NEW HOMES FOR 'YOLANDA' VICTIMS. The newly-completed houses at Pope Francis Village in Tacloban City that were turned over to 263 beneficiaries on Sunday, Feb. 10, 2019. (Photo by Roel Amazona)
TACLOBAN CITY – For the last five years, the family of Perlyn Bechachino held on to their dream of owning a new house far away from danger zone.
Her family has been living in Magallanes District, a coastal community flattened by Super Typhoon Yolanda in 2013. On Sunday, Feb. 10, their dream finally came true when donors led by the Roman Catholic Church awarded them a new house at the Pope Francis Village here.
“While others had already given up because it’s almost five years since the project started, my husband, our child, and I kept that dream as we trust the priests who talked to us, that they will award us a new house,” Bechachino said.
The 44-year-old mother is just one of 263 beneficiaries who received the key and documents for their new houses at the Pope Francis Village in Barangay Diit here.
Palo Archbishop John Du and former Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Secretary Corazon “Dinky” Soliman graced the hand-over ceremony.
The Pope Francis Village was mainly established by a consortium of non-governmental organizations both in the Philippines and abroad like Caritas Canada, Canadian Catholic for Development and Peace, Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines-National Secretariat for Social Action, Archdiocese of Palo through Caritas-Palo, the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer, Urban Poor Associates, and government agencies lead by the DSWD, Department of Public Works and Highways, and Armed Forces of the Philippines.
Unlike other housing projects for Yolanda victims in the city, the project is just located seven kilometers away from the city’s business district and very accessible through public transportation.
“My husband who is a fisherman does not complain even if our new home is far from fishing grounds because this place is accessible and safe. We don’t need to evacuate during typhoons,” Bechachino added.
Marlon Maraya, 60, vice president of the Pope Francis Homeowners Association, said it never entered his mind that he would someday own a house.
“It is impossible for a low-income hairdresser like me to earn enough money to buy a new concrete house,” he shared.
Maraya volunteered as a community support group member as required by donors to beneficiaries of the housing project. As a volunteer, he was a finance officer, in-charge of giving salary to workers.
“I’m planning to convert the first floor of my house into a salon to earn a living. I have no competitor here since there is no salon in the community. Opening this kind of business in this area is good for me,” Maraya said.
Once fully completed, the housing project will benefit 566 families with three different designs as suggested by beneficiaries.
The two-story row houses with a floor area of 40 square meters each, costs PHP300,000. About 166 are still in the process of construction. Church, community center, and playgrounds will also be put up in the area.
Tacloban City Vice Mayor Jerry Yaokasain said the project is something that must be looked into as a model for future housing projects for disaster victims.
"Pope Francis Village is a testament that in-city housing resettlement is possible,” Yaokasin said.
Soliman said the government should use the concept of a collaborative consortium that they used in implementing the Pope Francis Village project to ensure that the actual needs of victims of calamities and disasters are rightly provided.
She pointed out that aside from listening to the disaster victims, government offices should learn to work together to ensure that there is no project duplication.
“Working together will save budget on government projects, I hope that the present administration will be open on the concept of collaborative convergence,” the former DSWD chief said.
Archbishop Du, for his part, enjoined the beneficiaries of the housing project to take care of their new house and treat it as “gift from God.”
“You have to take care of the house and build a community, live as a family and work hard,” Du told the recipients.
The prelate said that aside from the housing units, the consortium will also put up commercial and industrial establishments inside the Pope Francis Village compound to create jobs.
The top Roman Catholic official in the region noted that he regularly informs the Vatican on the updates of the housing project that was named after the Pope. (PNA)