In times of Affliction, God and Preparedness are our Protection


Sition South Libis and Sition North Libis are two peripheral, riverine, peri-urban communities in the village of Banaba, San Mateo, Rizal. These two communities experience yearly flooding due to the overflow of two adjoining rivers (Marikina and Nangka Rivers) that are part of the topography of the area. This writer recorded a ten-year cycle of a big flood in the area – 1978, 1988, 1999, 2009. The prospect of more and worsening floods was aggravated by an environmentally critical project of one construction company to establish a cement batching plant right at the middle of the two sitios and very proximate to the embankments of Marikina River. The vulnerable families analysed the project and its impacts to them during the weekly Basic Ecclesial Communities (BEC) Buklod (numbering seven cells) meeting. The vulnerable people arrived at a consensus: the project of the construction company should be halted for disaster risk aggravation that would ensue that would be inimical to children, older persons, women, and persons with disabilities living in South and North Libis.

Non-structural types of disaster risk mitigation were mapped by the community of Buklod or Basic Ecclesial communities, such as a signature campaign of community folks addressed to the Mayor and a request for a public hearing with the committee on Environment and Natural Resources of the San Mateo Municipal Council.

We also ensured attendance at technical conferences to file complaints against the project with the Laguna Lake Development Authority (LLDA), the Regional Office of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), the National Water Resources Board (NWRB), and finally, lobbying to the Provincial Board Members of Rizal Provincial Council. The non-structural disaster risk mitigation efforts of the community paid off. The construction company packed up and abandoned its cement batching plant project in the area of vulnerable people in sitio South Libis and Norh Libis. But damage had already been done by the construction company’s initial earth moving activities and dumping of filling materials. Victory was not enough; we had to think of ways to be less vulnerable in more concrete initiatives and find sufficient funding. Our non structural disaster risk mitigation was undertaken with “pass the hat” funds while we also forged partnerships for this non structural disaster risk mitigation pursuits with: the lawyers of Tanggol Kalikasan, and at the early stage, the staff of the Ministry of Social and Human Development – Social Action Center, Diocese of Antipolo. The partnership ran from September 1995 up to May 1996, when the construction company folded up.

The members of Buklod Tao, Inc. tasked Ka Noli A. Abinales, concurrent President of the organization at that time, to write letters to sympathetic institutions that would help a fledgling organization. A simple project proposal was drafted and was submitted to the Small Embassy Project window of the Royal Netherland Embassy in Manila. The project delineated, for its first component, the establishment of th community-based disaster management structure of Buklod Tao, Inc, to be implemented in sitios South Libis and North Libis. The project proposal submitted to the embassy was approved in May 1997. The first tranche amounting to P25,000.00 was released by the embassy upon signing of a MOA in mid June 1997. With this first tranche, Buklod Tao was able to undertake the first component of Buklod Tao, Inc. project, that is, the establishment of a community-based disaster management organization (that was how it was called then, circa 1997).


Buklod Tao PABATID (system of communication within the organization) was circulated to some 30 to 32 men and women-members of Buklod Tao, Inc. It was an invitation to them to attend a one-day forum and workshop to be held at the community chapel about community preparedness as the community’s counter against flooding. It was held on 20 June 1997, facilitated by Buklod Tao President, Ka Noli. The first objective was: to raise community awareness about disasters, hazards, our vulnerabilities and local capacities. This was aptly met with the output of a hazard map drawn by three sub-groups of the participants. Each grouping was tactical because representatives included: - Those that reside at sition South Libis - Those that reside at sition North Libis - Those that reside at the middle part, between the two sitios. The second objective was to organize the participants who have undergone awareness raising. Although we all belong to one umbrella group, Buklod Tao, Inc., the community awareness that was undertaken necessitated the formation of dedicated groups within the organization that is focused on preparedness, safety and reduction of risks. The tactical sub-groups during the hazard mapping workshop led the way towards the organizing of Disaster Preparedness Teams of Buklod Tao, Inc.: one in sitio South Libis; one in sitio North Libis; and one based in the middle portion between South Libis and North Libis. Community awareness and community organizing were realized that same day (20 June 1997). One more element has to be pursued still: can we already go back home and be content with the day’s accomplishments? This writer asked the participants inside the community chapel this question: “We have attained community risk awareness, we have formed three volunteer groups for preparedness, safety risk reduction, have we missed something?” Within seconds, the leader of our newly formed groups replied: “For our respective teams, we need provision of rescue boats, rescue ropes, flashlights, life vests, and megaphones for early warning”. This response was the embodiment of our third objective: Capacity building. Our organization must enable our teams to pursue their role during disasters for the welfare of our community members. With the first tranche from the Royal Netherland Embassy, we were able to capacitate ourselves: 1. We fabricated our own three fibre glass rescue boats 2. We purchased three sets of rescue ropes, flashlights and even megaphones for our early warning system. It would be recalled that it was in the 1990s when the backdrop in the government relevant to disaster mechanisms was Presidential Decree 1566 where a proactive stance to disaster and disaster risk was still wanting. Hence this writer could not cite any local government role in the above described community initiated pursuits. Coordination of the above pursuit on CBDRM was vested on the Buklod Tao officers.
The women in our community served as cooks of our community kitchen during disaster events. Still, other women served as in-charge of our designated evacuation center which was the community chapel; the youth helped in the repacking and distribution of relief items.
The Post Ketchana Rehabilitation Programs prompted Buklod Tao to undertake the following CBDRM activities: 1. Rapid Damage Needs Capacities Assessment in our flood-affected communities 2. Rapid Livelihood Assessment 3. Food and non-food relief delivery operations 4.. Housing materials distribution 5. Social enterprise capital augmentation program 6. Banaba Disaster Risk Reduction Program which constitutes the following components: training, organizing, livelihood, advocacy, capacity building, and construction plus stewardship with prospects of ownership of Banaba Livelihood and Evacuation Center 7. Paralegal (SALIGAN), Psycho-social (Ateneo Psychology Dept), Rapid Response training (Christian Aid), CBDRRM training, organizing and advocacy (CDP) 8. Developmenmt of Banaba Participatoy 3-Dimensional Map (University of Aucland, New Zealand, University of the Philippines Dept of Geography, CDP). Monitoring mechanisms included livelihood committee meetings headed by Christian Aid and skills training facilitated by Unlad Kabayan, along with evaluation meetings with Christian Aid, Unlad Kabayan, and the Center for Disaster Preparedness Foundation.


Since the CBDRM projects in 1997 and 2010, there have been no casualties during flood events in our communities. Families are now aware of the meaning and significance of our early warning systems; eight peripheral communities in Banaba appreciate the existence of DRR Teams of Buklod Tao equipped with rescue boats, flashlights, ropes, life vests, and megaphones (that need replacement). Sensitized communities emerged in regard to preparedness and safety: evacuation during times of emergencies are already a mindset for all, and to reduce vulnerabilities of homes, families retrofit their houses against floods and earthquakes. Notable was the level of participation of people during training events, flood simulation events, and meetings.