Breeding hope

Twenty-two-year-old Rene Daquigan and his family are all huddled, smiling, in a makeshift shelter next to a new pigpen. Rene has just received a pig from Handicap International to replace the ones he lost to typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) last year.

The contrast seems amusing at first: the makeshift shelter has no walls, only a tarpaulin roof; the pigpen was made of cement and wood, with tin roofing.

But it all made sense, especially to Rene (who is actually renting a small wooden house about 1 km from the pigpen).

“We’re staying here tonight to guard the pig from burglars,” he says.

The day before Haiyan hit his native Alang-Alang, Leyte (24 km west of Tacloban City), Rene also decided to guard his pigs from burglars. He remained at home, but he sent his wife and his three-month-old daughter to his relatives in nearby town of Carigara. His relatives had a stronger house to endure the upcoming typhoon.

Earning only P350 per day working as a chainsaw operator (with an irregular schedule), Rene could not risk losing his pigs to looters. He also wanted to repair his house (which was newly built at that time) in case the typhoon would damage it.

Rene underestimated Haiyan.

“I did not sleep the whole night,” Rene said, recalling the rainy night before Haiyan made landfall. At that time, he was more concerned about protecting the pigs from burglars than he was about the typhoon itself.

Rene received his new pig on October 8, 2014. Photo: Till Mayer / Handicap International
Rene received his new pig last October. Photo: Till Mayer / Handicap International

But when it was nearly sunrise – yet with no hint of sunlight – it became apparent to Rene that this was no ordinary “strong typhoon.” It was extraordinary, a freak. With winds blowing up to 315 km/hr, the typhoon arrived in a rage at around 5 am. Rene’s whole house rattled amid the wind and rain. The rain lashed at the walls like whips coming from everywhere. The pigs were squealing in their pen.

Rene ran towards his neighbor’s house, which was a bit stronger than his. He feared for his life. Cowering under the anger of Haiyan, Rene watched his house being blown by powerful winds piece by piece.

When the typhoon had finally passed, Rene checked out what was left of the house: the floor was still there; pieces from what used to be walls and furniture lay scattered wide around him. Two of his three pigs died. Rene wept.

Soon he decided to slaughter the remaining pig, for him and his neighbors to eat in the next few days. He also picked up young coconut fruits which he could stew.

Then people from more remote areas started pouring into town looking for food and water. Rene gave what he could. He could not forget the desperate look on the people’s faces. Rene soon ran out of pork.

Rene was reunited with his family in the evening after the typhoon razed through Leyte. They brought food and other provisions.

Several days later, the first relief efforts reached Alang-Alang. Rene is still awed at how fortunate he was: he received three sacks of rice from the government.

Now it was shelter and livelihood – or the lack thereof – that troubled Rene. With his house and all his pigs gone, he had little idea how to support his family.

So when he learned about Handicap International’s livelihood project, Rene immediately signed up. After several days of assessing his capacity and vulnerability, Rene soon received news that he would receive a high-quality pig which he could raise and breed.

On October 8, 2014, Rene finally received the pig. By this time, he had already built the tiny pigpen after some training sessions on Build Back Better with Handicap International.

Rene is also replacing his small house which Haiyan destroyed. It is just a stone’s throw away from the pigpen. Indeed, slowly but surely, Rene and his family are taking back what they had lost – pigs, house, and a normal life. ♦

A huge amount is still needed to help other typhoon victims rebuild their houses and get their livelihoods back on track. Send your donation to Haiyan survivors now »
Photos © Till Mayer / Handicap International

Handicap International is an independent and impartial international aid organization working in situations of poverty and exclusion, conflict and disaster.

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