5 November 2014

Typhoon Haiyan - SOS Children's Villages revives livelihoods in Tacloban fishing villages

On November 8, 2013, Typhoon Haiyan, the deadliest typhoon ever to hit the Philippines and one of the strongest storms ever recorded, made landfall in the Philippines. It destroyed thousands of homes, schools and businesses in the Tacloban region alone, and over 6,300 people in the Philippines lost their lives.


Fisherman Nestor and his family were affected by Typhoon Haiyan.
Photo credit: Sebastian Posingis

The first thing people notice about 52-year-old fisherman Nestor is the fact that he has just one arm. A freak accident a couple of years ago meant the loss of his right arm. But for this fisherman, losing his boat to Typhoon Haiyan was a worse tragedy.
“Losing our boat was like losing our lifeblood,” says Nestor. “And for a fisherman to lose his boat…it was like losing my arm all over again.”
Nestor is from the coastal community of Bislig, where for the majority of people fishing is the primary source of livelihood.
“I still remember the first time I set out to sail,” Nestor recalls. “I was 12 years old and I couldn’t even carry a water jug by myself. My ancestors were men of the sea, and I knew that I was destined to be one as well. From then on, continuing after I got married and had children, I set out to sail. Fishing is the only thing I know how to do.”
Nestor fondly refers to fishing as his ‘second wife.’ “The sea also has extreme mood swings,” he notes with a laugh. However, Typhoon Haiyan was unlike any mood he had seen. “It was probably the only time I was terrified of the sea,” he says.
When the sea subsided, it took with it all of Nestor’s belongings, his small hut, and perhaps most importantly, his boat and all of his fishing equipment.  
SOS Children’s Villages realizes that for people like Nestor, the kind of help most needed is the revitalisation of a livelihood. Such help allows them to support themselves and their families again, and to feel like a sustainable future is within arm’s reach again.

“We leverage the existing skills of the people – the skills they developed over the course of their lives and applied in their work before Haiyan,” said Oscar Garol, Director of SOS Children’s Village - Tacloban . “If they were fishermen, we give them boats. If they were carpenters, we give them heavy-duty tools of their own. If they used to be the neighborhood cook, we give them capital to restart their own carinderias [food stalls]. So far, 467 families have been helped under the livelihood program of SOS.

With this in mind, the organization has given fiberglass boats to the fishermen of Bislig, including Nestor. Two fishermen share the use of one boat. Nestor shares his with his neighbor and longtime friend, 48-year-old Evangelino Latina. “We share the gas for the boat and make sure that we each get to use the boat at least once a day,” Nestor says.

Before Typhoon Haiyan, the fishing community used boats made of plywood that did not meet the legally-mandated government standards. SOS staff, in consultation with the Agriculture Department, introduced eco-friendly fiberglass boats which are the same size as the old ones, and which feature similar engines and nets. Through a partnership with the Department of Agriculture, the fishermen are being trained in the use and maintainance of the new boats.
Today, Nestor is proud that he can go back to his chosen profession – to his chosen way of life. “A few days back, I caught a 10 kilo fish which I sold for 800 pesos,” he says. “That will be enough to feed my family for two weeks. It may not sound like a lot for other people; but for us, that is our life. And I thank SOS for giving that life back to us.” 


Click here to read more about the work SOS has been doing in the Philippines.