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Ericson's Story: Safe Schools in the Philippines

Ericson is among those who witnessed the wrath of Typhoon Ketsana, which brought devastation to Metro Manila and nearby provinces.

I come from a broken family. 

I was in high-school when my parents separated. When that happened, I did not care about going to school anymore. I decided to stop. I felt like everybody left me. I felt like I was alone. I told myself to never go back home.

I got involved in activities with my peers that I am not proud of - smoking, drinking, getting involved in riots. I was 15 then and my friends made me feel that I was not alone. They made me feel that I belong and that was something I was longing for. 

Then Typhoon Ketsana (Ondoy) happened.

I was sleeping at my friend’s house during that time. His house was near the sea. I recall waking up to the sound of gushing winds trying to blow away our roof. When we went outside, the water was already knee-deep.

I helped my friend and his family save their belongings. We then went around the neighborhood to know what had happened to others. That’s when we saw ourselves helping other people to evacuate. I remember women bringing their children with them, elders asking for help, and children crying because of panic.

When the rain stopped, I saw a lot of appliances, grocery items, and house furniture lying on the street, covered in mud. While I was looking for something I can use, I saw a dead baby. I couldn’t get that image out of my mind.

Many lost hope. We didn’t know what to do. We were not prepared.

It took us months before we could bounce back as a community. It took two full months before the flood in our community was completely gone. It was like a ghost town.

After Ondoy, many stopped schooling. Many lost hope. We didn’t know what to do. We were not prepared.

Back to school

I came back to school after four years. At first, I felt ashamed because of my age. I am already 16 years old but I am still a freshman in high school. Other people made fun of me, telling me I could not make it. But I took that as a challenge to show them what I can do.

Our section is where overaged students and former dropouts are found. I persevered and eventually finished top four of the class. Eventually, I climbed to the top section where I currently belong.

Junior Emergency Response Team

My interest in emergency response started when I started staying in the disaster risk reduction corner at our school during my free time. I used to just observe other JERT members leading activities and emergency drills. I thought it was really cool. Then at our Boy Scout, Plan International encouraged students to join the Junior Emergency Response Team (JERT) for the incoming school year. I did not hesitate for one moment in joining. I saw what a big help this can be to our school. I know it will be a big help for me as well because of the kind of disaster we went through.

Now I am part of the team, I am responsible for ensuring students get rescued during the drills.

Students and teachers weren’t attentive at first when we provided orientation about disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation. Some do not do the duck, cover, and hold during earthquake drills. But now I can see the change. They are taking it seriously. Students do the tasks assigned to them such as opening the door and bringing first aid kits.

It feels like, for the first time, I know how to be free and live a life full of possibilities.

New purpose

I really enjoy what I am doing. It feels like, for the first time, I know how to be free and live a life full of possibilities. Not only did I gain new skills but I also got to meet other people.

I learned that even if you are not strong enough physically, you can equip yourself with important knowledge in order to survive. It is also important that we share our knowledge to other people, especially to our families. And I think that is the best lesson I learned as a JERT member.

ENDS

Typhoon Ketsana serves as one of the learning moments for the municipality of Tanay on disaster risk reduction. Together with Plan International Philippines and Prudence Foundation, the local government of Tanay and the six schools in the area are working towards developing schools and communities demonstrating certain level of resiliency against the impact of natural and human-induced hazards.

Ericson, 20, is among those who witnessed the wrath of Typhoon Ketsana, which brought devastation to Metro Manila and nearby provinces. In Tanay municipality in the province of Rizal, 33% of the population lost their properties to the flood.

Ericson is one of the 6,000 beneficiaries of these safer and disaster-resilient schools in Tanay. He is an active member of the Junior Emergency Response Team formed through the project.

(Written by Pamela Combinido, Monitoring and Evaluation Officer)