I met Johannes Luetz on a pumpboat off the north end of Cebu Island in 2005. He and his friend Jens and I then traveled to Sorsogon, Bicol, where we swam with Butanding whale sharks. It was a great trip.

Johannes and Jens on pumpboat

Since then, I have been enjoying early retirement in Cebu.
Johannes meanwhile has been hard at work: he earned an MBA Degree in European-Asian Management at the Berlin School of Economics and Law, and is now finishing up his Doctorate at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia. His PhD thesis is a humanitarian study on Climate Change Migration Management. (Wikipedia says Climate Change Migration "refers to the people who are purportedly forced to migrate from or flee their home region due to sudden or long-term changes to their local environment, which is held to include increased droughts, desertification, sea level rise, and disruption of seasonal weather patterns such as monsoons."
Johannes is doing his field work in several locations including Papua New Guinea, Bolivia, Bangladesh, India, Maldives, and the Philippines. Besides furthering humanitarian outcomes, he wants to create a video documentary summarizing the findings of his field work. He hopes it will be used to help involved stakeholders develop new strategies for both reducing the risks from probable climate change, and also for developing more effective and equitable strategies for relocating and resettling climate change migrants (aka natural disaster survivors).
He invited me to join him along with his wife Wendy and son David for the Philippines segment of his field research, and I said "Yup, definitely!"

January 8-15, 2012: Manila, Quezon City and Rizal Province

In late 2009, the Philippines was hit by two enormous storms:
* In September, Typhoon Ondoy (International name: Ketsana) hit Metro Manila, killing 420 people and causing P11 billion in damage.
* One week later, Typhoon Pepeng (International name: Parma) hit northern Luzon and killed 438 people, causing a further P27.3 billion in damage.
The double punch of the back-to-back storms wreaked havoc from which the country is still recovering. Surveying the human cost of these storms was the focus of our research travels during a week in the greater Manila area.


Typhoon Ondoy (Ketsana), September 2009 (photo courtesy European Pressphoto Agency)

Typhoon Ondoy

Sunday January 8, 2012

I flew from Cebu to Manila aboard Cebu Pacific Air, and then rode a bus to Quezon City.

Cebu Pacific airplane

Monday January 9, 2012

World Vision logo

Orientation at World Vision Philippines National Headquarters, Quezon City. (Johannes' research study is being logistically supported by World Vision International, one of the largest relief and development organizations in the world with a total revenue of US $2.6 billion (2008)." WVI Annual Report 2008
During our subsequent 11 days of research interviews, I was impressed with the World Vision work that I saw in the Philippines. Two thumbs up!

Tuesday January 10, 2012

Morning: Meeting with landslide survivors, Sitio Upper Deck Sto. Nino, Barangay Santa Cruz, Antipolo City, Rizal Province.
This sitio was devastated by a landslide during Typhoon Ondoy in 2009. Many houses were buried and/or destroyed; remarkably only one resident was killed. We talked with community members at length about their experiences during and after the typhoon. The area is still at high risk for further slides, so gradually all the residents are relocating to a new site 30 minutes away in rural Antipolo City.

Tuesday January 10, 2012

Afternoon: Visit to "Tent City" Peterson relocation site, Sitio Pinugay, Barangay San Jose, Antipolo City, Rizal Province.
This relocation site is one of the most impressive places I've seen in the Philippines: the new residents, who all transferred from the landslide area, have built their own homes in the new location and become a cohesive and spirited cooperative community. It's just damned exciting to see this kind of a development in the Philippines. Several Philippine government agencies and also non-governmental organizations including World Vision have been involved in this relocation effort, my hat is off to all of them for helping this needy and deserving community of people.

Wednesday January 11, 2012

Morning: Tour of landslide area, Sitio Upper Deck Sto. Nino, Barangay Santa Cruz, Antipolo City, Rizal Province.
Return to the landslide area for more interviews. Today we talked mostly with officials from the Antipolo City Community Affairs Office, who were rather clueless about what is going on here. Itís clear that the community residents, working with NGOs (non-governmental organizations) had taken responsibility for their future and had made things happen. It was definitely not the Community Affairs Office which had helped them to relocate.

