SURGE: Stories of Resilience Arakan, North Cotabato

Handicap International provides support for the people of Arakan North Cotabato through their disaster risk reduction and management projects. We were able to meet with the leader of Arakan’s Association of People with Disabilities, Mila, and Eunor

Ate Mila and Aling Eunor ride a dirt motor bicycle often called “habal-habal” across the steep mountains of North Cotabato. They go from village to village, to find people with disabilities, and prepare them and their families in case storms arrive. In most villages in the Philippines, it is a taboo to talk about having family members with disabilities. Some people are kept in rooms in their homes, away from view. This makes it especially dangerous when families are asked to evacuate their homes when there are threats of typhoons or landslides.

Ate Mila and Aling Eunor, work hard everyday to begin a conversation with families and villagers to help them better understand that people with disabilities have a place in society.

At night, the limited power supply brings Arakan into darkness, but, with the aid of a tiny flashlight attached to the bottom of a plastic lighter, Ate Mila and Aling Eunor continue to prepare their presentations and accounting logs. The following day, they will meet with the leaders of the People with Disabilities in other Barangays (villages) and give report on where the year’s previous budget was spent and what the next year’s plans will be.

A project I worked on as a cinematographer and photographer under Ninjadog Studios  for the SURGE Consortium funded by the European Commission on Humanitarian Aid (ECHO). The films were to put a spotlight on how different communities in the Philippines have built systems to better equip them for natural calamities, to prevent these from turning into disasters.

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