The Rise of Santa Fe

30 Apr 2014

image(Photo credit: Anna Mae Lamentillo / UNDP)


Five months after the strongest typhoon hit the Philippines, Trinidad Bato-balono proudly pointed to the coast she helped clean with support from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

She says businesses are slowly picking up; tourists are starting to return, and students are going back to school. Getting the port up and running was crucial in recovering the tourism industry. Despite the devastation of one ramp, ferry services have resumed regular operations, providing locals and foreigners access to hundreds of trips weekly from Hagnaya Warf in San Remigio to Sante Fe.

“Without the help of UNDP, we would have not been able to resume operations as fast as we did,” said Jose Esgana, Mayor of Sante Fe Mayor. “Through hundreds of cash-for-work beneficiaries, we were able to clear classrooms, roads, and coastal areas in a faster phase.”

For Bato-balono, the sight of ships arriving is a vision full of promise and expectation. They were no longer isolated. There is hope for her, her family and the community of Santa Fe.

But the road to recovery has not been easy. Just as she expected, Typhoon Yolanda was strong and destructive. It was worse than Typhoon Frank. For the second time, Bato-balono and her family were back to zero – they had no house to live in and everything they had rebuilt was destroyed.

Despite the devastation, 55-year-old Bato-balono remained optimistic. Her family was safe, including Mameng, her 93-year-old mother who was paralyzed from waist down. If it weren’t for her neighbours who were willing to brave the storm, her mother would have never made it – not after the injury she sustained.

Bato-balono household
Trinidad Bato-balono and her family and her family in front of their restored home. (Photo: Anna Mae Lamentillo / UNDP)

For Bato-balono, her family’s survival was a miracle. She was confident – whatever property they may have lost, her family could rebuild for as long as they were together.

However, the first month was exceptionally hard for the family, especially for Bato-balono, a masseuse and a manicurist. Resorts were closed; tourists were not coming to Bantayan; and the shore was barely recognizable under the mountain of debris.

In other words, there were no jobs available for most of the residents of Santa Fe.

“Walang nagpapamasahe. Walang nagpapa-pedicure. Wala kasing pera ang mga tao. So nung narinig ko yung cash-for-work ng UNDP, nag-apply ako kaagad (No one thought of having a massage or a manicure. The people did not have money to spare. So when I heard about UNDP’s cash-for-work, I applied immediately),” she said.

Today, her family is home. Using the income she earned from clearing debris and the construction materials she obtained from the government, the household of seven was able to restore their old home.