weeks go by
it is getting hotter and hotter here in Kalibo. April and May are the
'build-up' seasons for the monsoon rains to follow in June and July.
And even though the rainy season will be welcome due to the lower
temperatures it promises, at the same time it will also be the season
of the Typhoons and Dengue mosquitoes.
But saying that, even now a Typhoon is approaching the Philippines. A
slowly moving tropical storm that is forecast to increase to Typhoon
class 1 and arrive here on Wednesday. Class 1 is nothing to worry
about. But it is also very early in the season. What will the real,
seasonal Typhoons look like then?
The last week can be dedicated to new people arriving here in Kalibo.
First of all there is Peter, my housemate Jen's boyfriend who will join
us for the next 2 months. And then there are two more Australian
volunteers who arrived here today for their respective assignments.
Unfortunately for them, their host organisation did not have much time
to introduce them to Kalibo. Not like my workmates who spent the whole
first day together with me, going for lunch, playing basketball etc. So
yeah, for the new volunteers Jayfree and Jen and Peter and me had to
take over. Showing off our beautiful new hometown, having lunch
together, going shopping together and even looking for a permanent
place for the new girls to stay. So all in all we had a pretty good
The rest of the week was filled with 'new' people as well. Not exactly
new but by then still unknown to us were the four US Peacecorp
volunteers from the area around Kalibo. They came to Kalibo during the
week and we did spent two evenings with them, having a beer or two and
a lovely chat. Hearing their stories I believe we as Australian
volunteers have it really good. Not just the amount of our allowance
that is considerably higher but also the laid back conditions compared
to Peacecorp regulations lets us Aussies really live like kings here.
And that is really what it feels like, we live such a great life in
Kalibo, we almost should feel bad about it. But we are also just as
aware that it is temporary only. I already know now that coming back to
Australia will be quite hard...
Back at work most of our time was dedicated to prepare an awesome
exercise. An easy solution to a simple problem. The problem is that in
the remote far south of our province Super Typhoon Yolanda wrecked
havoc in the rainforest back in November, resulting in hundreds of
fallen trees in the Aklan River. The fear is that these trees will
create an artificial dam during the next typhoon, resulting in massive
flooding. As it happened during Typhoon Frank in 2008, the worst and
most deadly natural disaster to ever hit our province. The easy
solution is what we plan to do: 90 people with chainsaws will trek up
to these remote forests, cut the trees to lumbers, donate these lumbers
to villages for repairing their houses and at the same time keep the
river clean for the rainwaters to freely flow down to the ocean. The
logistics of that exercise are massive though. Just to get to the
location involves a ride in the back of a dump truck for over 30km,
riding on motorcycles for another 10km to the end of the trafficable
road. And then a 7 hour walk through the rainforest. All in all a 7 day
activity. 90 people including provisions and equipment. We will be so
remote that even the assistance and protection of the Philippine Army
has been requested! But I already know it will be an awesome time. For
I love these sort of activities. The life outdoors. I was also asked to
run a two day training exercise then, up there. Training 'remote area
rescue'. I am still not exactly sure what it is that I am supposed to
train them. But I will figure something out.
This week will likely be dedicated to help the Seals Rescue volunteers
with some equipment. Already for a long while we try to secure a
shipment of outdated or no longer used rescue equipment from Australia.
But it proves rather slow and difficult to secure this shipment. So as
a Plan B I introduced the idea of crowdfunding to Jayfree. And, as
expected, he is very excited about the possibilities. What the
Seals need most is equipment and transport. It is just not a good look
for any rescue organisation to catch public transport to respond to
emergencies. So we dedicate the crowd funding idea to purchase a
Multicab vehicle. They are amazing little cars. Pretty much tiny vans
with the back half cut open. Like pick-up vans. These vans are locally
made in the Philippines out of Philippine and Chinese made parts. And
cost only AU$4500 brand new. One such van is all it takes to transport
a rescue team and all available equipment quickly and reliably to any
response location. But there are simply no $4500, nothing really close
to it, on the accounts. Crowdfunding seems to be a working solution
towards getting the money together. Although I must admit I have never
done anything like that in fundraising. So we'll see if we can prepare
a successful campaign next week. The motivation is that success
literally saves lifes.