Wednesday January 11, 2012

Afternoon: Visit to "Ondoy Village" resettlement site, Sitio Sumilang, Barangay San Jose, Antipolo City, Rizal Province.
This is another relocation site in rural Rizal Province, home to 1,200 families who were mostly Typhoon Ondoy victims. This is an impressive project, again the residents had mostly built their own new homes using donated materials provided by the Philippine Red Cross. Other agencies involved in creation of this village include the Philippines Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), Provincial Government of Rizal, Philippines Presidential Commission for the Urban Poor (PCUP), United Nations World Food Program (UNWFP), Save the Children, International Organization for Migration (IOM), the Philippine Army, and World Vision.... truly an impressive and cooperative effort.
We took lots of photos and video footage for the documentary which Johannes is making.

Thursday January 12, 2012

Morning and afternoon: Interview with relocated family, "Ondoy Village" relocation site, Sitio Sumilang, Barangay San Jose, Antipolo City, Rizal Province.
We returned to Ondoy Village for long conversations with residents about their experiences after Typhoon Ondoy. They had some horrible experiences, but eventually arrived at this new village where they helped to build their new houses with donated materials. They have many problems and had many complaints: poorly constructed houses, no potable water (they need to buy from outside sources at P6 per gallon!), only informal access to electricity, dirt roads that get boggy during rainstorms, and no access to good jobs or livelihood projects. But nevertheless, they all said they are happy living there and want to remain in their new houses for the rest of their lives (mixed messages!?)

Thursday January 12, 2012

Evening: Interview with Gregorio Gallegos, "Tent City" Peterson residents association chairman, Antipolo City, Rizal Province.
Chairman Gallejos offered us an autobiographical sketch: the ups and downs of a man who has survived difficult times and become an important leader among this community of landslide survivors.

Friday January 13, 2012

"Expert" Interviews
Today we interviewed academics and governmental agency directors in the field of Philippines disaster management. These somewhat technical discussions contrasted starkly to the more personal stories offered during our interviews with the disaster survivors earlier this week.

Morning: Dr. Emmanuel Luna, Professor of Community Development, College of Community Development & Social Work, University of the Philippines, Diliman, Quezon City.
Dr. Luna talked about how the "cluster approach" to disaster management is now being adopted, allowing a variety of government agencies and NGO's to work closely together in responding to natural disasters. He supports a participatory approach.
What lessons were learned from the management of Typhoon Ondoy?
1. Management of displacee relocation should be complete: to cover all aspects of their needs including housing, transportation, water, electricity and esp. livelihood opportunities.
2. Increased participation by NGOs is appropriate but they need to re-think some of the their input, for example improved designs of relief and relocation technologies.
3. There is a need for better information management and organisational learning. Many NGOs are rushing from disaster management to disaster management and are not taking the time to document and publish lessons learned, and hence invaluable opportunities for engagement in public dialogue are lost..

Friday January 13, 2012

Afternoon: Dr. Benito Ramos, Executive Director, National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council (NDRRMC), Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City.
Dr. Ramos offered strong opinions on the subject of Philippine disasters. First, "There is no such thing as climate change migration - the people who have gone to such places as Compostela Valley in MIndanao to mine for gold are not fleeing climate change - they are fleeing poverty." Thus, the director strongly believes it is the national government's responsibility to help create jobs for Filipinos by building up livelihood programs; and also to organize responsible mining and logging industries which do not contribute to environmental degradation or destruction.

Friday January 13, 2012

Evening: Commissioner Naderev "Yeb" Sano, Philippine Climate Change Commission (PCCC), Quezon City.
Commissioner Sano is a strong believer in climate change: he pointed out that the Philippines has been experiencing warmer temperatures and increased precipitation, which are consistent with scientific climate change predictions. He noted that the Philippines "typhoon belt" has shifted southward, accounting for the recent trajectory of Tropical Storm Sendong over Northern Mindanao, an area that has historically been spared typhoons. He mentioned a study that predicts that by 2050, 15 million people in the Philippines could be displaced by the effects of climate change.
Sano believes that appropriate adaptation to climate change is not a technical issue; rather, it is a development issue about economic growth, land use, and "green jobs" creation.

