Cave developed as evacuation site in Samar

SAMAR, Philippines – Residents of Marabut town learned the importance of disaster preparedness the hard way after Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) obliterated their coastal villages, killing 23 people in its wake.

Without a designated evacuation site, the people sought shelter in the different caves in the coastal villages of Tinabanan, Calauayan, and Veloso. Since then, local authorities have sought to identify and develop safe evacuation sites for coastal communities.

"We can't just ignore natural disasters and this is now part of our landscape. This may happen anytime and they may be as devastating as Typhoon Yolanda," said Marabut Mayor Elizabeth Ortillo.

"Today we want to focus on lessons learned from Typhoon Yolanda, how we can better prepare," Ortillo added.

Among the evacuation sites that the local government has identified is Sabang Cave in Barangay Tinabanan, the biggest cave in Marabut, which can accommodate more than 1,000 people.

Marabut officials, with the help of different non-governmental organizations such as Christian Aid, developed Sabang Cave to make it feel like home for future evacuees.

There are toilets at the mouth of the cave. There are also kitchens and a tank that collects rain water for the consumption of the evacuees.

Concrete stairs were built to provide  easier access to the cave. The next stage of development is a solar power source.

The women of Barangay Tinabanan are helping maintain the cleanliness of Sabang Cave, which is also a tourist destination.

Lorna dela Peña, president of Unhan Kababayin an han Tinabanan Organization, said Sabang Cave was home for some people during World War II. Old townsfolk also say ancient kitchen utensils and plates had been found in the cave, proof that their ancestors had also used it for shelter. –