It's now 9:30pm and I am still sitting here on my little balcony with
my little laptop. Even the laptop gave me a scare last Friday by just
simply dying and refusing to start. Only a factory reset made it
working again. But also deleted all data and all software. Fortunately
enough I had all important data backed up. But some of the software is
forever lost. But anyway, life here starts early and finishes early and
it's time to sleep. So for this week that's the latest.
months after the storm damage from Super Typhoon Yolanda is still
clearly visible around Kalibo
The Typhoon Yolanda damage not
only extends to structures. But also to the environment. Like the trees
on the hill in the background of this photo which got stripped bare of
all leaves by the force of the superstorm
Five months after Yolanda some
people still live in temporary tents donated by the international
The gateway to Kalibo complete
with an Ati Atihan mask on it's left. The Ati Atihan is the Philippines
biggest festival. And happening right here in Kalibo every January.
Also a common feature are the tarps filled with rice along the road.
They are used for drying the rice in the intense sun during the day.
The central 'Plaza' of Kalibo
with the big private hospital in the background. That is also the
hospital prescribed to us Australians as the preferred place for any
Right at the centre in Kalibo
you will find this massive Balete Tree. These trees are usually not
touched because they are considered haunted trees. Which also mean they
survive for a long time even in urban areas.
It was another big week in Kalibo. It started with a bit of a
scare, cyclone Domeng was forecast to find the Philippines during
the week. Predictions in classification ranged into the seriousness
of a category 1 Typhoon. More highlights of the week included
Wednesday being a public holiday. And Sunday being the day when the
most famous of all Philippinos, Boxer Pacquiao, had his epic fight in
Las Vegas, a fight that would literally stop the nation. So what did
the week have in store for me?
Reporting to the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management
Office, the forecast of a cyclone had to have an impact on our job.
Although the windstrength was not predicted to be a serious hazard,
cyclones can bring a lot of rain. And often that means Kalibo gets
flooded. Our Flood Early Warning System is still not 100% established.
Relevant for Kalibo are three automated sensors along the Aklan River.
One far up in the mountains in Libacao. Another one halfway down the
river in Madalag. And the third one here in Kalibo. Ideally the sensors
upriver measure the high water levels and the sensor in Kalibo gives us
a reference for consequences these high up river flood levels have for
Kalibo. These reference measurements can be used for future flood
predictions. Giving us an indication of when a flood will arrive in
Kalibo and how high the water level will be if a certain water level
was measured at a certain time up in the mountains of Libacao.
Obviously the more reference measurements we have, the more accurate
the prediction will become. So in a way we need floods and cyclones to
obtain these references. Cyclone Domeng would be the first chance to
test our new system. So far the theory. In reality, the all important
sensor in Libacao stopped working some 2 months ago. Nothing was done
with it for a month. Then it was removed to be sent to Manila for
repair. Where it still is. So it seemed more than likely we would
encounter a cyclone during the week and miss out on the chance to get
any data from it. Explaining the waste of a chance to the office very
quickly a plan was established to install a manual flood gauge in
Libacao. The next day. It was one of the shortest and most efficient
field trip planning I've experienced so far here.
So off we went, Jayfree and me on my motorbike to buy the things we
need. Mostly spraypaint and a tape measure. Libacao is the most remote
municipality of our province. Some of the villages in Libacao are not
accessible by road, only by a 6 hour hike through the bush. However,
the location of our flood gauge was accessible by a small track.
Tuesday morning we set off in a car borrowed from the Coast Guard
Auxilliary Unit, a small two wheel drive open truck.
