Monday, March 27, 2017

Profiles: Doc Rommel & P3DM… “For the Future of our Communities”

Persevering with P3DM…
“For the Future of our Communities”

(Says the City Veterinarian of Baybay, on DRR and CCA)

P3DM or ‘Participatory 3-Dimensional Mapping’, was one of the output activities of ADB JFPR Grant 9175 Subcomponent C.1 implemented by DILG 8 through a consortium of three consulting firms CONCEP Inc., GEOS Inc., and ASSURE Inc..

Volunteers put finishing touches on Brgy. Pangasugan's 3D Scale Map, their P3DM Workshop Output

Also known as ‘Participatory 3-Dimensional Modeling’ by other organizations or schools of thought, P3DM was part of the grant project’s Participatory Risk Assessment (PRA) methods for mainstreaming Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) and Climate Change Adaptation (CCA) in development planning of beneficiary local governments. P3DM was introduced to 4 barangays as pilot activities, in the hope that the LGUs would on their own replicate the fun but useful activity in their other barangays. One such pilot barangay was Pangasugan, in the City of Baybay, Leyte.

The quoted title of this article is from/by Dr. Rommel Gonzaga, the Baybay City Veterinarian. He said that at one of the many workshops conducted to capacitate 30 local governments in Region VIII towards mainstreaming DRR and CCA in their Comprehensive Land Use Plans (CLUP) and Comprehensive Development Plans (CDP).

“I am doing this neither for myself nor just for our local government to be compliant on the new DILG requirements. Together with my colleagues, we are doing this for the whole city of Baybay, not only to serve the present population, but for the future of our communities. And I intend to keep doing this worthwhile activity, as long as I can, even if, on my own personal capacity…”

Dr. Rommel Gonzaga DVM (front right), poses with some of the P3DM participants and mentors

Why him, the Vet?
“Doc Rommel”, as he is fondly called by the city’s constituents, is a Veterinarian. “By profession, affiliation and designation”, he laughingly shared with us! Not relegating his official ‘vet’ designation, he is also “officially” and willingly the DRRMO-Designate of Baybay City – a city composed of 92 barangays with a population of more than a hundred thousand, on the western seaboard of the island of Leyte in Eastern Visayas (Region VIII). He is into this because he wants to – even passionate about it!

How did he get involved in DRR, CCA, CLUP and things ‘calamity’? Yolanda. He tells us that the super typhoon changed both his personal and professional attitude towards managing communities...

When super typhoon Yolanda struck Region VIII on November 8, 2013 , I was in Baybay City with my family, but my mother, brother, nephew, sister in-law, and her daughter were at our residence in Tacloban during that time. After the typhoon, I did not worry because it did not cause severe damage to the City of Baybay. The day after, I began to hear disturbing news about what happened in Tacloban. I could not contact my family because there was power outage and no communication signal. It was then when I began to worry and felt nervous.

I decided to check my family and went to Tacloban using a motorbike, since I thought that it might be difficult using a car due to fallen debris on the road. My heart began to sink when I saw the devastation while passing through the towns of Mayorga, Dulag, Tolosa, Tanauan, and Palo. Tears welled up in my eyes thinking about my mom and the rest of the family, and what might have happened to them. I saw dead bodies lining the streets, people walking like zombies, and many were begging for food and water. Everything I saw was chaos and confusion.

Finally, I reached my parents’ house. With knees shaking and terror gripping my heart, I was bracing myself for the worst. Then, I saw my mother, brother, his daughter, sister in law, and my nephew all in good shape. Although visibly shaken, tired and hungry, they were all fine. This was the only time since Mayorga, that I breathed a sigh of relief.

Moving forward, after a year from the disaster, there were questions in my mind. It lingered like the pictures of the dead and the chaos that I saw. Why was the government not able to respond immediately? Why was there no [national] authority present? Why were the people not prepared despite early warning from Pag-asa? Hundreds of questions like jack rabbits running through my head, and I found no answers.

Then the national government began its campaign on the strict implementation of RA 10121 or the Philippine Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act of 2010. I thought bitterly, the law was passed on 2010 and if it had been seriously implemented, the deaths could have been minimized or avoided…, so recounts Doc Rommel.

Baybay City has not created a DRRM Office nor assigned any personnel. When the City Administrator asked who would like to attend the trainings and seminars on DRRM, Doc Rommel did not hesitate to volunteer. After two years of attending these trainings and seminars, he finally found the answers to his questions. His mind opened up and he deeply appreciated the significance of DRRM in the community. According to Doc Rommel, This was when he found his advocacy and the beginning of a journey to a new future.

Thus, Doc Rommel rightfully represented his city to the series of plenary workshops and mentoring sessions conducted by DILG under the ADB JFPR Grant 9175 fund.

Pangasugan P3DM
Doc Rommel eagerly made possible the conduct of P3DM at Brgy. Pangasugan. When the team of consultants headed by P3DM expert himself Dr. Jake Rom Cadag reached the Brgy., residents readily received them and the 4-day workshop went actively well.

