Yaru: A Whole-of-Community Approach Towards Disaster Management
Municipality of Itbayat, Batanes
Batanes is world-famous for its lush greens, its rolling hills, picturesque lighthouses, and stone houses. The region has a unique culture and is home to the Ivatan people, who have a distinct language and traditions. The islands’ rugged terrain and remote location make it a popular destination for adventure seekers and nature lovers. And yet, one of the most unique, and resonant characteristics of the Ivatan people does not have even half the recognition it deserves, which is yaru. This is especially true in the island municipality of Itbayat.
Yaru, or the voluntary coming together of community members pooling their available resources in order to accomplish a particular job, is a traditional practice that has largely contributed to the strengthening of the community’s resilience despite all the harshness of nature that the people have experienced and gone through in the past. This practice covers all four parts of disaster response.
In the aspect of prevention and mitigation, yaru is practiced during the planting of rice and garlic. Community members come together to assist the elderly, persons with disability and other vulnerable sectors of the population in securing their houses through kapyaku-yakot. Men, whether fisherfolk or not, work together to haul fishing boats to higher and safer grounds.
Immediately after typhoons, community members help each other in clearing common areas and road networks for easy access of farmers and livestock raisers to their respective farms for monitoring. As part of the recovery and rehabilitation of Itbayat after every typhoon, rebuilding houses is the most common activity. Utility lines are also restored with the help of neighbors.
These topics are covered in Building Unified and Knowledge-based Local Operations through Diversified Approaches for Peaceful, Orderly and Safe Itbayat, or BUKLOD Itbayat, a program which capacitates local officials, employees and community volunteer responders through a series of training sessions and workshops including courses on Incident Command System and Community-based Disaster Risk Reduction and Management as prescribed in the Capacity Development Agenda of the Municipal Comprehensive Development Plan. This program is jointly initiated by the Municipal Councils on Disaster Risk Reduction and Management, the Anti-Drug Abuse and also the Peace and Order Council, which taps into the natural propensity of the community towards yaru.
These practices are also integrated in recently enacted local ordinances such as the Itbayat Incident Command System Ordinance, the Implementation of Policies and Measures on Health Events of Public Health Concern in the Municipality of Itbayat, the Itbayat Mental Health Ordinance, and the proposed ordinance for an Itbayat Standard Operating Procedure for Fire Incidents of Public Concern.
Yaru is a traditional way of life that has helped the Itbayat community survive for generations, but there is work to be done in sustaining this foundation. Integrating government programs that align with the community's needs is key to complement and maximize this existing practice. Yaru, as a Whole-of-Community Approach, is an example of how marrying traditional practices with innovative concepts can result in a more relevant and efficient system for grassroots communities to achieve the most out of governance objectives.