The road between Kalibo and Libacao is one of the most scenic ones our
province has to offer. It follows the mighty Aklan River in it's
valley, the first few km are paved. Most of the way though is an
unpaved gravel road. It leads to the main settlement of the
Municipality, called Libacao Poblacion. But we had to go further. Into
the wild. Beyond Poblacion the road was no longer a road, more like a
rough trek. Our little coast guard car, clearly not designed for a 4WD
adventure in the mountains, struggled a lot. Us passengers sitting in
the open tray at the back, we were completely covered in grey dust and
shaken to the bone when finally we arrived on site. The location
for the automatic sensor and now also for our manual gauge would be a
bridge. Decades ago there were plans to build a bridge here in Libacao.
These plans reached fruition and a construction for a concrete bridge
commenced. Still a construction site, Typhoon Frank hit the region hard
in 2008, creating the highest flood levels Aklan has seen to today. And
destroying most of the bridge under construction along the way. What
remained has not been touched since. A ruined half constructed bridge
surrounded by the dark green world of tropical forest. The frame of
where once was our automatic flood sensor, now in Manila, could still
be seen clearly. And most amazingly, right next to the bridge ruins - a
house. Almost right at the river bank. I couldn't believe there were
people living in it! This area gets flooded so often, multiple times a
year, floods up to 9m high during cyclones. And yet, a family chose
this most dangerous spot to be there home. Fair enough.
A manual flood gauge is literally just a supersized tape measure,
painted on a structure in the waterway. In our case it was a pillar of
the bridge. The pillar was clearly in the flood zone, surrounded by
river gravel. But when we got there it was all dry, the river flowing
past us a few meters distant. It's been a couple of days without rain.
Perfect to spray paint our flood gauge. The Seals volunteers
created some awesome templates for all the dashes
and numbers just the night before. Ideally we would just climb up the
ladder and spray it onto the concrete using those templates. But of
course there was no
ladder. Neither our office nor the Seals own a ladder. Nor would we
have had any chance to transport it to Libacao. So the easy solution -
abseiling. Three of the Seals took turns abseiling down from the
bridge, along the lonely concrete pillar, spray painting over
templates. And yeah, it worked. At the end of the day we had 7m of
potential water levels marked on the bridge pillar. Right on the side
where the lonely family home was located. So they can look out their
window (or more likely walk out their house a few steps) and read the
water levels. When the level reaches the 3m mark the water will start
entering their house. When Typhoon Frank hit in 2008 and swept the
bridge away the water level was at the 9m mark... The resident
explained to us how they just run up the hill a couple of times a year
when their home gets flooded.
We encountered our own disaster on the way back. Our sturdy Coast
Guard vehicle may have survived the rough ride to the fallen bridge,
that one huge nail on the road back was no match for our tyres though.
a flat tyre along a remote road is not an easy fix. Particularly when
the spare wheel has an even flatter tyre. Everyone knew about it so it
spared us to effort to try the spare wheel. Why did we have a spare
wheel with a massive gash in the tyre? Well, no answer to that, it's
just the way it is. So up the hills we were on the dusty road, taking
the damaged rear wheel off. Any vehicle driving past would shroud us in
a grey cloud of dust lingering around for a while, making breathing
difficult. The car was parked at a tyre repair shop that unfortunately
only repaired motorbike tyres. But not today anyway, the repair guy was
busy somewhere a the river. So we were sent to another shop up the
road. Ryan, a Seal volunteer, stopped a motorbike and hopped on the
back with the spare wheel going back up the mountain road to where we
just came from. Hopefully the tyre repair shop there was more of a
success. The rest of us waited with the car. And waited. And
accumulated dust while
we waited. In what seems an eternity later a jeepney raced past us, out
of the window Ryan was waving us, disappearing with the jeepney down
the other way, towards Kalibo. So no success at that tyre repair place
up the road then!?!? Another eternity later, our dust layers had by now
turned us into grey statues, Ryan came back. Smiling on the back of
another motorbike with the wheel and the fixed tyre! Finally back on
our way again.
