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Thief in the night It was pitch dark. Electricity was cut off. People were already asleep in the dead of night. Then it came, ravaging as swiftly as it left – waves of monstrous waters and debris bulldozing everything in its path. And just like that, lives were snatched away and lost forever.

By Ryan Louie G. Madrid, Bianca Nathalie Y. Llamis, Ma. Rosetti G. Villamor, Nadine Hendrikka E. Legaspi, John Kenneth E. Ching and Princess E. Tolentino


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he Balistoys were once complete. At 10 pm on December 16, Roque Balistoy, 41, and his wife Lilian,43, still had all of their five children (Grettel, 18; Brian, 17; Nona, 12; Rosalinda, 9; and Ian, 6) when they woke them up. The water was about five feet high by the time the family reached the 2nd floor of their two-storey house. The Balistoys resided in the middle of Cala-cala, Macasandig, one of the worst-hit areas of the flash flood spawned by tropical storm ‘Sendong’. The area is known to be prone to floods since half of the place is surrounded by a river system. “Adtong 2009, ang tubig taman ra tunga sa among first floor so abi namo okay ra mi sa second floor,” says Roque. But the water had in fact reached the second floor. Coincidentally, their house was under renovation; they had no roof. Roque used the planks of wood lying around as a bridge to their neighbor’s rooftop. The whole family reached their destination safely. The worst thing about that moment wasn’t the heavy rain on their backs, the cold wind that penetrated their bones, nor the fact that the water has totally submerged their 20-feet high house. It was the sounds of screaming, the crumpling of tin roofs, and the raging waters bulldozing everything in its path. Roque could only think of one thing to comfort his family: “Gi-ingnan nako sila nga mag-pray lang. Pasagdi nang nangahitabo dira. Basta pag-pray lang mo [kang] Jesus.” Moments later, Lilian heard a huge crack. Both houses were collapsing. Next thing Roque knew, he was dragged deep down in the murky water with unknown things bumping into him. After moments of struggling through the current using a log to keep him afloat, he saw his children from a distance. “Nakita pa nako si Grettel… dayun si Brian, gigunitan niya si IC [Ian]. Naka-triangle formation pa mi. Giingnan nako si Kuya [Brian] na bisag

unsa man gali, ayaw buhii [iyang] manghod.” All of them, including the other residents who managed to survive at the time, were heading towards the Golden Mile Bridge, near the Rodelsa Circle. “Makita pa nako mga sakyanan ga-labay-labay,” recalls Roque. Underneath the bridge was a hellish ride, he says. It was like being in a whirlpool, dragging him in all directions and getting hit by debris. Roque had to contend with the horror longer as the flood took him to three more bridges (Carmen, Marcos and Kauswagan-Puntod) before he was emptied out to the Macajalar-Cagayan river estuary. At 4 am the next day, Roque was floating near Camiguin island when he met another survivor from Tibasak, Macasandig. Together they climbed on a fishing boat they found nearby, initially to rest their arms. As soon as other survivors surfaced and called for help, the two started rescuing as many people as possible. Later, fishermen discovered the group and took them to the coast of Opol. He was then taken to the municipal office where he would soon meet up with Lilian, Brian, and Ian. Among all four of them, only Ian, the youngest, remained miraculously unscathed. When his father asked him how he survived, the boy simply said, “Nabuhian ko ni Kuya [as they headed towards the bridges]… nakasakay dayun ko ug baboy. Naa pa gali naggunit sa akong tiil… dayun nakasakay ko

the hospital due to continuous vomiting after swallowing too much flood water. Grettel and Rosalinda are still missing. Grettel (AB IS 2) is a member of the XU Glee Club and a student assistant (SA). “Wala gali ko nasayod ana iyang pagka-SA. Siguro [she did it] tungod kay [wala] nako nakaya madungan ug college silang duha sa iyang manghod [Brian].” The Balistoys were once complete. But that was before ‘Sendong’ hit. Now they are missing two and Roque is left wondering how the disaster came about. The blame game Dr. Dexter Lo of the XU-Engineering Resource Center explains that disasters happen when hazard, exposure and vulnerability are put together. He elaborates that hazards (e.g. typhoons) are natural processes of the Earth, but when people are exposed (e.g settlements in hazard-prone areas) and are vulnerable (e.g. no dikes, no flood warning systems to mitigate hazards), disasters occur. “Perfect recipe jud siya [‘Sendong’ disaster], naay hazard, naay heavy rain, naay river process, naay tao along harm’s way and vulnerable pajud sila, mao na nga disastrous jud,” says Lo, adding that, “Disaster is not a humanitarian problem, but a development issue.” In terms of hazards, the amount of rain brought by ‘Sendong’ was catastrophic in itself: a month’s worth of rainfall was released in 12 hours of nonstop raining on Dec 16. Naturally, the rain cascaded down to the rivers, causing them to swell and wreak havoc in nearby settlements. The city’s topography also rendered the area prone to massive flooding. Leo Jasareno, Mines and Geosciences Bureau chief, says Cagayan de

Php1,111,050,424.00 LOST IN INFRASTRUCTURE

ug kawayan, nakatulog…” According to Ian, the pig had drowned along the way. Moments after his dramatic meet up with some of his family, Roque was notified that his daughter, Nona, was alive but was sent to


Track of Tropical Storm “Sendong” (Washi) Max Wind Speed (JTWC/1-min avg): 100 km/hr 24 hrs accumulated rainfall (PAGASA Lumbia Station): 180mm

