Ati workers in Malay, Aklan, Philippines, working on a roof repair job sponsored by Earth Vagabonds and overseas donors.

Next project with Ati tribe: Roof repair

My crew is back in action. The work detail revived. The payroll department reopened.

A swarm of indigenous Ati tribesmen are again hauling, hammering, digging, and building here in the Philippines.

Many of the guys are the same ones as last year when we spent the months of June and July constructing a hen house on the rugged Ati land here in Malay, Aklan, on the island of Panay.

The photos below show that project and the current one — a refurbishing of the only concrete building in the hilltop Ati village.

For the record, the hen house / egg business continues to operate and provide a small source of income and food to the tribe.

Meanwhile, the new rehab job will get a few more dollars (pesos) into the hands of some very needy folks who are still suffering due to the COVID-caused economic downturn in this area.

The roof repair and grading work will solidify the concrete ‘shelter house’ – a building that serves to protect community members when and if a strong typhoon strikes.

Ever since the hen house project, these repairs have been on my radar. My main concern has been that the aging metal roofing panels and rotting wood might be further damaged or blown off if even a moderate storm hit this area.

Now, typhoon season is fast approaching. And our island, like all of the Philippines, usually experiences fallout from a handful of storms each year.

In fact, on Christmas Day, 2019, just a few months before we arrived here in March of that year, typhoon Ursula caused major damage, flooding, and deaths in the Aklan province. Power was knocked out for more than a month. Even today, some repairs from Ursula continue.

The 20-year-old Ati shelter house survived that event. But some of the roof sheeting was loosened and bent. Pieces of the eves came off. Plus other parts of the wooden roof support system have been ravaged by termites. In addition, during hard rains, the building gets some water incursion. Part of our fix up will include moving soil to create better drainage, and addressing the blown-out windows and doors.

After finishing our most recent Ati improvement project — a drinking water pump and distribution system — I figured it was time to attack the shelter house job.

With the help of generous overseas donors who have responded and replenished our ‘charitable works fund‘ (which we always match) we now have a budget for the effort.

My estimate of $1,200 to $1,500 will get all the necessary materials and provide a week or two of wages for the individual Ati guys who will do the work.

The daily rate for construction labor here is only $5. But the Ati (and many other out-of-work locals) are happy to have any income opportunity. A big ‘thank you’ from the Ati to all our supporters.

As you can see in the pics above, the Ati wasted no time in dismantling the rotting roof. We started Monday morning by constructing bamboo scaffolding inside the building so we could reach the rafters.

After closely inspecting all the wooden support and bracing, it was determined that just half of the roof needed extensive reconstruction.

Surprisingly, the termites only invaded certain pieces of lumber. Aside from some work around the edges, 50% of the roof won’t need much attention.

With a ‘battle plan’ drawn up, the Ati construction army then proceeded to carefully remove the corrugated metal sheeting (so it can be reused) and demolished the termite tunneled trusses.

Cement and sand for the ground drainage work were delivered by our local construction supply store. A large pile of lumber secured. About a dozen younger Ati guys set about hauling the tons of material up the mountain by hand.

Now at the end of the workday on Wednesday, the Ati carpenters have already started rebuilding the roof support framing using the new wood. And a huge amount of earth has been redistributed.

With an assist from good weather, we should be able to continue to make major progress this week — and hopefully finish the job about a week from now.

Sadly, not much has changed this year in the Philippines regarding COVID. The crisis plods along. More vaccine is rumored to be coming soon. Jobs and incomes remain depressed. Any paid work is appreciated.

Still, like last year, it’s kinda fun to watch all the activity and know we are improving the community and individual lives.

As always, be thankful and generous, happy trails & more beer.
Life is NOW!


Earth Vagabonds and overseas donors previously accomplished several projects for the indigenous Ati tribe on mainland Malay, including:

  1. The Ati have electricity now!
  2. The Ati have running water now!
  3. Eggs for sale from Ati chickens!
  4. Amazing Ati bridge construction!

Other recent blog posts:

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