Building back better in Bendum: A dream-to-reality journey towards a resilient home and a good life

Mercy Pakiwag

Mercy Pakiwag, a Pulangiyēn, shares her story of building a house and a home for her family and the challenges she faced in the process.

This effort in building back better houses in Bendum emerged from an earlier project of the Environmental Science for Social Change (ESSC), a Jesuit research and training organization in the Philippines that assists APC operations in Bendum. In collaboration with Base Bahay Foundation and the local government of Salcedo, and with support from Xavier Network and the Philippine Province of the Society of Jesus, ESSC built bamboo-cement houses for 37 families affected by Typhoon Haiyan in Barangay Cagaut in Salcedo, Eastern Samar. APC staff underwent training in Cagaut on the application of the bamboo-cement technology and brought this to Bendum in 2019. Two APC buildings were built since then: Balay Magnanau (the teachers’ building) and the bamboo Processing, Storage, and Fabrication facility. APC then offered teachers to have their houses constructed with this same technology.

Wanting to build a more stable home for her family, Mercy took up APC’s offer and negotiated a housing loan agreement with a monthly amortization rate that will pay back APC’s costs for the housing materials. Labor costs were absorbed in an ongoing APC project on skills training. Apart from having a safer and more durable shelter, Mercy’s new house inspires others in the community to adopt sustainable housing solutions.

My name is Mercy Pakiwag. I grew up here in Sitio Bendum. My parents are both Pulangiyēn. I have two daughters, Ellen Mae and Hannah Rose. My husband is Elmer Pakiwag. I have worked at the Apu Palamguwan Cultural Education Center for almost 16 years. Before, I used to teach Our Mother Language to Kindergarten and elementary students, and now I teach Formation to high school and elementary students.

Our new house has two bedrooms, a living room, an extension outside for the kitchen, and a toilet and shower. This house is simple and nice and used bamboo that was grown, processed, and laid out by the construction team of the youth program at APC. The wood strips used are not newly-cut because only wood reserved by the community was used, so we did not have to cut new trees in the forest.

When we still lived in our old house, we experienced rain coming through the roof while we were sleeping, so we often get wet when it rains. Our kitchen was nearly collapsing so we had to cook and wash dishes on the ground. We also had to change our floor many times due to termites.

I decided to request help from APC when the housing offer was brought up. I fully understood that the house is not readily available when you want it and there must be patience and hope in the process.

I dreamed of a house that was simple and comfortable for us. And now, I feel relieved because we can now call this house a permanent home. We can live here feeling secure, staying dry while sleeping, cooking in a sturdy kitchen, and not worrying about my children’s safety and health.

Shared commitment, courage, and trust | Mercy’s dream to have a stable house would not be possible without her shared commitment, courage, and trust in the process. She always believes that all things will work out at the right time. She is now indeed inspiring many people as she is the first-ever recipient of Bendum House in their community.

I also want others to see my shared commitment to a loan for five years. This is a challenge to my colleagues: if they want to reach something they are striving for, they must see the importance of good deeds and shared commitment. I hope that others see this as a possibility, especially those who want a good house that they can call home and feel safe.

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