Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The Saddam of Sitio Calinogan

Over a hundred people hid under this Saddam truck at the height of Supertyphoon Pablo (international codename Bopha) in this hinterland sitio Calinogan, barangay Casosoon in Monkayo town of Compostela Valley after the typhoon made its landfall in Baganga, Davao Oriental. I did not believe it at first: over a hundred people squeezed themselves together under this truck? I asked again after they told me. “Yes,” said one or two women, while the men nodded. “There were whole families there, children, women, everyone! We can’t find any stronger structure around, the wind was very strong, threatening to blow away our houses. Some of us who were near the cliff, squeezed our bodies against the cliff wall so that we won’t get blown by the wind,” said the villagers who have lived in the area for so long but had never experienced being buffeted by a typhoon.
Pablo came upon this elevated sitio (how many thousand feet?) overlooking Nabunturan. The Dibabawuns live here for centuries. At five to six in the morning of December 4, 2012, they said, it was so dark (or white?), they could not see anything, they can only feel the very strong wind. I listened to their heart-breaking story of the storm: the houses that were blown away, the desperate search for food and water, the hand to mouth existence while they waited for their livelihood to recover. When I saw the devastation of Tacloban in the aftermath of Supertyphoon Yolanda (international codename Haiyan), I remember this community and their Saddam truck. How long can our people recover now that we are being buffeted by typhoons and other disasters, year after year?

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