewable energy and active mobility; he is passionate about being a long-standing bike commuter.

Lanie Francisco shared about how she started to learn about the impacts of climate change when she started learning about organic farming and working with farmers. This led her to learn more about fertilizing the land, utilizing the use of ipa or bran, and eventually started bokashi composting to support the environment and communities through livelihood programs. She is currently working with different organizations to teach the system of bokashi composting.

Nikki Limlengco recently worked on a feature about MSMEs in line with her work in DTI Trade Training Center. She recently completed a training needs assessment to support MSMEs particularly in the food sector to better support their livelihood and strengthen LGU coordination. She is also in post-production for a documentary that she is currently working on about a community in Tawi-Tawi.

Vicky Segovia recently represented Philippine Women’s University and the National Council of Women of the Philippines to support the marine coral rehabilitation project in the Verde Island passage. She is likewise engaged in promoting carbon assessment and carbon neutrality in different universities and schools. She is actively engaged in planning for the State of the Nature Assessment in Bacolod with local universities and organizations, as well as the National Conference on the role of women in climate change advocacy in the Philippines.

Corazon Siya was previously a Barangay Kagawad working with her community and the local government unit. She is currently working on bamboo planting and mangrove conservation in her province in Iloilo to avoid erosion and create a sanctuary for the fishes. 

Lena Vergara is a retired government employee of the Housing and Land Use Regulatory Board for over 40 years. She shares her success story for over 25 years about composting her household kitchen waste using newspapers, recycled brown bags, and coco peat as an act of reducing her carbon footprint. She is also an active cyclist and would continue to do this as she can to promote sustainable mobility.

As a pre-work for this regional hang-out, we asked the Climate Reality Leaders what they consider as top climate issues within their cities and there’s consistency on solid waste management, weather disturbances, extreme heat, flooding, increasing cost on electricity and fuel, water insufficiency and pollution.

Since the attendees are from Metro Manila area then opportunities to engage in climate action was identified through direct engagement, particularly in the academe, other socio-civic groups as well as local government units.

The discussion also stressed the importance of leading by example and understanding that climate change also requires behavioral change actions. It’s interesting to see how the next sessions would bring about more connections and collaborations. Watch this space and connect with us! 

What’s in store for #LuzonLeaders?

Join our upcoming online regional hangout on 18 August 2022 with Climate Reality Leaders in Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR), and Ilocos and Cagayan Valley Regions.

We would love to hear from you! Do you have any climate questions but are too afraid to ask, or maybe just a comment in our monthly column, just email me at aimee.oliveros.ph@climatereality.com.   

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR 
 

Aimee is the Luzon Coordinator of The Climate Reality Project Philippines. She is a human resources professional with over 10 years of corporate work experience in different local and multinational industries. With her experience in organizational development, training and employee engagement, Aimee is deeply passionate about promoting learning and wellbeing. She is a Climate Reality Leader having joined the 2020 Global training which solidified her inner passion for community work and service. Being an advocate for the environment, she co-founded RE-Store MNL, a small shop promoting refill and reuse in Paranaque City. She earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in Social Sciences at the University of the Philippines Baguio.

ABOUT ANG KALUSUNAN

Ang Kalusunan or the “Northern Part” is a space that aims to amplify the climate stories and initiatives of the more than 1,200 Pinoy Climate Reality Leaders in Luzon.

It is one of the monthly columns launched by The Climate Reality Project Philippines to elevate the climate discourse and strengthen climate action across all regions in the Philippines.