These are little episodes in my life in Kalibo. Nothing is bothering,
all is just taken as 'the way it is'. Every bridge is crossed when we
get there, some in an ordinary way, some in a very innovative way. But
life always goes on. And amazingly no one ever complains about
anything. It is an amazing feature in Philippino life - no complaints!
And really, in the grand scale of things there is nothing worth
complaining about. Considering the great life we volunteers are living
here - definitely no complaints. Just saying. While I am sitting on my
own balcony. Watching the sun set. Every evening the shroud of clouds
lift at the horizon and the mountains of Libacao appear. In all my life
I was dreaming about living in a big house in a warm climate and having
my own balcony. And here, for the first time ever, I do. Not just
travelling through, staying for a night. No, it's my home. For now. So,
Ah yeah, cyclone Domeng has weakened into a no-worries low pressure
system and turned away from the Philippines. And Pacquiao is the new
champion and hero after winning the boxing fight in Las Vegas today. No
need to complain either, right?
road between Kalibo and Libacao goes through a stunningly beautiful
landscape along Aklan River
is this one house next to our flood gauge location. It is right there
in the flood zone. But helpful to us because the family living there
can read our manual flood gauge. So we do get flood levels even though
the automatic sensor from this site is in repair.
abseiling to place the marks for the spray paint job.
worked on that derelict bridge, a casualty of Typhoon Frank in 2008.
Hard to believe that then the water level reached the underside of the
concrete bridge girders. At
the left corner of the bridge deck you can still see the installation
of the automatic flood gauge, the sensor still there but the reader and
radio transmitter was sent to Manila for repair. However, this flood
sensor is the one crucial part of the Early Flood Warning System, the
one that triggers warnings for Kalibo city.
way back from Libacao we were forced to stop right here, having a flat
tyre on our car. A happy little pig enjoying sweet potatoes was good
Guard vehicles are not compatible with mountain roads. So we learned.
view from my balcony. I do an effort to try to be there every sunset.
Only then the clouds lift and the mountains of Libacao appear at the
horizon. Framed by rusty metal roofs and banana trees.
20/04/14 - Easter Sunday
Happy Easter to all of you brave followers of this blog! Yes, Easter is
celebrated here in the Philippines as well. It is actually taken
extremely seriously. The Philippines as an arc-catholic country regard
Easter as one of the main holidays. It means four days without working,
starting Thursday all the way through to Easter Sunday. And although it
may seem like the perfect opportunity for the Australian Volunteer to
travel, at the same time it is not really that easy. Because Easter is
a time when Philippinos travel back to their families. Which means that
all flights, all ferries, all buses are cramped to the roof, prices go
through the roof and even travelling outside on the roof may give you
trouble finding a spot. So, lazy as I am, I stayed in Kalibo. Which
again saw me having our whole house to myself with my housemate
travelling with her parents for a week to eastern Luzon.
It doesn't mean there was a boring time here for me though, no, the
very contrary. And super interesting. Celebrating Easter - Philippino
Let's start with Thursday, our first public holiday. On Thursday and
Friday all the Seals volunteers were busy on First Aid duty at one of
the main pilgrimage sites. It is a hill in the town of Banga, right in
the main campus of the Aklan State University. As you slowly walk up
the densely forested hill you will pass 14 life size shrines depicting
the 14 stations of Jesus last walk with the cross. Each one of them
having it's own small crowd of praying pilgrims around. The highlight
though is experienced up on the top of the hill, as you come out of the
forest onto a large opening with a huge concrete cross towering into
the blue sky above. And the view from there is just spectacular, clear
sight all the way down to Kalibo. It's the only significant hill in the
Kalibo plains. You see the planes full of Boracay Tourists landing on
the long straight runway of the airport, you see the big concrete cubes
of the Gaisano Shopping Mall. And in the far distance the ocean. The
Aklan River showing you the way in a curvy line all the way from the
foot of the hill in Banga to it's delta just past Kalibo town.
