Week 4 Leg (second part of a three-part series blog on Climate Walk)

Being part of the Climate Walk gave me the opportunity to provide assistance to the engagement of the climate advocates with the communities. We talked to people and listened to their personal account on how they manage to survive typhoons, being dwellers located in the storm-belt Bicol.

Luis Palencia, Naga CityIn Naga, I had a brief conversation with Mang Luis Palencia, a taxi driver in the city. He believes that the presence of coal-fired power plants contributes to global warming, thus affecting us all. During Typhoon Glenda, he witnessed how Barangay Sabang in Naga City was devastated. According to Luis, hundreds of houses near the shore were washed out; some were extremely damaged.

"Hindi lamang mga pagbagyo ang aming kinatatatukan, kundi pati na rin ang pagtaas ng tubig sa dagat. Paano na lang ang mga nakatira sa mga tabing dagat? Dagdag pa sa global warming ang pagdami ng mga coal plant. Dapat ang lahat ay maki-isa at magtulong tulong para pakinggan tayo ng gobyerno natin at umaksyon sila agad para sa ikabubuti rin nating lahat" (It’s not just the typhoons we’re afraid of but also storm surges. What’s going to happen to those who live in the coasts? Global warming will get worse with more coal plants. Each of us should work together so the government will act urgently, for our welfare), Mang Luis added.

Jessa Aballa, NabuaThe next day when we stopped in the town of Nabua, I met and chatted with Jessa Aballa, a 20-year old mother with 2 toddlers and a 7-month old baby. Residing along Nabua highway, Jessa and the people in their area evacuate to higher lands during typhoons as their location is one of the most low lying grounds. Heavy rainfalls cause the nearby lake to overflow to their farmlands and to the main road, affecting their livelihood.

Jessa said they cannot simply leave their location because it is the only permanent place they can live in and the only source of their humble income.

She said, "wala na kaming ibang pagkukuhanan ng kabuhayan kundi dito lang. Kapag iniwan namin ito, mawawala na ang lahat sa amin" (We don’t have any other source of living anywhere else except where we are now. If we leave, we’ll lose everything).

Community stories piled up as we do our stop-offs. We were at the municipality of Guinobatan when I met Evelyn Baldosa. Her family resides in Tandarora, Sitio Ibalon in Albay, located just a few kilometers away from the foot of Mayon Volcano. They have been evacuated 3 times: during Typhoon Reming in 2006 which caused mudslides from Mayon Volcano, Typhoon Glenda this year, and now due to warnings on the Mayon Volcano eruption.

Evelyn Baldosa, Guinobatan"Sa kalikasan natin, malaki ang pinagbago. Ang mga tao putol pa rin ng putol ng mga puno, kaya tignan mo ang mga bundok natin ngayon nakakalbo na. Hindi tulad noon na ang mga tao mahilig magtanim at nagpo-produce ng mga sariling kakainin" (A lot has changed in our environment. People keep on cutting trees; just look at our mountains, they are now bare, unlike in the past when people liked to plant and make their own food), Evelyn said.

Despite living in an area that’s vulnerable to disasters, Evelyn is grateful to their local government for the quick response and accurate information and evacuation strategies during disasters.

She continues, "Mas maganda na meron kaming relocation area kasi kapag may bagyo o pag-alburoto ng bulkan lilipat na naman kami. At sana, kung lilipat man kami, may malapit na eskwelahan para sa mga anak namin. Makakatulong din kung mayroong government-initiated na mga projects na magbibigay ng pangkabuhayan sa mga tulad kong ina, halimbawa pananahi o mga handicrafts para makatulong naman kami sa mga asawa namin" (It’s better if we have a relocation area because we need to move whenever there’s a storm or if the volcano is active. We hope there’s a school for our kids near the place we get moved to. It would also help if there were government-initiated livelihood projects like sewing or handicrafts so we women can help our husbands).

Shao Ogayon, GuinobatanThere's also Shao Ogayon, a 25-year old Nursing graduate, who's now a disaster risk reduction trainor and implementor in Guinobatan.

Shao told us, "Noong typhoon Reming, naranasan ko yung bahay namin lumubog sa tubig. Humahawak na lang kami sa kawad ng kuryente kasi umabot na ang tubig sa second floor ng bahay namin. Ngayon, handa na kami. Hindi na nag-pa-panic kasi alam na namin ang gagawin namin. Nakakita pa kami noon ng mga patay na tao at hayop lumulutang sa tubig. Hindi ko malilimutan ang bagyong Reming noong 2006 kasi yun yung pinaka-worse, pinakamalaki ang casualty na naidulot dito sa bayan namin. Pagtapos noon, na-realize na namin na kailangan talaga ay trained ang lahat kung paano mag respond tuwing may mga sakunang darating" (Our house was flooded during Typhoon Reming [2006]. We held on to electric cables because the water reached the second floor. Now we’re prepared. We don’t panic because we know what to do. I won’t forget Typhoon Reming because that was the worst, the most number of casualties in our province. Dead bodies and animals were floating in the water. That was when we realized that everybody really needs to be trained to respond whenever there are disasters).

These are just some of the stories of survival, hope, and action that I've found during the Climate Walk from Naga to Irosin—testimonies that catastrophic impacts of climate change are being felt first and worst by poor and vulnerable communities.

More stories are found at www.filipinosforclimatejustice.org

While big carbon polluters spur in developing sweeping strategies to control policy makers, communities and activists often have modest resources to gather together and create plans for creative action and disaster preparations.

Our cry for climate justice will continue until those that are historically accountable for accumulating the greenhouse gases emitted over the past centuries face up to their responsibilities by making large cuts in their emission and respond to the needs of the people affected.

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