HQ team visits the Philippines

Every year, storms, earthquakes and other natural disasters affect the Philippines, displacing millions of people and destroying community networks. Typhoon Haiyan is recorded as one of the largest tropical storms in history, and has become a catalyst for raising consciousness about the vulnerabilities in this part of the world. The need for resilience in the built environment is gaining momentum for Filipinos and provides a unique opportunity for long-term reconstruction and planning. Recovery efforts must take advantage of sustainable design and construction training, and practices that will strengthen livelihoods and safety of a community. At the end of January, Architecture for Humanity visited the Philippines over the course of two weeks. We traveled throughout the Visayas region, specifically the islands of Samar, Leyte, Cebu and Bantayan. Through our trip, we were able to get a better understanding of needs on the ground by speaking to survivors and visiting various sites. This has aided us in beginning to decide where to focus our response efforts to maximize our resources and provide the greatest impact. Continue on for a report our trip.

Disaster training session: On January 19, we held an intriguing and intimate session with about 25 local architects. The gathering took place in a small space generously lent to by William Ti’s design studio in Manila. During the session, Eric Cesal, Director of Reconstruction and Resilience first covered the basics on disaster reconstruction and then opened it up to the audience to dicuss their interests and needs for future trainings.

Training session at William Ti’s Architecture Studio. A moment about transparency…

The group was very appreciative and were excited for more resources. Over and over, the attendees expressed their need for help: architects want to help but there isn’t an entry point to any system for them to do so. They wanted to know how to put their skills to use for the reconstruction efforts, and they want Architecture for Humanity to help overcome these obstacles with them. This is a really exciting opportunity to help expand the impact of recovery efforts. We will set up future trainings in the Philippines to cover disaster reconstruction and other requests for specific training.

Attendees and Eric, ready for round two!

After many site visits and our training seminar, the need for more training and awareness is very clear. We hope to share our knowledge and expertise in disaster reconstruction and impart that expertise with others who want to participate in the recovery efforts. Architecture for Humanity will include a “train the trainer” model in these sessions. We plan to incorporate trainings into every aspect of our rebuilding efforts in the Philippines. Our next training will be held on Saturday, March 8 1:30pm – 5:30pm at UAP Teatro Arkitekto, 7th floor. More information to come on how to register!

Visayan School Assessments:

School building damage caused by the 2013 Bohol Earthquake and Typhoon Haiyan

Much of our attention focused on assessing school damage. Schools serve as critical centers for the community and classes have been ordered to resume in the affected areas. We visited over a dozen schools, each of which offered a portal to the overall health of the community. We interviewed barangay captains, school teachers, principals and school children. It was incredibly informative and highlighted the need for help with appropriate reconstruction design, techniques and materials.


Temporary spaces are being used as classrooms until repairs are made

Most schools had resumed classes, but in unsafe environments, and with classrooms damaged and unusable, they are shared and overcrowded due to limited space. Schools are in urgent need of help, as they are dangerous to everyone using them.

Community Assessments and Surveys: We found residents leading relief and recovery efforts, working day and night to restore the places they once knew. We heard many stories like one from Father Felix, Parishioner at the Lady of Miraculous Medallion, in Marasabaras. He told us about his day following the storm where he walked for nine hours in knee-deep water, blessing the dead and condemning looters. We went to Mohon where the physical force of the surge had destroyed lives and homes, ripping concrete from rebar. Metal I-beams were twisted like spaghetti and coconut trees were shredded and topped everywhere.


The strongest storm in history leaves destruction in its path

Cultivating Relationships: We were fortunate to connect and attend meetings with Secretary Ping Lacson, the president-appointed Czar of Rehabilitation. Secretary Lacson and his team have been managing the incredibly complicated layers of reconstruction and are supportive of our efforts to shape a program that fills the need gap.


Secretary Ping Lacson, Injap representative and Architecture for Humanity arriving in Tanauan for reports on assessments and their rehabilitation plan

A friend and colleague from a partnering local NGO helped us on the ground. He was very perceptive to the social organization within the communities. He highlighted “do no harm” practices as being integral part of any successful relief and recovery efforts. We are excited and pleased to be working with him.


Eric and Niel discussing the complexities of community integrated projects

We also connected with several international NGO’s, local NGO’s and other potentially fruitful partners for a successful long-term rebuilding program. The support is overwhelming and we look forward to continue building relationships in expanding our programs.


A HUGE thank you to everyone for accommodating us and for sharing their stories. Thank you to our entire donor community, including our friends and supporters at Planeterra and G Adventures who helped make this work possible. We look forward to partnering with the Philippines to build back better.