Amy, another Aussie volunteer, her partner Michael and me went off
to do just that hike up the hill, in the company of lots of local
pilgrims. And of course to visit and cheer up the over 20 Seals
volunteers on First Aid standby along the route. After finishing the
long walk in the tropical heat we decided to enjoy a Halo Halo before
we get back to Kalibo. Halo Halo is awesome, a typical Philippino
refreshment snack. It is basically a juice glass filled with a thin
layer of sweet corn, sometimes beans, always sugar and then lots of
colourful sweet jelly pearls, lots of crushed ice and ice cream and
milk. When it's served, all the ingredients are neatly separated in the
glass. And before you eat it, it needs to be mixed up. Halo Halo quite
literally means 'Mix Up'. Sitting there enjoying our snack and thinking
about the long way home by public transport, usually too many
passengers in a too small vehicle in the too hot tropical temperatures
- Amy and Michael decided to buy a motorbike. Snap decision. But good
idea. So the three of us went back to Kalibo by Tricycle to go on a
motorbike hunt straight away. And a few hours later there was another
motorbike in the Aussie volunteer family.
As it should be a new bike needs to be tried and tested. So most of
Good Friday we spent on the road. Amy and Michael and me and our two
motorbikes on an Easter tour. Down past the airport, along the
coastline of New Washington all the way to the tip of the small
peninsula at Dumaguit. A ferry carried the bikes and us across to
Batan. And from there on we followed the empty roads along the small
bay past the small towns of Altavas and Balete and also Banga. Through
beautiful green forest, fish ponds, bamboo houses. In Banga we stopped
for another visit and cheer-up of the Seals volunteers on their second
and last day of duty at the hill, it was much more busy than the day
before. The highlight of Good Friday though would follow later - the
huge Easter Procession in Kalibo.
Good Friday is the main holiday for Easter in the Philippines. Almost
all shops, restaurants and service stations are closed. The roads are
empty. It's a somber commemoration of Jesus dying on the cross.
Culminating in a big procession after sunset. I can only estimate but I
would guess at least 20000 people participated in the procession,
probably 25-30 floats depicting, much larger than lifesize, stations of
the living and dying of Jesus, of St Mary and other saints. Floating
along Kalibo's narrow roads on golden and silver carriages pushed by
the people. Beautifully decorated with fresh flowers and shiny
glittering clothes. Lights, powered by a small generator for every
single float, set the scene for the statues of the Saints to shine
brightly into the night. And all around the floats thousands of
candles. Nearly every single person in the procession held one in their
hand. If one was blown out by a breeze it was promptly lit again by
another. One flame shared by many. A slow flowing river of thousands of
little flickering dots, interrupted by islands of brightly lit saints
looking towards the sky in suffering facial expressions. No one in the
procession spoke. Apart from a few kids the whole scenario happened in
silence. For probably two hours. Jayfree invited a few of us Aussies to
join the procession with him for a while, shortly after we stopped,
moved to the side and just watched the beautiful floats floating past
Easter Saturday was very different indeed. Once again it was movie time
and early afternoon six of the Seals came home to my place, carrying
with them the (community education-) projector from the office, a large
bag full of food for cooking and blankets and pillows for sleeping.
Movie night always means sleep over, it's mandatory. And that's fine.
So Saturday summarised just was: an awesome day of cooking,
eating, drinking soft drinks, buying more food at the market and cook
and eat and drink more. And all the while watching movies from my
laptop, projected onto the large empty wall of our living room. Others
came and went, two little girls of our neighbors sitting on the step of
our open door, too shy to come in, but still eagerly watching. Others
watching through the windows. And, as I learned the next day, watching
movies from their own balcony through our window. It's the 3rd such
movie night since I got to Kalibo and they are my favorite past times.