Saturday January 14, 2012

Morning: Buklod Tao Livelihood & Evacuation Center, Baranagay Banaba, San Mateo, Rizal Province.

Led by dynamic community organizer Noli A. Abinales (at right in yellow shirt), this group has created an activity center with many interconnected projects to provide livelihood opportunities for Ondoy-affected residents: making and marketing "tetra-pak" bags out of recycled juice packs, urban container gardening, charcoal briquettes made of coconut shells, growing native trees in "tetra-pak" bags, and even production of fiberglass boats for evacuation of people during floods. This is an inspiring community-managed climate and disaster risk reduction (CMCDRR) project.

Saturday January 14, 2012

Afternoon: Sitio North Libis, Barangay Banaba, Municipality San Mateo, Rizal Province.

This riverside barangay was severely flooded during Typhoon Ondoy. Unfortunately, the residents are still there and they remain at high risk for future flooding disasters. This interview was filmed beneath the San Mateo Bridge over the Marikina River, adjacent to the sitio..

Sitio North Libis

"san mateo bridge surfers of typhoon ondoy"

Here is a (horrifying) YouTube video, filmed from the top of the same bridge during the height of Ondoy flooding: a group of people floating down the Marikina River on a roof just before colliding with the San Mateo Bridge.
"According to the news only one of those people survived the rampage."
Click the image to watch the video:

San Mateo Bridge surfers video still

Our World Vision support team in the Manila area: Bobby the driver and Gem our tour guide/interviewer facilitator/translator (Tagalog-to-English.) Both were friendly, supportive and did a great job of helping Johannes complete his interviews.

Bobby and gem

Sunday January 15, 2012

Travel day: I flew to Cagayan de Oro, Misamis Oriental, Mindanao, in the evening.

January 16-19, 2012: Cagayan de Oro City, Misamis Oriental

On December 16, 2011, Northern Mindanao was hit by Tropical Cyclone Sendong (International name: Washi).
According to the Philippines National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council, the storm killed at least 1,257 people (and an additional 1,000 are still missing), destroyed or damaged more than 35,000 houses and displaced more than 300,000 people. We came to survey the human toll from this massive disaster.


Tropical Cyclone Sendong (Washi), December 2011 (photo courtesy AP)

Tropical Storm Sendong

Monday January 16, 2012

Morning: "Courtesy call" Interview with Mayor Vicente Y. Emano, Cagayan de Oro City, Misamis Oriental Province.
We discussed the devastating effects of Tropical Storm Sendong on the residents of the city.

Monday January 16, 2012

Afternoon: Visit to damaged house of Jonathan Castillo, Sitio Bacan Compound, Barangay Balulang, Cagayan de Oro City. Jonathan narrated how his family had been awakened by the sudden arrival in their house of floodwaters from the nearby Cagayan River, which within three minutes was higher than their heads. They were able to escape upstairs to the second floor of their home, where they were joined by 60 neighbors who lived in single-story houses and might well have drowned had the Castillos not taken them in. Many of the neighbors had to climb the torn-off window grate (pictured) to enter the house via the second-story window.

Monday January 16, 2012

Afternoon: Visit to Sitio Cala-Cala, Barangay Macasandig, Cagayan de Oro City.

The Cagayan de Oro River swept across the sandbar comprising this neighborhood and swept away virtually every house, some 400 households. Hundreds of people died. Johannes interviewed several survivors.

Tuesday January 17, 2012

Morning: Evacuation site, Sitio Cala-anan, Bgy. Canitoan, Cagayan de Oro City.

There are about 50 families camped out at the high school, housed in large tents donated by PLAN Intl, a British aid NGO. The survivors in this evacuation center come from various places around Cagayan de Oro City, some from only a few meters away where the Cagayan River overflowed its banks and swept their houses away. Johannes conducted a focus group discussion with 13 storm survivors. This is a well-organized and comfortable-looking evacuation center (compared to some which are extremely crowded), but the main problem is long-term relocation. The city and province need to come up with permanent relocation sites for the thousands who will not be allowed to rebuild their destroyed homes in danger zones. Thus the people at this site might be here for many months.

Tuesday January 17, 2012

Afternoon: Barangay Loguilo, Municipality Alubijid, Province Misamis Oriental.

