Saving San Roque – the bold new challenge

Almost two months on since Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) and the situation is far from normal for many families living in the Municipality of Tanauan, Leyte. For those communities living along the coastal barangay of San Roque, the situation is still extremely dire after their homes, possessions and livelihoods were washed away from the powerful storm surges that unforgivingly struck the local coastline on November 8, 2013.

For outsiders; the recovery must seem incredibly simple. Just rebuild the homes and restore the lives of those families that have been so tragically affected. Unfortunately, the recovery efforts for the coastline communities in Tanauan, Leyte are not as simple as what they first seem. The first complication arises as a result of the sheer devastation inflicted to the local landscape; it’s not only homes and possessions that have been destroyed, but also the vast majority of the local livelihood. Aside from that, most families cannot rebuild on the original site of their previous homes since they did not previously own the land or because the site of their previous home lies within 50 meters of the shoreline – an area which has been strictly blacklisted for building upon.

So, what’s the solution? Well that’s what the VFV team have been looking into over the last week through a series of conversations with local community members and families. Rebuilding at the present moment in time is completely out of the question; since families have not been allocated any land to start construction on.

Instead, VFV are looking into livelihood development as an immediate means to assist the families of children enrolled on it’s Child Sponsorship Program. Several options are still being discussed and evaluated, but as of right now a micro-lending program to construct and distribute fishing boats seems to be trumping other options. The advantages of this set-up will reduce the sentiment of dependency for many families by giving them the opportunity to once again create their own livelihood and build their own future. Restoring basic services such as fishing will also help stimulate the local economy, drive down the local cost of fish and as a result benefit the extended community of the area as a whole.

The situation in Tanauan is still incredibly complex and it will take time to ensure the exact deliverables of this project in order to assure long-term sustainability; however VFV are adamant on piloting the project within the next thirty days.

Until then families in San Roque cannot be fully rehabilitated, many of them will continue to be dependent on relief goods for the foreseeable future. The situation in San Roque is tough, it’s a uphill battle, but the families have not been forgotten.

We’re eager to hear your thoughts on our plans for San Roque. If you have any comments or suggestions, please submit them below. Further updates will be available in due course.


  1. Walter Oshiro

    I’m hopeful that the government will come through with bunkhouses so that our San Roque families can move from the tents to something a little more secure – though still temporary. As you indicate, the long-term housing needs will have to be addressed later. In the meantime, getting started on livelihood, as you’ve outlined, would be critical. From your discussions with the fathers, do they all want to remain in Tanauan and continue fishing? The plan to help with acquiring fishing boats is good. Even if the families don’t live close to the ocean, they should be able to make some arrangement to secure the boats in one area. Could VFV team up with the Yellow Boat program –; their website says they can build a motorized banka (fishing boat) for 20,000 to 30,000 pesos and they’re currently building 10 boats for Barangay Rawis in Tacloban. Donors are needed to fund the Yellow Boats so VFV would need to solicit donations and front the cost to get things started quickly. I don’t know if any of the other programs that have teamed up with Yellow Boat require their recipients to cover anything. I can see the rationale in having recipients take on responsibility for some of the cost but it should be something that the families, who have lost just about everything, can realistically handle. Thank you for giving the San Roque families priority.

  2. Frankie

    Hi Walter,

    VFV has already been exploring partnerships in this area in the wake of the disaster; the main concerns are the volume of dependents right now and if whether or not entering a partnership would delay the process. We’re definitely looking into replicating something similar, but if Yellowboat have their own list of dependents, it may take longer to get our families on the lists than it would if we acted independently. However if we can replicate their program independently with our own resources, then there would be a gain here for both sides.

    With regards to donations; if this plan falls through (which I’m really confident it will), we will be able to fund the pilot program almost immediately, after which we will open up for donations for the other families.

    As for the bunkhouses, they’re a total fail right now across Leyte and very few locals have opted into the program. INGO’s are stating that they dont meet basic international stands. I’m not sure if you saw this article in the Washington Post:

    Tanauan is a really tough case right now and there’s a lot of political processes that need to occur before I think anything else gets settled.

  3. Walter Oshiro

    Thanks for the link; I hadn’t read the article before. I hope there’ll be some help from programs like Habitat for Humanity down the line – and help from the government. I know from your earlier posts that VFV is looking into partnerships with whoever can help. With the bunkhouse situation looking dismal, I strongly agree with VFV’s desire to to kickstart livelihood initiatives. I hope our Tanauan families are maintaining close ties and supporting each other. It would be nice if they’re able to get together for special occasion events/meals every so often. I know that’s true for all our communities but more so for folks who have been displaced. Thanks for all that you do Frankie, as a volunteer board member, and thanks to the others who also serve on the board.

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