Typhoon survivor Virginia Otig shows off her Certificate of Occupancy.

Baganga, Davao Oriental – Nearly two years after Typhoon Pablo, it was a moment to remember for the survivors as Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Secretary Corazon Juliano-Soliman and Governor Corazon N. Malanyaon turned over additional 2,779 permanent shelters here as well as in the towns of Cateel, Boston, and Tarragona on Friday, November 21.

To date, under the DSWD Modified Shelter Assistance Program (MSAP), 10,716 units have already been completed in partnership with the Provincial Local Government Unit.

Each shelter unit covers a lot area of 70 square meters, contains a two-room division, bathroom and septic tank, separate kitchen, with concrete walls and completely painted walls.

To hope

“I lost everything that I had including our home, our crops, and even our relatives and neighbors. It was the most devastating time of our lives. None of us even knew if we could survive the catastrophe,” recounted 69-year old farmer Virginia Otig.

It is still vivid in her memory when she hid under the table to dodge from flying debris. She painfully related the magnitude of devastation and how it destroyed everything that she had put up for years of hardwork.

“I was alone when the typhoon happened.  My only son, Anthony, lives in Negros Oriental with his wife. My husband has passed away in 1994. I had no one to depend on during those dark times. Prayer was my only weapon, pervently hoping that I would survive.”

She recalled that she even collected the debris she found on the streets, made herself a makeshift shelter, and went through cold and uncomfortable nights without a proper bed and a roof above her head.

The unimaginable devastation wrought by the typhoon caused her profound misery. She was lost and shocked, unable to comprehend on how to survive the coming days with decent food and shelter.

That was then. Thankfully, today is a different story for Otig.

Close to two years following the killer storm, Otig’s anxiety has been replaced with a smile. She is now a proud owner of a beautiful home through DSWD.

“It’s really different when you have a proper home to stay at. The truth is, this house is even better in terms of material compared to what I had, before the storm wiped it out. I’m truly lucky and I’m really grateful. It’s like claiming a new lease on life,” shared Otig, as tears welled up her eyes.

Otig could not contain her happiness upon receiving the Certificate of Occupancy from Secretary Soliman.

Gone are the days of worry as she is now properly relocated in a much more comfortable and sturdy home, and in a safe area at that.

Secretary Soliman in her message emphasized that the permanent homes would not have been completed without the cooperation of the Local Government Units and the beneficiaries who helped build the units through the DSWD Cash for Work program.

“Everyone of you here is part of this project. That’s the reason why these houses are beautiful because you, the owners also assisted in building it. All of us from the barangay, municipality, province, regional and national have contributed in making all this possible. Let us continue to work together and help each one rise up and get on with our interrupted lives. We can do it because we are united in making our community a better place.”

Aside from permanent shelters, earlier on, the survivors also received family food packs, emergency shelter assistance, supplementary feeding program, social pension, cash assistance and livelihood opportunities from DSWD. DSWD