SURGE: Stories of Resilience

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In 2015, as a second cinematographer and photographer, I went with Ninjadog Studios  to make a series of short documentaries for the SURGE Consortium. The consortium was composed of different organisations namely:

Christian Aid
Handicap International
Plan International

The project was 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.


Fishing is the main source of livelihood in Karihatag. Everyone lives from the sea, and people have continuing the same practice of fish and seafood drying for many years. This preservation practice secures their food supply, preparing them for storms that make it impossible to go fishing.

The sea is not only a source of food, but of enjoyment as well. Here, the children play with seaweed washed upon the shore.

Living so close to sea makes Karihatag vulnerable to storm surges. The villages have decided to conduct regular simulation drills to prepare them for storm surges.

In the past years, the steady decline in fish catch forced the fishing community to re-think its fishing practices. They built a marine sanctuary that stretches kilometere from the shore with the goal of protecting and restoring the life in their seas.

(A project with OXFAM)


Tarangnan is an isolated coastal municipality in Western Samar. Only one road connects Tarangnan to the rest of Western Samar, the rest of the municipality is scattered in islands.

Every year, when storms come, the people in the mainland, and outlying villages under Tarangnan’s jurisdiction face weeks without fish catch. A week before the storms come, the fish disappear as they search for a safer less stormy seas, and they only return a week after a storm has passed.

The Disaster Risk Reduction Management Team of Tarangnan is made up of different people from different ages. DRRM Leader Mr. Justine Derayunan found people from different backgrounds and ages. Some of the team shared with us how, once they were outcasts. They had felt that they could not contribute to society, until Sir Justin approached them and invited them to be part and train with the DRRM Team of Tarangnan. The DRRM Team does not only help inform and educate the residents on how to prepare for storms, they have also been trained so well, that when super typhoon Haiyan ravaged Samar, and Leyte, the Tarangnan DRRM team were called to help.

The cooperation among the of people Tarangnan, is proof, that anyone, no matter how different they are, can be part of lasting positive change in the community.

(A project with Plan International)


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 one’s different abilities. Some people are kept in rooms in their homes, away from view.

Ate Mila and Aling Eunor, work hard everyday to begin a conversation with families and villagers to help them better understand that people with different abilities 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. These papers contain information which they will share to the different villages the next day.

(A Project with Handicap International)


A 3-hour ferry ride connects the Rapu- Rapu islands to the rest of Albay. Being one of the eastern most islands in the Philippines, it’s important for the people of Rapu-rapu to be prepared for when storms hit.

In the last years, Rapu-rapu has seen a decline in their fish catch as a result of a toxic spill due mining activity in the island. Today, the fishers have to go very far out into the sea just to find fish, most of the time, they come home empty handed. Today, it is estimated that to take 10 to 20 years until the destroyed corals and mountains are rehabilitated.

Read more:

Photographs from Lake Mainit and the Municipality of Mainit in Surigao Del Norte.

Published by veniceCa

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