Project Bohol – Welcome to the Jungle

6am hit and I woke up a little worse for wear. Unsurprisingly my cardboard/sleeping bag bed was not the most fantastically comfortable thing in the world. I had a pretty broken sleep between that, the earthquake and the commentary. To add to this, no electricity means no fans etc so I was pretty sweaty, on top of the sweat from the day before, on top of the traveling from Manila to Bohol. So I was in desperate need for a shower of some sort, even one from a bucket. First order of business was to get a shower so I wandered out to ask how it worked and I was advised that it was “one bucket per day”. I pointed out that I did not take my bucket from yesterday but was informed that there is no carry over, because it is too difficult to keep track of. This is totally understandable, but as I stood there covered in sweat and dirt, I had a clear dilemma. Should I shower now and deal with the dirt I was sure to accumulate over the day, or get to work in my current condition. I chose the second option as the lesser of 2 evils. So with a splash of rain water to the face and shower in a can(deodorant for those who never heard that phrase), I was off to breakfast. I would later realise that the feeling of being never fully clean would become quite normal.

Breakfast being the most important meal of the day and with my first travel breakfast still in mind, I was going to make sure I got this right. Considering the work we would be doing would be construction based, you would not make it through the day unless you get breakfast right. So eggs and porridge became what would be my breakfast everyday for my time in Bohol. So we climbed back onto the jeepney and began our commute to the work sites. I had, luckily, not forgotten my camera this time and so I started to photograph the damaged homes along the route.

This was the first damaged home I photographed on my first commute to work in Bohol.

This was the first damaged home I photographed on my first commute to work in Bohol.

Once we arrived at the site, which was set in coconut forest, it was time to get working on deconstructing the house.
The work for All hands would be split into a few categories of work. The first was “safetying”(not a typo, it is an All-hands phrase) houses, which is basically going to damaged homes and making them safe to work on, usually by bringing them down flat. The second was the deconstruction teams, which come in after the house has been made safe and it is disassembled and cleared, for eventual rebuilding. The third one was putting up temporary housing, usually with Shelter box, although I did put up some tents sent from the Irish Government.

The place we would be working on was affectionately known as “Big momma’s house”, which was no reflection on the size of the home owner, it was simply quite a large house. All of the sites we work on have a name attached to them based on whatever unique characteristics it has. So I was handed a crowbar and a hammer to remove the corrugated iron sheets that made up the roof. To do this you hammer the crowbar under the rivets/nails holding the metal to the wood and pop them out. We are supposed to be doing this in a way that does not damage the metal so it can be reused. This is easier said than done, as the nails and rivets are cemented in. Add that it is over 30 degrees by early morning and you are working on metal that increases in temperature the longer you work on it and you can get a nice image of things. My initial attempts at it were pretty terrible, to put it mildly. However, you are given the chance to learn here so I did eventually get the hang of it, along with the others. The picture below is later in the take apart. The wooden frame you see was initially covered in metal.

Deconstructing the metal roof of "Big momma's house"

Deconstructing the metal roof of “Big momma’s house”

Luckily we had excellent supervisors

Local kids as our supervisors. This would become a daily occurrence

Local kids as our supervisors. This would become a daily occurrence

During the deconstruction it became clear we needed to bring down one of the parts of the wall which was still standing. This involved tying a rope around the top of the roof and lining up as a team to pull it down.

This was something that should have been brought down previously. So we brought it down as a team.

This was something that should have been brought down previously. So we brought it down as a team.

Tying the rope around the frame so it could be pulled down.

Tying the rope around the frame so it could be pulled down.

As we work on homes like this, it is normal to separate yourself emotionally from the situation. When you work in disaster zones, you balance the emotions involved in working in such a situation. However, personally I always found the simple day-to-day items, which served as a reminder of the normal life that occurred before the quake, as the ones that hit hardest. Below is a religious calendar handing on their wall.

Seeing little reminders of the life before the earthquake was always the hardest parts.

Seeing little reminders of the life before the earthquake was always the hardest parts.

After a mornings work, we had gotten the house down to this. All the metal was stacked together, the good wood and bad/rotten wood was separated and some of the rebar separated from the concrete. All of which could not be used for the eventual rebuilding effort.

The house, a few buckets of sweat later

The house, a few buckets of sweat later

I was, at this stage, pretty disgustingly sweaty and it was not even half way through the day. At this stage, we had to move to another site up the road which was nicknamed “The Bakery”. They had been working on this for a few days and they needed extra hands to pull it down. So off we went to assist on this one.

I am going to put this in a separate post because working on the “The Bakery” proved to be an eventful one and one where my opinionated nature came out once again.

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