TACLOBAN CITY, Leyte, – On February 2006, a remote village in Saint Bernard, Southern Leyte hugged the global headlines when it was buried under mud and rubbles in a landslide killing thousands of people. The agony of some of the survivors in Barangay Guinsaugon continues as they face another battle.

The Guinsaugon Livelihood Association (GLA) is now in a quandary how they can save their livelihood.

After the landslide only a few residents then survived. Some said they were able to run to safer grounds, while others said they were in another area when it happened.

Various assistance poured in from different sectors nationally and internationally for the survivors.

Barangay Guinsaugon is a farming village at the foot of a mountain with 89 agrarian reform beneficiaries (ARBs) prior to the catastrophe, thus it was launched into an agrarian reform community (ARC) by the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR). Sadly, less than 50 percent of the ARBs survived.

Following the tragedy, the survivors took refuge temporarily at the Cristo Rey Regional High School (CRRHS) under the care of Bishop Precioso Cantillas before they were relocated permanently at the New Guinsaugon relocation site.

In an interview with Chona Bolasco, one of the ARB survivors and president of the GLA, she narrated that while at the CRRHS the women were organized and GLA was formed for a livelihood where 20 took it seriously. Twelve of them were ARBs.

From 2006-2009, according to her, GLA engaged in salboro, otap and miki making. Each of them was paid P70 per day until the production was stopped for unknown reason to them.

But before 2009 was over, then Mayor Rico Rentuza requested from the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) to conduct livelihood training for them, she added.

DOST then introduced the squash noodles as the raw material was abundant in the area all-year round.

In order to equip them with the machines needed in the production of the squash noodles and enable them to move on with their livelihood, the local government unit under former Mayor Rentuza entered into a P397,000 loan agreement with DOST.

Meanwhile, non-government organizations (NGOs) Plan Philippines, Care Philippines and ACCORD provided the GLA financial assistance which amounted to a combined total amount of P70,000 which the latter used as a start up capital.

GLA treasurer Jovy Rafaela explained that the association sold the noodles at P140 per kilo or P35 per pack (equivalent to ¼ kilo).

Their biggest market according to Bolasco is the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) which the latter used for their feeding program in Day Care centers.

According to Rafaela, DSWD orders from them 131 kilos though not regularly. DSWD’s order just depends on the agency’s availability of funds, she added.

When asked how much they earn from noodle production, Rafaela disclosed that from the 131-kilo order of DSWD, they earn P18,000 less P11,000 production cost leaving them a net income of seven thousand pesos.

With their meager fund and limited market GLA produce intermittently.

To legalize the existence of the association and help them venture into a larger scale business DAR facilitated the registration of the GLA at the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) and at the Bureau of Internal Revenue for them to be able to issue official receipts.

They are now also in the process of securing a license from the Bureau of Food and Drugs.

Municipal Agrarian Reform Program Officer (MARPO) Franco Cinco disclosed that the association became a recipient too of P100,000 financial assistance under DAR’s Village Level Processing Center Enhancement Project, which they used to renovate the vacated building of the Philippine Business for Social Progress (PBSP) at the New Guinsaugon relocation site where they transferred their processing center last year.

The product somehow is already known to nearby towns with present St. Bernard Mayor Napoleon Cuaton himself promoting it as a healthy food.

But just like their life in Guinsaugon, the journey of the GLA is not smooth sailing at all.

As they were thinking to have discovered an alternative income after they lost their farmlots in that landslide, the members of the GLA are currently facing another battle.

The burden of paying the P397,000 loan with the DOST is now being thrown to them by the present local government administration.

“Where in this world will we get that amount?”, Bolasco asked. Some members have even withdrawn their memberships upon learning this, she added.

Bolasco is now calling for financial help to save their livelihood. According to her, DOST threatened to pull out all the equipment and utensils should they fail to pay the amount.

Meanwhile, DAR Regional Director Sheila Enciso instructed the Program Beneficiaries Development Division (PBDD) to study what possible assistance the agency could still extend to GLA. (JAS/DAR-8)