Stories of building back better after Yolanda, told by ADB Consultants & Partners

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

CFW: Productive Fun... and Paid!

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Cansumangkay is a community (barangay) in Balangiga, Eastern Samar. Many of the residents (young and old alike) in this community recognize me, even from afar. Even when I come around not wearing my ADB-EMY/JFPR shirt! Ah, for having been around this place a number of times, I am now a common face.

Earlier today, we just attended a very simple but memorable "soft-handover" of some classrooms at their elementary school that we had repaired via DSWD Kalahi.


As I was already in the area (before heading to the far capital city of Borongan to attend a DP/DRR meeting), I roamed around nearby places to have a peep at the on-going CFW (Cash For Work) activities sponsored by Plan International with funding from ADB JFPR Grant 9175.

Can't hide, can't be incognito! Even from afar, I admit I do disturb these folks, because 100% of the time they'll stop and drop everything they're doing just to smilingly wave at me or greet me a good day. And in two of the two encounters I did this morning, the tables seemed to have turned on me! This time, I was the one receiving questions instead of my usual "kumusta po kayo" spiels! How?

Well, as I neared the canal (yes, a drainage canal) that circles the Cansumangkay Elementary School, a CFW recipient was first to greet me and first to pepper me with a barrage of questions and comments. Personal at that! Like? Like this...


Hi sir, kumusta ka (how are you), thank you pala han school building (thank you for the school building), ngan thank you hini nga am cash-for-work (and thanks for this cash-for-work program for us). I was just about tryng to utter a reply to the "kumusta ka" portion of everything she said, but she was so fast to follow it with "kumaon ka na sir" (have you had breakfast sir)? Kaaga daw niyo yana sir ginpirit gud niyo mahiabot han flag ceremony (you're too early today sir, you must have forced yourselves to catch the flag ceremony). Harayo baya it Tacloban, ma-tulo ada ka-oras (Tacloban is far, it probably takes 3 hours coming here). Adto didto an amon iba nga grupo (over there are our other groups). Sir ano ito picture kon video, pakitaa gad kami ha FB (sir, what is that you're taking, pictures or videos, please let us see them on FB). Agi sir, dida ka la, ayaw na ngadi kay malagay (gosh sir, please stop there, don't come nearer as it is muddy).

With all that, all I was able to manage was a smile and a bow.


And yes, I was taking pictures - to which they always wanted to make a pose. Yeah, it's ultra hard to take a candid photo of them at work, as they would really literally want to pose (not pause, mind you) once they sense that you are aiming with a camera! Haaay, but I do get to manage aiming for a wider shot where others farther away may not be aware am taking pcitures or videos! The rigors of photographing live friendly subjects in action. Hey, is this part of my TOR? Well, whatever, I love the challenge just the same!

At this group of volunteers, I was (at least) able to banter with them and ask "if their activity was worthwhile enough and useful enough for their community". Argh! I was barraged with a lot of answers in a bevy of synonimity to "they're not only enjoying the canal work, but they are happier their output will ensure the school where their children are will never get flooded anymore, ever" or something like that! There, I got many a heartfelt answer! Nagtanong pa kasi ako hahaha!

Then I walked a block away (further out to residences at the back side of the school) and just as the other group told me, I stumbled upon another CFW group, also digging another drainage canal - a bigger, longer and winding one. I was already taking shots with my camera as I approached.


Suddenly, a giggly lola shrieked "sir, ayaw anay, mag-u-uniform kami" (wait sir, we'll wear our uniforms) and she like commanded to those not wearing their blue uniforms to immediately wear them. Fun to realize that everyone had theirs just nearby, in plastic bags or hung at tree branches. One jolly manong was even saying, "facebook facebook whacky-whacky"! I asked why some uniforms were just brought but not worn. And, just as I expected, a very Filipino trait, the reply was: "kay bag-o sir, puydi ini i-singba, sayang maghuhugaw" (because they're new sir, we can still wear these to church, we don't want them dirtied here).

I kept going around, but somewhere by the muddier areas one had to stop me saying I was not wearing rubber boots and was offering to lend me his. I said no need, and another man joked saying I may not proceed as I was not wearing proper working attire. That made all of us laugh. And the banter ensued! Like someone joked: "call these Plan people and ensure to give proper attire to visitors"; or "no uniform, no pay"; or "accident prone area, where is your helmet" and many many more, including one guy who told me my driver might speed away leaving me with them, if he saw that my shoes were muddied! I could sense they were having fun even in the mud!


When the stomach-wrenching laughter subsided, I posed my usual question still in a joke mode asking if at all their activity was worthwhile enough to the barangay. Awr, it was almost a chorus - that this activity they were doing would ensure the barangay won't any more get flooded, as the excess rain water from the fields would freely flow out into the river far behind their village.

I believed them, this is not a so-so size/depth/length of a canal they were digging. This is a "real" thing. And I loudly wondered if they'd ever get to finish that length. The 'chorus', a bit serious this time, was again in one tune saying... they have to, it's not just for them but for all residents in the community, and the rainy season is nearing fast. Yeah, I believed them.


As we were already in a friendly banter, I dared ask them why they all seemed to be in quite a jolly mood, with some even singing songs from time-to-time, yet they were seriously digging a pesky canal. And I liked their answer: that they're just like having fun on a picnic (but near their homes) yet they know they're collectively doing something to help their very own community. And one woman holding a shovel exclaimed "and we even get paid for this"! To which I heard a lot of exhuberant yeses!

I do believe them, and I like them!

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