Park management and volunteers help rebuild a house damaged by Odette. (Photo courtesy of Beth Maclang)

The Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park (PPSRNP) celebrated Araw ng Taraw on the occasion of its 51st anniversary on Saturday with a series of activities, highlighted by rebuilding houses of park residents who lost their homes when typhoon Odette struck Puerto Princesa City in December last year.

Aside from the loss of homes, several community-based sustainable tourism sites (CBST) were also destroyed and are unable to accept tourists in the meantime.

According to park superintendent Beth Maclang, just as communities are slowly recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic and welcoming more tourists since January this year, the devastation of the typhoon has left park residents without homes and even without livelihoods. Hence, this year’s anniversary festivities were condensed into one day instead of the usual week-long celebration to focus on rebuilding.

“Noong wala pang pandemic, week-long itong activity ng Araw ng Taraw, pinakamababa naming five days. Talagang may series of activities. Kaya nga lang, dahil pandemic, kahit na Alert Level 1 na tayo ay mayroon pa ring mga health protocols na required,” Maclang said in a phone interview on Saturday.

“Kaya simple lang ang ginawa namin, isang araw lang, itong day na ito [Saturday], nag-coastal cleanup kami. ‘Yong mga debris na hindi pa nakukuha dahil walang sasakyan, niligpit na ngayon. Alas-sais kami nagsimula, kasama ang law enforcement, CBST members, Taraw Eagles Club, community members, barangay officials, Pilipinas Shell Foundation, Inc., at ang DENR (Department of Environment of Natural Resources),” she added.

For the highlight of the anniversary celebrations, Maclang added that thanks to a partnership with non-government organization Gawad Kalinga (GK) and the Puerto Princesa City government, park management is currently helping residents rebuild their homes. She added that GK pledged to rebuild 50 homes in Barangays Tagabinet and Cabayugan and provide for their materials as well.

“Ang pinaka-last na activity, pagkatapos ng Community Jam, ay ‘yong tinatapos ang mga bahay ng mga beneficiary ng Gawad Kalinga partnership. 50 ang commitment ng GK, 20 na bahay sa katutubo community sa Tagabinet, and 30 sa Cabayugan,” Maclang stated.

On Saturday night, the PPSRNP will still hold their usual Community Jam, with performances by three bands.