Building Back in Culion

Brgy De Carabao is situated on the southern part of the island of Culion, in northern Palawan. In going to the barangay, one goes by plane from Manila to Busuanga, take a van to the tourist town of Coron, then take a ferry to Culion. Reaching Culion, one either takes a motorbike or a banca to the barangay. On a rainy day, you either choose to traverse the muddy trails by land, or challenge the rough waters by sea.

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Culion, to the southwest of Coron, in northern Palawan.

Culion is an island made infamous decades ago because it housed the country’s leper colony. As such, it has maintained its secluded state for quite some time. Thus, progress has been less than ideal, with 95% of the population in Brgy De Carabao still coming from the native Tagbanua tribe, with a sprinkling of migrant Bisayans – lured by the rich fishing grounds – who have since been assimilated by the natives.

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We took a banca ride from Coron to Brgy De Carabao. The water was calm then.

Brgy De Carabao was also devastated by Typhoon Yolanda, but due to its isolation, no mention whatsoever was heard about the Barangay in the aftermath of the disaster. Recently, as Palawan’s rebuilding effort spearheaded by the dynamic Gov Joe Alvarez finally went on full gear, areas such as Brgy De Carabao are finally getting the attention sorely needed.

Habitat for Humanity Philippines was given the task to facilitate the construction of housing units in the barangay. That said, an ocular inspection was made to find out the conditions and make the preliminary coordinations before Habitat’s entry into the area.

The barangay lies on a clayish, rocky rolling terrain. It is situated on relatively high ground, hence there is no danger of flooding in the area. It has roughly 500 households, 50% of which are in the poblacion, while the rest are scattered in 7  sitios.

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A short uphill hike from the beach to the brgy poblacion.

The Barangay Captain is a feisty lady named Marilyn Credo. She is a native Tagbanuan, who married a migrant Bisaya. Despite her native roots, she has confidence and strong leadership skills, coupled with a very inquisitive and progressive mind.

During our general assembly meeting with the barrio folks, followed by a smaller consultation with the native elders, she demonstrated a clear foresight, having ready answers to questions she anticipated would become issues with some sectors.

The following observations were clear:

1) The barrio was also hit hard by the typhoon, with most houses flattened to the ground.

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More than a year later, there still remain some evidence of Typhoon Haiyan’s wrath.

2) Progress is being felt now, however slowly.

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The barangay’s water source needs to be enhanced.

3) The electric power system was introduced in 2012. However, it needs to be improved, as brownouts are experienced very often. It appears that the barrio power requirement is much more than was anticipated.

4) Water is a big problem. A small hose supplies water for the whole poblacion. Hence, the line never ends, even past midnight. They have a brgy ordinance that states that children are not allowed to fetch water past 6pm to ensure they are studying. However, there is a bigger water source that can be tapped roughly 6 kms from the poblacion.

5) The road nets have been laid out properly. Streets are mostly straight and perpendicular to each other. The main roads are 8m wide, while the arterial roads are at 6m wide.

6) The Health Center has many volunteers who provide service even to the farthest sitios.

7) The high school is in need of additional classrooms. Their Gr 7 class has 53 students. They do not have a decent classroom. Instead, they have a makeshift shed with no walls.

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This is where the Gr 7 students hold their classes.

8) The elementary school has 11 classrooms, but they only have 3 shared toilets.

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The elementary school has 11 classrooms, with almost 400 students. They have only 3 toilets for the students.

9) The 236 housing units planned are certainly not enough for the needs of the community. The brgy capt has organized a group to vet the selection of home partners.

10) Construction costs will increase due to the distance from supply points. There is a local source for sand and gravel. Bamboo is limited.

11) Local contractors will need to be identified for this project.

That said, the people of Brgy De Carabao are very eager for the project to start. They have been informed of the need for them to participate in the construction effort, and are committed to provide the skilled and unskilled labor assistance. With God’s help, Habitat Philippines should be able to initiate this project pretty soon.

For a closer look, just click on the pics and enjoy the show.

7 comments

    1. Thank you, friend. it is good to know there are those among us who are willing to support such projects. Habitat will soon be bringing in this housing program to the barangay. We will also provide for schoolrooms, plus a water system and perhaps a solar program as well. For our Tigbanua brothers.

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