After I don't know how many movies and close to 1am everyone just slept
on the spot, where ever. On the floor, on the bamboo couch, on the too
short soft sofa.
And then today, Easter Sunday. I woke up by the clinging and banging of
dishes in the kitchen. Everyone wakes up so early here. We still had a
lot of food leftover from the night before so it was good use for
breakfast. Rice and Fish in tomato sauce. Or spagetthi with tomato
sauce and sliced sausages. And coffee, our favourite Nestle 3in1. Not
too bad for breakfast.
After breakfast everyone went back home. Apart from me, I was home
already. Not much later, with my door open, two of the boys from the
neighbors just sat on my doorstep. Because it was on the shady side of
the block of townhouses. Not much later they sat on my sofa. Still
excited by the movie marathon the night before. They were the ones
watching our movies from their balcony. Excitedly counting down all the
movies we watched. It's cool. There was this one thing I noticed before
in our neighborhood. All the kids from all the different families play
together. Where ever there is an open door it is part of the official
playground and kids just walk in and out. Except in our house, there is
still too much shyness. But I have the strong suspicion that that has
changed since the movie night. Kids are curious now, coming in, having
a lemonade with us. Using our house to hide and seek.
Later in the afternoon we had a meeting with the Philippine Coast Guard
Auxiliary. Although I did only get a rough idea of what's happening,
the meeting was held in Aklanon language, Jayfree invited me along to
introduce myself and meet the volunteer coastguard people (the
'Auxiliary'). Many of the coast guard volunteers work in a normal job
that quite often is related to my very own volunteer work, such as the
Municipal Disaster Management officer of Numancia and others. So it was
good to meet them, another great bunch of volunteers.
After the meeting, perfect timing, there was a text message from one of
the US PeaceCorp volunteers. Chilling with a friend in a beer garden
not far from my house. Sounded great to me. So I helped them chilling
with a few beers before dinner. Coming home after that I got caught on
my door step, a small voice calling 'Marco!'. One of the boys from this
morning smiling and handing me a plastic container with salad. Made by
his mum for me. And it was delicious!
That was Easter in Kalibo.
The only other highlight during the week was another training course
run by my office. A refresher for Disaster Risk Reduction in Ibajay,
around an hour drive from Kalibo. We were fortunate enough to have a
pickup service, a car from Ibajay coming to Kalibo to taxi us back. An
open pick-up multivan, us sitting in the back. Which was good until it
started to rain, the heaviest rain I experienced so far in the
Philippines. After the course most of Ibajay around us was covered in a
thin layer of water, flashflooding. So much so that on the way back we
were driven in an ambulance car. Not the open van anymore. Greg lying
on the stretcher relaxing. The other ones sitting around him enjoying
the airconditioned ride back to Kalibo. Service you can't complain
ride to our training course in Ibajay - in the back of an open
multivan. Shortly after we would be drenched in the rain.
typical training course. Jayfree is presenting. Participants are from
the Barangay (villages), MDRRMC (Municipal Disaster Risk Reduction
Council) and Bantay Dagat (environmental protection volunteers). To the
left of the projector screen a big Santa is hiding.
it was, a random Santa Claus, just next to the presentation screen.
Yep, it's close to Easter!
ride back home was much more comfortable. In the back of an
airconditioned ambulance car we enjoyed the great service of being
driven home through the rain.
Good Friday Ride - the ferry from Dumaguit to Batan and our bikes.
owners of a brand new motorbike - Amy and Michael.
