In the aftermath of Typhoon Pablo that struck the Compostela Valley Province in the region of Davao in Mindanao on December 4, the Order of Malta found itself once again in the midst of emergency disaster response needed by the typhoon victims and survivors. Prompted by the first field visit, the Order decided to focus its efforts in the Municipality of Monkayo, where the eye of the storm hit which caused great devastation. The Order immediately sent a container load of food and non-food relief supplies like blankets, mats, storage bins, solar flashlights and hygiene kits. The Order also provided much needed medicines to the communities of Barangay Babag, Valma, New Bataan and other barangays that had not yet received assistance.
The decision to build 121 core shelters came after initial assessment of the affected areas in the Davao region. In Barangay babag, a 2.5 hour land trip from Tagum City, all 300 hectares of banana plantations were literally wiped off the map. Banana trees bent to a 90 degree angle, bananas that were almost ready for harvest season laid heavily soaked on the earth. With incalculable destruction to man, nature, and livelihood, the Order embarked on the call to re-build completely destroyed homes inhabited by the farmers and their families. Most parts of the houses had been blown away so there was not much of repairing that could be done.
These core shelters for 750 community members in Barangay Babag was made possible by the grant from Caritas International through Malteser International of Germany, the Order’s Worldwide Relief Arm and the first core shelter project initiated in the area. In collaboration with Most. Rev. Wilfredo Manlapaz, D.D., Bishop of the Diocese of Tagum, completion of project is scheduled in July.
Showcasing what we have always believed in—“We don’t just build homes…we build Communities”—duplex shelters and row apartments to be occupied by the community emanates around a chapel built by the Diocese. These homes were built in our age old traditional spirit of bayanihan. In one of our visits, the women were cooking lunch in a make-shift kitchen; the youth, while on their summer break, helped their relatives carry the hollow blocks back and forth to their neighbors; and Uncles doing masonry work. Aside from space left for individual pocket gardens, the community was given an additional plot of land to till their vegetable garden in order to augment their daily nutritional needs.
As we look forward to officially turning over the core shelter homes to the recipients, we thank all those who have supported this endeavor in one way or another. Many individuals have given so much of themselves to allow the Order of Malta to reach out to more people. The time, talent, and treasures donors generously and willingly share make it possible for us to fulfill our mission to serve our Lords, the sick, and the poor.