800 Volunteers Help Typhoon-Affected Families Rebuild Lives In The Philippines

They Work On 50 Houses In Bicol Express Build

MANILA, 12th October 2007: When some 800 volunteers arrived in the typhoon-struck Bicol region for a build with Habitat for Humanity Philippines, incessant rain was the unexpected welcome. Undaunted, some removed their shoes, others donned raincoats but all soldiered on in Anislag village, Daraga town, where 25 duplexes, or 50 houses, were to be built in partnership with typhoon-affected families. Each duplex comprises two adjoining houses.

All in a day’s work: The volunteers carried gravel, put together steel frames and filled foundations.

Wet weather program: Volunteers gamely continued despite the heavy downpour.

Labor intensive: By the end of the one-day build, the volunteers had completed putting up steel frames of three duplexes, among other tasks.

The volunteers were taking part in a three-day event, named Bicol Express after the region’s famous pork and chili dish. Mostly from local business corporations, universities and charity foundations, the volunteers traveled from the capital Manila in a caravan of buses to boost Habitat’s construction of new homes. The new build in late September 2007 came on the heels of HFH Philippines’ completion of home repairs for more than 1,600 families affected by Typhoon Durian (Reming) late last year.

Leaving Manila, the volunteers headed south to Naga City in buses. On their way, they stopped at Villa Escudero, a colonial plantation turned resort, for lunch and a visit to its private museum that showcased religious art, antiques, ceramics, precious stones and rare coins, among others. Upon their arrival in Naga City, the volunteers sat down to dinner provided by mayor Jessie Robredo at the Naga Youth Convention Center.

Early next day, the volunteers traveled to Anislag village where they were given a warm welcome by children who lined the dirt road, waving balloons. Drenched by an unexpected downpour, the volunteers persevered alongside more than 130 homepartners, carrying heavy sacks, hauling gravel, filling foundations, and putting together steel frames for the houses.

To sustain the volunteers’ energy, one of the volunteers generously providedarroz caldo, or chicken congee for the 1,000 people at the build site. Albay governor Joey Salceda took care of lunch by supplying a hearty meal with enough food to share with children from the vicinity. A singing duo kept volunteers in high spirits despite the rain. In the afternoon, some of the volunteers took over by belting out songs to entertain their fellow laborers.

By the end of the one-day build, the steel frames for three duplexes, or six houses, were put up, eight duplexes were backfilled and foundation walls of 16 duplexes were completed. The 50 duplexes are expected to be completed by the end of November. People, who are keen but unable to commit time for Bicol Express, are encouraged to make separate trips to the region to help families rebuild their lives.

In appreciation of their efforts, Albay governor Joey Salceda hosted a dinner for the volunteers at Aquinas Gym in Legazpi City. The evening’s entertainment was provided by Rock Ed Philippines, a local volunteer group that advocates civic-mindedness through the arts, and a dance troupe from Aquinas University. Among the artistes who performed at the concert were Filipino bands Chillitees, Dahon and Jeepney Joyride, and poetry from acclaimed Albay writer Abdon Balde Jr.

The volunteers hailed from local companies such as EON, the local affilate of global public relations firm Edelman, Globe Telecom, Rapu Rapu Minerals, Inc. and Rapu Rapu Processing, Inc.; the local Ayala Foundation and Dios Mabalos Po Foundation; and Habitat affiliates in Greater Metro Manila, South Metro Manila and Palawan.

Universities sending volunteers were Ateneo de Naga University, Aquinas University of Legazpi, Bicol University, Bicol College, Manila’s De La Salle University, Mandaluyong City’s Rizal Technological University and Legazpi’s Divine Word College.

Others who contributed labor were from Albay Chamber of Commerce, non-profit organization Compassion International; Philippine National Police of Daraga, staff from the Albay provincial government and from the municipality of Prieto Diaz in Sorsogon province, and Dios Mabalos Foundation’s medical team.