Batan we came across more damages from Super Typhoon Yolanda. The area
here was battered much harder than Kalibo, it was close to here that
the eye of Yolanda made landfall on Panay Island.
in Batan we came across some beautiful beaches.
ready for the Good Friday Procession - a lot of larger-than-life floats
are lined up on the Plaza near the cathedral.
floats are usually made and cared for by one family in Kalibo. Across
generations the family will participate with their float in the Easter
Procession, decorating it with fresh flowers and taking care of it as a
ocean of people. Getting ready for the procession to start at sunset.
is about to finish, my
assignment in Kalibo runs into its 4th month. Although
there is a certain routine it still feels like holiday for me. Waking
up with the sun shining bright and the heat already developing,
walking or riding along amongst the colourful jeepneys, the big
yellow Ceres overland buses or the flood of noisy smoky tricycles
will get me straight into Kalibo-mood every morning.
It was the week of another flood drill
in cooperation with the Philippine Red Cross. Flood drills are cool
because there is a lot of action. And I like it. It was another two
day event. One day of planning locally, surveying the area and
orienting the population. The second day is the actual flood drill,
basically a mass evacuation exercise with a few rescue scenarios
thrown in. I was put in charge of the rescue scenarios. So we had to
find some casualties, prepare them with lots of fake blood (a sticky
mixture of tomato sauce and flour) and find some good locations to
position them. We had three locals to be volunteer – casualties.
off we went with the fake blood. One of the guys had a stick
protruding through his food, mimicking a scenario of him walking
through murky flood waters and stepping onto a sharp piece of debris.
The girls in 'Cas Prep' did an awesome job and if it wasn't for the
big smile on the casualties face you could be excused for thinking
the injury was real. That one really attracted some good attention.
The second casualty didn't need much preparation, his story was
simply that he has fallen and broke his leg, hurt his head and was
found unconscious. The third one was special. We would place him in
the river, mimicking an accident when he was falling down the
embankment into the water, causing him a chest injury along the way.
So lots of tomato sauce on his shirt. After preparing him though he
disappeared. Apparently had to go just for a minute to get something
in the council building done. But it wasn't just a minute. As time
went by the flood drill started. Warning signal 1, signal 2 and
signal 3 for evacuate. Still no casualty 3. What was happening? I can
only imagine what happens if a man walks into a council building with
(fake) blood dripping off his shirt, squirting from a large (fake)
chest wound. 'May I pay my council rates please?' Well... we never
saw him again but apparently there was nothing to worry about. Just
one more of these things that just happen and don't seem to worry
anyone. Another thing beyond my understanding. However, we just
recruited another volunteer casualty on location, literally just
pulled someone from the street and covered him in fake blood and
threw him in the river in a matter of 2 minutes. But no worries, the
local rescue team did an awesome job and a few minutes later he was
already rescued out of the water and heavily bandaged. Not
surprisingly since the rescue team was already on it's way before we
even knew we had a casualty...
We all returned to the evacuation
centre to evaluate how things are going there. The evacuation centre
was the big basketball hall in the next town, Ibajay. We had 728
participants in the drill evacuated there plus countless volunteers
of the Red Cross and our local Seals and PDRRMO team. And on a day
that started to warm and sunny in Kalibo we would soon learn what
happens when an evacuation centre floods. Because it did. The roof of
the stadium has been damaged by the Super Typhoon Yolanda last
November and was only partly repaired. It was a metal sheeted roof
and only the last row, the bottom row, of sheet metal was still not
installed. And then the rain came. It came quickly and without mercy,
water was pouring down on Ibajay. A roof the size of a stadium
collected the heavy rain, the entire roof catchment flowing down the
sheet metal to hit the 1m gap right down the bottom. Creating a
unique sheet-waterfall all around us. The concrete steps of the
stands quickly transformed to a cascaded water fall and the playing
ground at the bottom transformed into a lake, some of the people
fighting the inevitable with brooms and brushes and timber boards.
Fortunately the rain was as shortlived as it was in intense and an
hour later our evacuation centre, still wet, was usable again. In
another show of typical philippino manner – no one seemed
surprised, no one complained, the smile never left anyone's face. My
deepest respect to the resilience of the people.