This seaside community was affected by the flood. We interviewed many residents; all are planning to remain in this community rather than moving elsewhere to evacuation centers. We spent time trying to draw out the specific aspirations implicated in their attachment to this location.

Wednesday January 18, 2012

Morning: Interview with Barangay Chairman Cesar S. Pagapulaan, Barangay Consolacion, Cagayan de Oro City.
Captain Pagapulaan explained how 100% of his constituents had been affected by Sendong in this riverside barangay near the center of Cagayan de Oro City. The barangay has 4,000 families totaling some 12,000 people; of this number, 264 households (1320 +/ - people) were completely washed out. Families whose houses were within 30 meters of the river will not be allowed to rebuild; they will be forced to relocate.

Wednesday January 18, 2012

Mid-day: Bugnaw Village, Barangay Consolacion, Cagayan de Oro City.

Following the interview with Captain Pagapulaan, we toured the barangay riverfront and saw scenes of tremendous destruction. We conducted a number of brief interviews with residents and discovered that in spite of the continuing danger from flooding, nearly all stated their unwilingness to go to evacuation centers, due to the availability of work here quarrying sand from the adjacent river. "What work can we find in an evacuation center?"

Wednesday January 18, 2012

Afternoon: Tent City evacuation site, Sitio Cala-anan, Bgy. Canitoan, Cagayan de Oro City.

This is a large evacuation site run by the city of Cagayan de Oro and the DSWD (Department of Social Welfare and Development). Presently, 408 families comprising 1587 individuals are housed in 365 tents. It is a huge site! In the photo, one of the many NGOs working at the site is distributing free plastic bags of ukay-ukay (used clothing) to the residents.

Thursday January 19, 2012

Morning: Relocation site, Sitio Cala-anan, Barangay Canitoan, Cagayan de Oro City.

This is a relocation village located about one kilometer from the Cala-anan Tent City evacuation site. It is also being jointly administered by the City of Cagayan de Oro and the DSWD (Department of Social Welfare and Development). This former coconut tree plantation has been leveled, and flood survivors working under a "Cash for work" program are earning P215 per day to dig foundations for the first new houses being constructed by Habitat for Humanity, which plans to build 1400 houses here. This is a huge project.

Thursday January 19, 2012

Late Morning: Tent City evacuation site, Sitio Calaanan, Barangay Canitoan, Cagayan de Oro City.

We returned to Tent City for more interviews. This appears to be a very well-run site, with amenities for the flood survivors and the nearby relocation site (where many of the evacuees will eventually be given their own newly-constructed homes) offering paid work for the men.

Thursday January 19, 2012

Afternoon: Evacuation and relocation site, Xavier Compound, Barangay Lumbia, Cagayan de Oro City.

This is another large evacuation site, presently unoccupied but being prepared for a large number of Sendong survivors. The Philippine Red Cross and the Qatar Red Crescent Society have jointly put up 150 wall tents; while the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the Philippine Army are constructing several hundred "temporary" wooden bunkhouses to house 600 more. A nearby empty field will be used for the construction of permanent housing for the same survivors.

Thursday January 19, 2012

CDO team (L-to-R): Arthur our WV driver, Chris Pforr, Johannes Luetz, Vina our WV tour guide and interview facilitator. In four shirlwind days, we four visited many sites around Cagayan de Oro City. Special kudos to Vina for her tireless and enthusiastic interview facilitation and translation (Bisaya-to-English) services!

Thursday January 19, 2012

Evening: Dinner and Exit Meeting with World Vision staff at restaurant in Cagayan de Oro City.

It was a delicious dinner and enthusiastic group but I had to leave early in order to catch my 9pm ferryboat ride back to Cebu City.

The research team, L-to-R: Wendy (married to Johannes); Chris Pforr; Johannes Luetz; and their 11-year old David.

The research team

Friday January 20, 2012

Arrived home Cebu 7am aboard MV Cebu Ferry 03 from Cagayan de Oro. Yehey, good to be home!

MV Cebu Ferry 03

Johannes Luetz

* Video documentary for this research trip should be completed late 2012 *

Johannes Luetz

Chris Pforr on Philippine disaster interviews

Chris Pforr