Kaisa Page

Hope in a boat

First published in Tulay Fortnightly, Chinese-Filipino Digest 27, no. 6 (August 19-September 8, 2014): 8-9.

Help the fishermen fish, and the whole community eats.

That is our guiding philosophy when Kaisa Para Sa Kaunlaran thought of our Bangkabuhayan Project to help fishermen recover their livelihood after it was swept away during Typhoon Yolanda’s (Haiyan) rampage through Visayas in November 2013.

As we prepare to turn over 50 more boats this August to fishermen in Balete, Aklan, we recall other fishing boats we turned over to recipients earlier in the year. January 30 saw our first boat turnover in Batad, Iloilo.

We had asked a third party to make the boats for us as we navigated our own learning curve. Nevertheless, we were able to put together the boats – the fiberglass hulls, then the engines and nets – and ship them to destination.

Everything fell into place and 275 boats had already been given thus far in Ajuy and Batad, Iloilo, to several municipalities in Samar, to Poro, Pilar, Tudela and San Francisco in Camotes, Cebu.

With the help of so many good people, the Bangkabuhayan Project touched many lives and made a difference.

More than eight months after Yolanda hit Samar, still, many residents live in makeshift houses like this.

It would have been easy to just give away the boats and not care if recipients sold them the next day. It would have been easy to rationalize and say money from selling the donated boats would still bring them relief from their poverty.

But we wanted the project to be something that will uplift them and give them the responsibility of improving their circumstances.

To become beneficiaries, recipients must agree to organize themselves and participate in a pay-it-forward scheme that will benefit themselves primarily and their community afterward.

We might encounter disappointment and outright failure in our intention. But we strongly believe that we are empowering them and giving them the option of a paradigm shift. We felt that spirit in Ajuy, where 100 fishermen made the decision to contribute 50 pesos a month to their newly formed association which they named Ajuy Amity Kaisa Fisherfolks Association.

Signing of the Kasunduan (social contract ) at Quinapondan, Samar. (From left) Dr. Mike Vergara of Health Futures Foundation Inc., Rupert Ambil of #Project110813, Mayor Nedito Campo, Vice Mayor Rose Mambulao, Anabel Chua Lim and Eden Cheng of Kaisa and Luz Jabagat of Tacloban Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

With the help of Red Cross Iloilo and the local government unit led by Mayor Jose Alvarez, they plan to buy a spare engine to lend out if and when some of them will need it. We are hoping for the best.

We felt the Ajuy local government personnel’s concern when they called us about the warranty of one of the engines. We immediately connected them to the local technician and the mechanical problem has since been resolved.

There were also initial concerns over installing the engine on a fiberglass boat. This was resolved when one of the Ajuy fishermen explained how he installed his.

We had already explained to the recipients how to do it, and that installation on a wooden boat is almost the same as in a fiberglass boat. But the sharing between peers brought greater assurance that they can work with fiberglass boats.

We also gave another 24 boats to Batad, Iloilo. With the help again of Red Cross Iloilo, we were able to choose the fishermen who would agree to the Bangkabuhayan pay-it-forward terms.

Then there is Samar. With two trips this July, we delivered 99 boats to fishermen in Guiuan, Salcedo, Marabut, Lawaan, Giporlos and Quinapondan and one boat for Balangiga.

This batch of boats will be monitored by Health Futures Foundation, Inc. (HFI) headed by Dr. Jaime Z. Galvez Tan. They will choose the beneficiaries, monitor their activities and provide technical support, in cooperation with #Project110813, to the fishermen.

There was a signing of the memorandum of agreement or Kasunduan during the turnover with the local mayors, Kaisa, HFI and the beneficiaries.

In the agreement, it is clearly stated that the fishing boats cannot be sold, pawned, dismantled and bartered. Beneficiaries may not engage in illegal fishing activities.

In Samar, some beneficiaries will also use the boat for mangrove monitoring and cultivation in their area.

The boats in Samar were all named Filipino-Chinese Friendship Boat as they were donated by the seven big groups in the Chinese Filipino community that united as one to respond to disastrous calamities. Collectively, they gave Kaisa funds for 100 boats.

Proud fishermen lift up an oar they had all signed and gifted to their donors.

The group is composed of the Federation of Filipino-Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry Inc. (菲華商聯總會), Federation of Filipino-Chinese Associations of the Philippines Inc. (菲華各界聯合會), World News Publications (世界日報), Overseas Chinese Alumni Association (旅菲校友會聯合會), Philippine-Chinese Chamber of Commerce (菲律濱中國商會), Philippine Hsin Lian Association (菲華新聯公會) and Philippine-Chinese Amity Club (菲華聯誼會).

Other donors included the Movement for the Restoration of Peace and Order, Rotary Club of Mandaluyong, Royal HK Yacht Club through Amity Foundation, HK, Amy Foundation Inc. and Angelo King Foundation Inc.

There were other groups and individuals who wished to be identified only by the names they gave the boats.

We now await for the boats in Balete, Aklan to be completed. The local fishermen were given wood, marine plywood and engines which they could build on their own.

We supplied the material needed. So far, they have finished 28 boats and some are already in use for livelihood.

We are truly grateful for the support from our donors. We hope that all 325 boats from this project will be a blessing to all for a long, long time.