This was attended by a cross-section of the barangay's populace – mothers, fathers, almost all of the senior citizens, teenagers, fisherfolk, farmers, land owners, businessmen, teachers, and about 11 children from various grades who were excused from their classes so they could participate. Even the heads and some staff from the DA’s Agricultural Training Institute Eastern Visayas were there as participants. [ATI holds offices inside Visayas State University campus - a part of Brgy. Pangasugan]



It was repeatedly stressed that the workshop output, the 3D Scale Model of their barangay, will (among many other uses) help everyone to know the physical characteristics of the whole area, so that everyone knows what to do and where to go during emergencies. It also helps anyone to easily identify demographic distribution, vulnerable locations, access points, etc. And they all know what is meant by each map detail or marker, since they are the ones who decided to use such markers.


3D Map done, it is yet compared to the latest in technology - the Project NOAH maps (projected)!

Final 'resting place' of the 3D Map: a glass-top table to serve as the barangay's discussion table

On the last day of the Pangasugan P3DM, where participants (the whole barangay, actually) were to present the final output and share their learnings, Doc Rommel invited Captains from other barangays. Two of them came. And, during that closing ceremony, where Pangasugan Brgy. Captain Dexter Magan gamely served lunch with wild boar and frog delicacies of the place, the two visiting/observing barangay captains signified, that they too, would like Doc Rommel to conduct P3DM in their respective barangays.

It happened, and it’s still happening!
True to his word, coupled with interest from other barangays on P3DM, Doc Rommel has since been conducting P3DM at other barangays, and still counting. P3DM was already conducted at Brgy. Sta. Cruz, Brgy. Balao, Brgy, Pomponan, Brgy. Makinhas. Others more have been scheduled or are trying to secure a schedule with Doc Rommel, especially during the summer vacation months where children and their teachers will be available en masse!

One interesting twist that these worthwhile activities are bringing to the city is an unintended increase in knowledge-sharing and camaraderie amongst barangay officials and residents - especially adjacent barangays where upstream & downstream collaboration is crucial. Those who have already done P3DM in their barangays willingly go with Doc Rommel to assist him when conducting it at the next barangays. The city now targets 100% of barangays to do this activity.

Spreading P3DM
Another good news is that, the Agricultural Training Institute (ATI) with its Regional Director Dr. Vilma Patindol who participated and saw the P3DM output of Brgy. Pangasugan, appreciated the importance of the map, not only on DRR but as well on agricultural aspects. They allocated part of their 2017 training budget for the conduct of P3DM in the entire Region VIII with the help and active support of Doc Rommel!

Beyond P3DM
Unknown to many, the dear city vet is actually also busy with other DRR/CCA-related activities of and for the city. He leads the conduct of Pre-Disaster Risk Assessment Activities (PDRA), Barangay DRRM Planning and Budgeting, Contingency Planning (CP), Incident Command System (ICS) trainings, Barangay Emergency Response Trainings, Establishment of Early Warning System or EWS, Rescue Trainings and Basic Life Support (BLS), Conducts lectures on DRR in schools and universities, Rapid Damage Assessment and Needs Analysis (RDNA) training, DRR trainings of CSOs and volunteer groups and much more. To achieve all these, he actively coordinates with agencies, organizations and iNGOs to help him help his city in terms of disaster preparedness and resilience.

Being the “DRRMO – Designate”, he does not stop his yearning to learn more so he can help his city. He is already a graduate of All Hazard Incident Management (AHIM) and a member of the Incident Management Team (IMT) of the Office of Civil Defense (OCD). His first disaster deployment was in 2015 when Typhoon Nona hit hard on Northern Samar. He also heads the district 5 DRRM cluster which includes the Municipalities of Mahaplag, Hindang, Hilongos, Bato, and Matalom. He created and now leads the Baybay Emergency Response Unit (BERU) where volunteers have been and are being trained in various emergency incidents. Baybay City being a coastal settlement, with one of the tallest mountain ranges behind it, his city has to be prepared to all kinds of scenarios. Check-out his facebook posts! They have had fire-drills, WASAR, night mountain rescue, shake drills, cave/underground rescue and so on!

Ending our conversation, Doc Rommel expressed his gratitude to a lot of agencies, organizations, CSOs and iNGOs, especially ADB JFPR for opportunities to further equip him with DRR/CCA matters. But we do thank him for the unwavering dedication and real drive to help his city.

He does have other more intimate matters to attend to everyday. Doc Rommel, now 45 years old is married to Cristy Esparaguera a beautiful Samarnon who runs her own online business. They are blessed with three children, two daughters and one son. The family loves to travel with swimming and snorkeling as their fondest activity. At times, these bonding moments have to be put on hold, in favor of the many roles Doc Rommel have to attend to.

Our hats off to you Doc Rommel!



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