Six months after Typhoon Yolanda (international name: Haiyan) brought destruction in Central Philippines, the residents of Barangay Salvacion, Jinamoc Island in Basey, Western Samar are still on their journey to recovery. Over 274 houses of the 341 families in the island were totally damaged by the storm. At this time, the residents have already started building new houses with the help from NCCP-ACT Alliance.

In cooperation with NCCP, eight members of Small Hands traveled to Jinamoc Island to participate in the rehabilitation program with the main goal of integrating with the community and helping build the houses.

Our expectations of living in the island for a week were a little off. We expected to live in tents, sleep on the ground, go on queues to use the restrooms, get bitten by mosquitoes, and eat canned food the entire week. However, we were welcomed with the warmest hospitality and friendliness of the residents. We were accommodated in twos in different houses, one of which was still temporary. We gave our share for the food and they prepared delicious meals for us. They treated us as special guests in their community.

The physical work was very strenuous for most of us but we did not back down from the challenge. We participated in building houses, making hollow blocks for the walls, and in cleaning and planting in their newly started communal garden. The joy and inspiration of the people were visible in their faces upon seeing us being one with them in rebuilding their homes.

The people build their homes through pintakasi (Tagalog: bayanihan). It refers to the communal effort to do a manual task or labor, in this case, building everyone’s houses. They are well-organized and united in this endeavor. With the support of NCCP ACT-Alliance, the people of Jinamoc Island are not just building homes; they are building a strong community.

On our last day in the island, they invited us to join them in celebrating Santa Cruzan. Three of our friends joined the parade and we even joined the dance at night time. It was a very joyous occasion for everyone.

Instead of depression and misery as one would normally expect from a place that survived a major catastrophe, we felt the warmth, resilience, and innate happiness of the people. Everyone smiles back. The children play happily on the streets. Devastated their homes may be, the residents of Jinamoc Island are the perfect examples of resilient human beings that can overcome the worst disaster with big smiles and hopeful yet contented hearts.

To view all photos from our trip, please click here.