Last week has been a very special week
for our Province of Aklan – the week to commemorate the founding
the province 58 years ago. Consequently there was much to celebrate.
Just around the corner from our office was a big trade fair. Every
town in the province had their small stall introducing what was the
identifying feature of that region. The town of Lezo showcased their
pottery items. The town of Banga their basket weaving. Ibajay had
seafood. Kalibo's stall was Ati Atihan themed – the biggest
festival in the Philippines. Around those stalls there was much to
eat, much to drink and a live music stage till midnight every day.
The provincial government building in the background, set alight by a
colourful lightshow every day after sunset. It created much of a
fiesta atmosphere and a couple of us took full advantage of it during
two nights. All culminating on Friday, the actual anniversary of the
Friday started with a big parade. After
a mess in the Cathedral the parade went through the town of Kalibo to
the Provincial Government compound on the southern outskirts of town.
By coincidence also the location of our office. I received the great
privilege to walk with the Seals and hold up one end of their banner.
And received a proper Seals uniform to blend in. Although the shirt
was a bit tight it was okay to wear. The uniform pants though
finished just under my knee and there was no chance I'd be wearing
anything my size as uniform pants. I guess for Philippino standards
I'm pretty tall...
On Friday night the Seals were invited
to a gala show just outside the massive Provincial Capitol building.
Back in November the Seals were the first in Kalibo to respond to
Typhoon Yolanda, the volunteers of the province working tirelessly to
clear the roads from debris and support the people whose houses have
been destroyed. And for their effort the Seals would receive an award
that Friday. Which made me lucky too because I was allowed to tag
along. We entered a different world there, although it was outdoors,
it was an invite only event. There was a live band playing classic
music. There were tables with shining white table clothes. People
dining in the best of what their wardrobe would provide them with.
There were many VIP and political leaders of Aklan and the
neighboring provinces attending too. Food was Western style. None of it
have seen in the Philippines before. Fresh grapes, sushi,
mediterranean style bread . There were cocktails too. And Sangria.
Most tellingly though, there was no rice.
Around the awards ceremony there were
traditional dance shows, modern dance shows and Ati Atihan style
dancers. And at the end of it all – fireworks!
The week was properly finished off by a
trip to our neighboring province of Antique – a beautiful stretch
of land along the western shores of our Panay Island. The capital,
San Jose de Buenavista, is the home and work place of another
Australian Volunteer in Disaster Management of my intake –
So a whole group of us set out to visit him. A contingent of three
Aussies and three Pinnoys going interstate. Apart from the occasional
text message there was not a lot of contact between Richard and me in
the last few months. So it was good to catch up. And to see how
Disaster Management is done in the Province of Antique.
about flood evacuation
signal for an imminent flood is given by drums strategically placed
around the village
People evacuating their homes from
the other side during our flood drill. This picture highlights the need
for disaster management in the area. Although it is hard to believe but
underneath this river is the old village centre, the basketball court,
the Plaza, the Barangay Hall. During Typhoon Frank in 2008 intense
flooding lead to the Ibajay River changing it's course and relocating
right through the centre of the village. And the river never left the
volunteers treating a casualty during one of our staged rescue scenarios
basketball stadium, used as our evacuation centre during the drill, got
flooded during an intense rain storm.
the Aklan Day Parade - our contingent of Seals volunteers posing in
front of the Capitol building.
building of our Provincial Government beautifully set alight for the
annual awards ceremony
the three strong points of the Province of Aklan: Boracay Island
(windsurfer), Kalibo Ati-Atihan festival (traditional dancers) and Pina
fibre (white business suits) during the festivities on Aklan Day
out on the beach in San Jose de Buenavista - life is good in the
Relaxing in a
Fish Spa in Tibiao - little fish picking the dead skin cells off your
feet. It's a pretty tickly experience.