Sebaste

As with many affected regions, during the hours before Yolanda reached Sebaste, Antique, the weather was surprisingly calm and clear.

“People were asking each other whether the typhoon had hit us already,” Leonaris D. Dionela, a local planning officer, remembers. “No one wanted to believe that it could affect us in such a way.”

Yet when Yolanda hit, “the strength of the typhoon was unbelievable, and totally unexpected,” Leonaris says. “Almost everyone cried at the surreal situation we had found ourselves in.”

The Malacañang of Antique

Sebaste Municipal Hall - Antique
‘The Malacañang of Antique’ – Sebaste Municipal Hall, August 2015

At the local municipal hall, roof, ceilings and windows were extensively damaged. In the immediate aftermath, despite seeing client files, computers and office equipment destroyed, staff were tasked with continued efforts to provide basic post-disaster services.

“It was difficult time,” Leonaris says. “At that time, if it was raining outside, it was raining inside also.”

Yet since then, as Vice Mayor Noracil B. Azucena explains, the municipal hall has had a total make-over.

Vice-Mayor Noracil B. Azucena - Sebaste Antique
Sebaste Vice Mayor Noracil B. Azucena

“Our clients commend our new municipal building. People here were surprised and delighted to see the improvement in our municipal hall. It’s very unique and more beautiful,” the Vice Mayor adds.

With a spacious ground floor area, municipal employees can now provide a more comfortable space for visitors. Others described how having a more presentable office gives them greater confidence at work, and how employees, especially those in the Treasurer and Accessor’s office, need no longer work in overcrowded spaces.

“Now it seems like I am working in Malacañang… The Malacañang of Antique,” Leonaris says, cheerfully.

“These bright and spacious offices have had a positive impact on us here,” Vice Mayor Noracil adds. “We need this positive and uplifting vibe, especially after what our community experienced during Yolanda, the worst typhoon in Antique.”

San Remegio

Along with its destruction, Yolanda also brought with it great change to the municipality of San Remigio, Antique.

While the local civic center – partially-damaged by Super Typhoon Yolanda – remains standing, it no longer serves as the town’s main municipal facility. With the support of RAY DILG funds, and with disaster resilience in mind, local officials instead constructed a new municipal facility in a safer land area.

Last October 2014, the newly completed venue played host a Provincial Senior Citizen’s Congress for the entire province.

The annual Senior Citizens Congress, held in the newly rehabilitated San Remegio Civic Center
The annual Senior Citizens Congress, held in the newly rehabilitated San Remegio Civic Center

“We were the first one to use the new civic center after it was constructed,” says Noli Valenzuela, a project development officer with DSWD. “The Congress was attended by 1,500 participants from 18 municipalities.”

Noli Valenzuela (left) Project Dev't Officer of DSWD and his team, San Remegio Civic Center
Noli Valenzuela, project development officer with DSWD, with friends at the newly-rehabilitated San Remegio Civic Center – August 2015.

One big happy family

Schools, citizens and other government agencies have also benefited from the new and expansive space.

“Our central school doesn’t have a gym, so all of our school activities – such as graduation and division wide contests, like the Children’s Congress – are usually held in the civic center, where there is space for all participants,” Noli says.

“Our municipality learned so much from Typhoon Yolanda,”he explained. “We have strengthened our DRRM practices by conducting regular trainings, from the municipal down to the barangay  level.”

“The civic center is really essential and significant to each and every one of us here in San Remegio. We use it for all our activities – sports, cultural, academic, social, name it. It is where we gather, and feel like a one big happy family,” he added.

San Remegio Civic Center
The newly-rehabilitated San Remegio Civic Center

 

Bugasong

“Unbelievable.”

In a word, Mayor Bernard N. Pescayo summed up the experience of Super Typhoon Yolanda in his municipality of Bugasong, Antique.

Mayor Bugasong - Courtesy Bugasong Online (Facebook)
Bugasong Mayor Bernard. N. Pescayo. Courtesy: Bugasong Online

Despite widespread damage, “we were still lucky,” he said. “Our municipal hall, market and civic center were not totally damaged, despite this being the strongest typhoon we have experienced.” In each of the buildings, most of the roofs, gutters, steel trusses and beams were destroyed, each victims of Yolanda’s gale-force winds.

At the municipal hall, despite the tough conditions, employees continued in their efforts to provide local citizens with access to basic government services.

“It was difficult for officials to function after Yolanda,” Mario Z. Galela, a municipal employee, explains. “It was hard for us to address the needs of our people as we ourselves were struggling inside the municipal hall.”

Rehabilitation with RAY DILG funds

As RAY DILG funds arrived, “we were able to rehabilitate the market, civic center and most especially our municipal hall, which received the biggest allocation,” Mayor Bernard says.

“The employees are now feel safe and at ease when it rains. Even when strong rains will occur at night time, they don’t need to worry about their documents and office equipment inside the building,” he says.

Bugasong Municipal Hall
The newly-rehabilitated Bugasong Municipal Hall.

For Mario, the differences are not only physical, some are intangible, but both were especially welcome. “The ambiance of the municipal hall has changed completely, it really improved,” he says. “This new look boosted our staff’s morale in facing our clients: we feel more presentable, and comfortable than ever.”

Barbaza

In Barbaza, Antique, both the local municipal hall and the public market suffered extensive damage during typhoon Yolanda. Yet few would have imagined the benefits afforded by continued RAY DILG-funded rehabilitation efforts.

There was significant damage to the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) office at the second floor of the municipal building,” Sally Balgos explains.

Since then, the DSWD has transferred to a new office that is far more tailored to the ongoing needs of their clients. They can now enjoy greater privacy, and conduct closed-door counseling sessions.

Similarly, “in our previous office, we didn’t have enough space to hold meetings with our entire 29-person team,” Sally says. “We’d have to find someplace else to gather everyone together. Now, we can fit everyone in.”

Nearby, at the local public market, rehabilitation efforts have also improved conditions.

Jonita C. Bautista, a local vendor, shared that the old market was smaller and made of light materials: and as a result, was more vulnerable to weather conditions.

Jonita C. Bautista, Barbaza local vendor
Barbaza market vendor Jonita C. Bautista

“Since the market was made from nipa hut material, it didn’t provide us with enough protection when it rained,” she says. “We usually experience leaks which either wet us, or the products we sell.”

The ‘new’ market has since been reinforced with concrete, making it sturdier and safer. It is more spacious, and roll-up doors make it easy for the vendors to close their stalls at night.
Barbaza Public Market
Stall in the newly-rehabilitated Barbaza public market – August 2015

“The RAY fund from DILG was the first and largest amount of money our municipality received for the rehabilitation projects after Typhoon Yolanda,” Mayor Gerry Necor says.

Barbaza Mayor Gerry Necor with RAY DILG staff - August 2015
Barbaza Mayor Gerry Necor with RAY DILG staff – August 2015

“Through these projects, the people regained their trust and confidence on the local and national government. It was an indication for them that the government works hand in hand with them towards recovery and normalcy,” he adds.