Building resilience among children in landslide-prone Buhi, Camarines Sur

Paano na kami?” This question ran through Nanay Carmelita’s mind as she and her family sought a safe place to go to, the night Tropical Depression Usman hit Camarines Sur in December 2018.

“Natutulog lang yung mga anak ko sa bahay. Naririnig ko na yung ragasa ng tubig diyan sa sapa,” she recalled, referring to the stretch of water kept intact by a riprap in Barangay Ipil. The body of water separated residential structures and Ipil Elementary School, a few meters away from Lake Buhi.

Nanay Carmelita is a resident of Ipil, a small barangay in another island from the center of Buhi, Camarines Sur. A 10-minute boat ride away from Buhi, Ipil is a fairly small barangay housing 1,975 residents. Located near Mount Asog, the community is considered a landslide-prone area.

“Hindi na ako nakatulog noon. Pagbangon ko, chineck ko yung riprap. Nakita ko ‘yung bato saka ‘yung mga [puno ng] saging — nandoon na sa sapa,” she said. “Tumataas na ‘yung tubig kaya natakot na ako. Tanong ko, ‘Paano na tayo?’ Sabi naman ng anak ko, ‘Wala na tayong pupuntahan.’”

Help came in the morning and Nanay Carmelita, along with her children and grandchildren, stayed in an evacuation center in Sagrada Elementary School together with 428 families. Nanay Carmelita’s situation after tropical depression Usman is not an isolated case. Residents of Ipil and parts of Camarines Sur were affected far deeper than the physical devastation it brought.

The effects of Usman

“‘Hindi pa naman malakas ang ulan at kaunting ambon lang,’ sabi ng apo ko. ‘Hindi ba sabi doon sa evacuation center, ‘pag umuulan babalik tayo?’ Parang natatakot siya,” shared Nanay Carmelita when asked about her grandchild who is currently a Grade 3 student in Ipil Elementary School.

Apart from damaged structures and lost school materials, there was also a notable decrease in student engagement in Ipil Elementary School. Analiza Macasayas, principal of Ipil Elementary School, said there was an increase in absenteeism among students: “Out of 305 students, about 200 students na lang ang pumapasok noong nag-evacuate kami.” Along with student participation, they also saw a decline in the children’s nutritional status.

Play It Forward in Ipil

In partnership with the Department of Education in Bicol Region, Play It Forward Resilience provided a resilience and response intervention to children in vulnerable situations to help minimize their stress and trauma.

Play days are facilitated with the use of a play kit and a play curriculum. Developed by experts, each kit contains materials necessary to facilitate a play session. (What’s inside the Play Kit? Take a look here.)

“Sobrang importante na mapagbigyan sila ng pagkakataong makapaglaro dahil part ito ng buhay ng isang bata. In these past days dahil sa activities that were conducted, I kept hearing people remark, ‘Uy, buhay na buhay ‘yung mga bata’,” shared Macasayas.

Apart from play sessions, activities for parents were also facilitated by volunteers. Discussions centered on disaster-readiness, understanding children’s emotions during and after the disaster, and facilitating recovery by caring for them. Disaster-readiness lessons were also conducted for children to be prepared in times of disaster.

“Na-enjoy po talaga namin [ang parents’ session] dahil tinuro nila kung ano ang bawal at dapat naming gawin kapag may masamang panahon. Halimbawa, kapag may mga sakuna, paano namin maililigtas ang aming pamilya at sarili,” recounted Nanay Carmelita.

Making Time for Play

“Itong ginagawa namin as volunteers ay rewarding para sa akin. Dahil sa play, maiibsan ang trauma ng mga bata. Play It Forward is meant to be passed forward—ika nga nila, ‘pay it forward,’” shared Rebecca Fajardo, Focal Person for Mental Health and Psychological First Aid of the Department of Education.

Last March 28 to 30, 2019, the program gathered 38 volunteer play facilitators. Ten of them were trained volunteers from the response in Albay, a PIFR activity that brought play to over 200 children affected by the Mount Mayon eruption in 2017. After the play day, these volunteer facilitators are expected to cascade their knowledge to their respective divisions.

Through the response, 80 parents were trained and 305 children in the primary level were given access to play. This is by far the biggest play day yet that Play It Forward has launched. The team is targeted to go back to the site after three months to conduct a Focus Group Discussion with the parents to further understand the effects of the activity in the community.

Play It Forward is the first program of Unilab Foundation since its operationalization in 2012. This year, as we continue to bring play to more children, Play It Forward will take the lead in convening like-minded organizations to reach more people and emphasize the importance of play in a child’s holistic development.

Know more on how you can make play happen through Play It Forward by following Play It Forward PH on Facebook. For more information, you may also reach us through email playitforward@unilabfoundation.org or at (+632) 858-1000 local 8160.

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