Visit of Singapore TIP team to Cebu and Kinatarcan

The eight-member team arrived on January 20 in Cebu City to meet with Father Tito, Father Aladdin and SNAF officials to better understand their mission and offer some ideas on how Kinatarcan could be rehabilitated, including how new livelihoods could be created.

Agreeing with SNAF that Kinatarcan’s rehabilitation should serve as a template for other similar island societies in the Philippines in future disasters, the team also emphasised the need for Kinatarcan islanders to gain ownership of initiatives that could be established to help them recover; this could also empower them to eventually assist other communities.

Among some of the initiatives tossed up was the introduction of fish farms, and the practice of eco-farming, using a system of growing algae to feed fish and animals – algae that is in turn derived from animal and fish waste. The algae would provide useful feed for Kinatarcan’s population of goats and pigs, while the setting up of fish farms would reduce the island community’s dependence on the sea for fishing and provide a means of a more reliable source of income through the sale of farm-raised fish.

What’s more, new skills would have to be learnt on how to raise farm fish and in filleting fish for export, for instance – skills that would help keep the island’s young population gainfully employed.

The need to introduce a cheap but efficient source of energy – powered by wind – was also discussed as there is presently no electricity on the island. Firewood is used for cooking.

Also debated was the possibility of building a high-end resort in some part of Cebu, based on a model in Thailand where part of a luxury resort’s revenue received from guests is channelled into a fund that go to help in the development of villages and schools around the resort. Similarly, revenue raised from guests staying at such an exclusive resort in Cebu, if realised, could go to a fund for developing not only Kinatarcan but the other small islands around Cebu.

An arts village was also put forward as this would provide a means of reviving and preserving traditional arts and crafts which in turn could be showcased and sold to tourists as souvenirs. Money raised from handicraft sales in such villages could similarly be fed into a fund for the development of ‘thousand island’ communities.

The discussion with SNAF on January 21 was rounded up with a visit to Cebu’s City Hall, where the TIP team was warmly received by Mayor Michael Rama, who expressed his appreciation of the help being rendered to the Kinatarcan community by SNAF and the Singapore TIP team.

At the end of an hour-long meeting and discussion, he pledged his support and assured that his office would work as a catalyst to get TIP and its initiatives off the ground. He also agreed that eventually, the establishment of any projects on Kinatarcan would see the islanders and Cebuanos gaining ownership and being empowered to act in similar rehabilitation projects elsewhere.

 

Trip to Kinatarcan

On January 22, the TIP team made a special visit to Kinatarcan for a first-hand experience of life on the island in the wake of Typhoon Yolanda.

Three hours on a long and winding road brought us to Daanbantayan where we boarded a bangka for a choppy 60-minute ride over high waves – evidence of how Typhoon Yolanda was still having an effect on the sea and local weather pattern.

But the beauty of the island, with its clear waters and soft white sand beaches, was palpable from the moment we landed.

We were ferried from the beach landing point on motorcycles to Langub village and witnessed en route the ravages of Typhoon Yolanda – a broken concrete rain shelter, coconut palms bereft of branches, churches and chapels without roofs, a pile of crushed corrugated metal that was once a house and ruptured fishing boats.

Dotted everywhere we went were white igloo-shaped box shelters that are now homes to displaced families.

A heartfelt   welcome and a table of plenty – despite obvious deprivations – awaited us thanks to the generosity of Maria Kessler, better known as Ate Elvie, a Cebuana and frequent visitor to Kinatarcan during breaks in her 25-year sojourn in Zurich, Switzerland.

An uphill hike along the pilgrim’s path of the Stations of the Cross afforded us an overview of Kinatarcan and its coast. On its summit, the island’s chapel lay in ruins, a victim of Typhoon Yolanda’s wrath. From here, it was a short walk to the highest spot on the island to inspect the suitability of a 1000 sq m plot of land kindly donated by Ate Elvie – later quadrupled – as a site for the proposed ALS centre. Its location was ideal – equidistant to the island’s three villages and easily accessible on bicycle or on foot.

 

Establishment of the ALS centre

Back in Cebu City, the TIP team huddled together on January 23, to discuss in detail the next steps to be taken for the rehabilitation of Kinatarcan. First and foremost, it was felt that a jetty should be built to allow for ease of access to the island. Boat building activities should be resumed as soon as possible to enable the island’s fisherman to continue with their traditional livelihood while waiting for new livelihood options to kick off.

It was decided that an ALS centre should be established as soon as possible with a focus on the teaching of the following skills: First aid and care of the elderly; computer-related skills; the culinary arts, carpentry; arts and crafts; plumbing, electrical and construction skills; boat building; house-keeping and hospitality, which would prove useful for homestay programmes; English language training and communications; motor repair; farming and animal husbandry.

As envisaged by Prof Tay, the design would be modular in nature, so that rooms and even floors could be added on if required.

Blocks for building the facility could be easily made on the island, itself,  he contended. By starting a factory to build these blocks, the materials could be made available at a very competitive cost. What’s more, it would give an opportunity for Kinatarcan islanders to learn a new skill plus create an export industry for these bricks.

Ringed by a corridor, the ALS centre would be built in the form of a square, with rooms for teachers and dormitories for visitors and part-time volunteers who could stay for a week or so to conduct computer, English and other classes.

Provisions would also be made for rooms where carpentry and motor repair could be conducted away from the main rooms so as to minimise the levels of noise.

In the middle of the ALS centre, there would be a water catchment facility enabling rainwater to be collected and properly filtered for all the villages to use.

 

That’s not all.

 

Sliding doors and windows of solid wood would be designed in such a manner that when shut, the centre would be like an impenetrable fortress against strong winds and tides.

 

Indeed, the heart of the ALS centre could double as a place for refuge, capable of accommodating up to 400 people.

 

To add to the aesthetics, there will be a porch and a garden. It would be, in the words of Prof Tay,” a place of love”.

 

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