Housing meets livelihood: San Roque Eco-Village Turnover and Skills Training Graduation

A Thursday to remember

October 25 was like any other Thursday for most, but for families now residing in the San Roque Eco-Village in Salcedo, Cagaut Samar, it was a joyous occasion like no other. A total of 37 families were being given the keys to their new Cement Bamboo Frame Houses, permanent shelter a safe distance away from the disaster risk area they used to live in.

The San-Roque Eco-village is a project led by the Environmental Science for Social Change (ESSC), in partnership with Base Bahay Foundation, Inc., and the local government (LGU) of Cagaut, Salcedo. The Eco-village is a post-Haiyan effort aimed at relocating families living in at-risk areas of Cagaut to safer, more permanent land and homes. Through close community involvement and collaboration, 37 Cement Bamboo Frame houses were built complete with water and electrical systems.

Prior to moving, many of the beneficiaries of the project resided in a lower part of Cagaut, near a creek. While the creek served as a dock for many of communities’ fishermen and women, it also brought in frequent and destructive flooding due to yearly rains and typhoons. Samar itself is highly vulnerable to typhoons because it is a coastal area within the typhoon highway of the Philippines.

More than one celebration

It was one celebration after another. The house turn-over celebration was preceded by another celebration: 28 trainees graduated and were awarded with certification for National Certification II in carpentry and masonry given by tesda, while 48 graduated from the Technical Vocational Educational training program also of TESDA (Technical Education and Skills Authority).

“The carpentry and masonry skills you have learned here will not be limited to Salcedo. These are skills you can carry on with you and help you with your employment wherever you go”, Tesda representative Rolando Juanello said. Accreditation for masonry and carpentry is timely, given that the current administration is pushing for a “build build build” program, thus creating an above average demand for construction and masonry work, the very skills they were given accreditation for.

The Training and certification program is one of the project’s defining characteristics. The Cement Bamboo Frame technology project process includes training the locally hired labor not just for bamboo building, but for conventional carpentry and masonry as well. With this in mind, ESSC led the partnership formation with the local government and TESDA, thus formalizing the training and certification program
Mayor Mergal said in his speech for the certification graduation. The Mayor urged the graduates to make sure they put their new skills to use, emphasizing that he did not like the idea of seeing their certificates displayed in your house, unused. “I hope this [graduation] is not the end. Continue!” He then praised the women who also got certified, and explained that the certification opens many doors for them, like the job fairs at the munisipyo.

After the certificate awarding ceremony, it was time for the turn-over. Names of the families were called and they came up and receive their keys, families glowing with pride and fulfillment. Many of the houses they received, they themselves helped build. After a day of celebrating achievements and receiving the new responsibilities to carry on further, the festivities came to a close.

Base Bahay Head of project Management, Fred Silisilon Jr. ended the ceremony with a challenge for the new residents. “Today, in Cagaut, there are 37 families who will be receiving their houses; whose dreams of a better life will now take their first steps. [The houses] may go beyond 25 years because it was derived from a technology where houses stay beyond 200 years, but the durability of these houses [is] very reliant on the owners. Our challenge to you is to take care of them so they will last, not just for your benefit but also for the benefit of the future generations.”

For many of the residents of the Eco-Village, this is the first permanent house they will live in, one that is safe from the yearly rains. The appreciation is especially evident in the coming Christmas season which is usually the rainy season for Salcedo.


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