The rebuilding efforts by Habitat, through the support of its corporate and individual donors is not without its challenges. In Bohol, construction of earthquake-resistant houses proved to be more challenging due to the distance between Habitat building sites. The houses are to be built on-site in 417 communities located in 17 municipalities, on pieces of land owned by each beneficiary. Logistics and the unique topography of each site posed as a test for the organisation. Still, Habitat aims to complete its target by the first anniversary of the Bohol earthquake in October 2014, another proof that the island province, with its pristine beaches and heritage sites, has slowly recovered from the devastation.
Here is the story of one of the many families Habitat for Humanity have already been able to help.
When Liezel Balansag and her family lost their home to the 7.2-magnitude earthquake in Bohol province in October 2013, it wasn’t just the structure that was devastated, it was their lives. “Sobrang lungkot po. Totally damaged yung bahay namin,” she recounts. [We were very devastated. Our house was totally damaged.]
The house they were staying in wasn’t theirs to begin with, but it didn’t lessen the impact and the sadness they experienced after realising that all their belongings and their memories were gone in an instant.
The quake was the strongest that hit the island province in more than two decades — and the fifth worst in the Philippines for the 21st Century — leaving over 71,000 Boholano families homeless.
The Balansag family was one of those 71,000, reduced to mere statistics by a force so strong, it seemed nothing could stand against it.
Nothing…except Hope…except their resilient and unshakeable spirit.
Liezel and her family moved in with her father a few hundred metres from what used to be their home. Her father’s house was a glorified thatched-roofed hut, which miraculously survived the quake. It was cramped, she says. “Masikip.”
Habitat for Humanity is one of the first responders to the area, targeting around 5,000 houses to be built by October 2014, the first anniversary of the quake.
Habitat’s earthquake-resilient house is simple, sturdy and innovative: A concrete-limestone foundation, with reinforced steel frames make up the structure’s skeleton. But instead of concrete hollow blocks, walls are made of tightly-woven bamboo plastered with cement. This innovation provides for a safer and more durable structure, Habitat’s Bohol programme manager Vince Delector explains. “If another earthquake hits, the wall will remain intact. If pieces of concrete fall off, homeowners can just reapply plaster or cement to the bamboo skeleton.”
Leizel and her husband, Raul built the 30-square metre structure on a small plot of land her family owned, just next door to her father’s house. Three weeks later, the Balansags were able to finish building. After a few days, the family moved into their new home.
This sort of owner-driven initiative not only reduces labour costs, but also equips families with the necessary skills to help other families rebuild their houses. On a deeper level, it gives people a sense of ownership and stewardship — of Hope: that seed needed to restore not just a physical structure, but a home as well.
“Masayang masaya po kami,” Liezel says. “May bahay na kaming sarili ulit.” [We are very happy. We finally have a house of our own.]
For the Balansag family, it didn’t matter how small the house was. What really mattered was that they finally have a house to call their own… Finally, they can start making new memories.
Finally, they can start rebuilding their HOME.