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Saving Siargao

/ 09:32 AM January 15, 2022

JLG Prime Builders’ Jolly Gomez targets to build a 23-sqm house with a concrete base, coco lumber from fallen trees and strong GI roofing.

Siargao has a special place in my heart because it was where I was able to reconnect recently with the magic of the Philippine islands befitting a sea princess. It has an even deeper meaning because this is where my daughter Jordan decided to relocate and make her home. We had so many plans for Siargao and 2022 but all of a sudden, in a period of less than 24 hours, Typhoon Odette barreled through the island and broke the lives and dreams of every single person who were in the island.

It is really hard to put together all that has happened in Siargao. After the storm left, it looked like a giant walked through the island, stomping on houses, picking up whole trees. The people were left with no homes; their provisions were wet from the rain; all the water turned salty because of the intensity of the storm; cars were overturned; while trees and electric lines blocked all roads. There were no electricity, communication, law enforcement, food, and for many, even hope.

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Despite all the preparations by the residents of the island, they did not expect the typhoon to have such a tremendous impact. People did not know whether or not to stay in their homes and battle the winds as they were also afraid of a storm surge similar to Leyte. Most of the homes were close to the sea.

A day after the typhoon, it was as if everyone was in a daze. All the best efforts of the local government to help the people were simply not enough because the island slowly ran out of food, water and fuel. Many politicians dropped by and gave some relief goods but it was still difficult to reach the north of the island which was affected the most.

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The mayor of a small town in Siargao mentioned that she fears the worst is yet to come when all the help stops and the island is left with no coconuts, no boats, and no jobs from tourism.

JLG Prime Builders decided to focus on building small decent shelters for the people in the northern part of Siargao.

While many foreign and local tourists made their way out of the island, there were several who decided to stay behind and help the people who have adopted them into the island community. Everyone started their own small relief operations—some working with the local government, others working around existing communities.

These include Lokal Lab (Kara Rosas, Mark Pintucan and Iris Aroa); Bravo Beach Resort (Alex Gari); Sea Movement (James and Marja O’Donnell); Arka Hayahay (Saar Geva); Tindog Siargao by Siargao Creative Nomads; Save Siargao (Wang Borja); Puppy Puddle Siargao (Aleksandra Goldyn); Cev Siargao (David del Rosario); Siago (Maite Ortoll-Garcia); and Caracoa/FMM (Luis and Caress Banson).

Community kitchens have been set up by Alexa Paroz and resto owners Mikael Gonzalez (Vedya), Guillermo (Alma) with long lines of locals getting free meals, drinking water, medicines. Nadine Lustre set up a solar panel that allowed people to charge their phones. Everyone came out to help their neighbors despite the lack of electricity, supplies and basic comforts.

My friend Jolly Gomez (JLG Prime Builders) decided to focus on building small decent shelters for the people in the northern part of Siargao, which was the most damaged area after the typhoon.

His goal was to build a 23-sqm house with a concrete base, coco lumber from fallen trees and strong GI roofing. The total cost of materials is only $1,000 and he will take care of the labor cost. He has a humble goal of building 100 houses out of the 34,000 homes that have been destroyed, but if there are people willing to give, why not try to build 10,000? To help build shelters for Siargao, you may donate via his BPI Peso account (0090 0238 02), BDO Peso (00872 8008 211), or Paypal ([email protected]).

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