Oro is a low-lying area with reduced capacity to accommodate rushing water from the upstream rivers. However, experts say the damages of the hazard have been worsened by human activities and errors. For one, the city’s watershed has been largely exploited, resulting to deforested mountains, loose grounds and river siltation. In a pastoral letter, CdeO Archbishop Antonio Ledesma says, “Illegal logging and irresponsible mining activities have contributed to the degradation of the environment and the siltation of the river bed. Illegal logging has been rampant in the 137, 933 hectare-wide Cagayan de Oro river basin, causing the decline in the watershed’s water absorption and erosion prevention abilities. In fact, scores of logs were washed away to the sea from the mountains. In a Department of Environment and Natural Resources report (DENR), about 5,000 m3 of woods have been confiscated after the flood. Small-scale and illegal mining activities also contributed to the flood by adding tons of silt to the river. “The continued hydraulic flush mining along Iponan River has likewise caused widespread flooding of the CanitoanIponan areas of the city,” says Ledesma in

the pastoral letter. Secondly, man-made structures have constricted the river flow. Jasareno blames rapid urbanization in the city because it blocked the natural river flow, effectively reducing it’s capacity to hold water. This was seconded by anthropologist and historian Antonio Montalvan II, saying in an opinion

piece, “The bitter lesson lies in the misplaced and mismatched mix of rapid urban progress and inept local governance that has not kept up with the global standards of neomodern urban living.” One example he cited is the building of the Golden Mile project that closed the river channel between Isla delta and the eastern bank. “That was grossly wrong, for it narrowed further what was left of the river’s breadth,” says Montalvan who claims that the river’s eastern bank used to be located in what is now Burgos Street. Thirdly, the settlements in sand bars and areas close to the river have aggravated the damages. A law disallowing settlements immediately close to the river has been widely neglected by the residents and the local government. In fact, the local government

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legalized the settlements of people in areas like Cala-cala (a village with around 400 households entirely swept away by the flood) through his piso-piso program. Moreover,

here are hundreds, possibly thousands of stories. Some, bizarre; most, if not all, tragic. Tear-jerking. Heartstring-pulling. Depressing. We’ve heard so many stories that at some point they intertwine; they link, they connect, and say one thing: We had no idea. Unexpected kaayo. The water came up so fast. It was nothing like we expected. None of us knew how bad it was going to be. No one knew how many lives would be lost, how many houses would be washed away. No one knew those moments they had with their loved ones and friends would be their last. No one knew because no one thought that a city formerly famed for being typhoon-free would be ravaged by a tropical storm of that magnitude. And that is the real tragedy. We know a story or two, or three, or ten— we hear scores more, and we will remember each of them, because each story means so much to us, because they stay with us forever.


Flood Damage Map of Cagayan de Oro City December 2011

after the Janruary 2009 flooding, DENR-X already recommended to then City Mayor Constantino Jaruala the prohibition of new inhabitants and the relocation of existing residents in geo-hazard areas like CalaCala, Biasong and Isla de Oro. But these recommendations fell to deaf ears. Another scapegoat was the absence of a flood warning system. Critics say that the January 2009 flooding should have compelled the local government to set up flood warning systems, but they never happened due to complacency and a false sense of security. According to Nereus Acosta, presidential adviser for the environment, ‘Sendong’ caught the people and the local officials unaware and unprepared. Typhoons usually move northward and rarely pass by the region. While the city experiences heavy rainfall during December, they don’t usually escalate to something disastrous. Interestingly, in December 16-17, 1920 - exactly 91 years before the ‘Sendong’ incident - a strong typhoon also hit the city, according to the Manila Observatory. And capping off the deadly mixture was pitch darkness in the dead of the night. Due to excessive rainfall, the power lines were cut off and the people were already asleep when the flood attacked. Later, myths of what caused the flood surfaced among evacuation centers. Among the many, the most told of was that of two old beggars asking for food and water in a neighborhood in Balulang. One resident, according to the myth, gave the couple

rotting food and no water and shooed them away in disgust. The couple, in turn, said, “Ayaw kabalaka, tagaan mo namo ug mas daghan nga tubig.” True enough, tons of flood water came moments later, raging through Balulang and other settlements near the river. The aftermath The result of ‘Sendong’ was brutal and unimaginable. Lives were lost, houses and infrastructures were destroyed, water facilities were damaged and entire villages were wiped out. The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council’s (NDCC) latest report recorded 1,257 dead, 6,071 injured, 182 missing and 441 rescued/survivors from 13 affected provinces in Visayas and Mindanao. In Cagayan de Oro alone, 615 died in the disaster and 555 are still missing, according to the Department of Social Welfare and Development - Region X. In the XU community, the Office of Student Affairs recorded 2, 080 students, faculty and staff who were affected. Three students lost their lives in the tragedy (Hannah Tancongco - BSBA 4, Joanne Cañete - XUHS 1, Michelle Padilla - MBA 1), three are missing (Grettel Balistoy - ABIS 2, Michaella Samson - XUGS 2, Jay Calderao - BSChe 1) and 16 are hospitalized. NDCC also estimated the total damages to infrastructure, agriculture and school buildings in all areas affected at Php 1,455,825,723.40. In Cagayan de Oro, the damages amounted to Php 962,200,738.00.

117,665 FAMILIES AFFECTED

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onstant jud ang fear,” says Miguel Vasallo. “Hadlok kaayo mahitabo ni usab.” Miguel was still on Facebook when it was raining hard, when he noticed that water was seeping into his room and his bed, and when he checked outside, the water had risen to their legs. He awoke everyone in their house, pushed the door with all their might and ran out of the house. While they were running, the current was holding him back, and his mother, who had a heart problem, was almost getting an attack. Their helper was traumatized and wouldn’t move, so Miguel had to pull her away. While they were trying to get away, he could hear his neighbors screaming “Tabang! Tabang!” from all sides, but there was nothing he and his parents could do. While they were trying to get to higher ground, he could remember the screams of people who didn’t get to escape. “Dili jud nimo malimtan,” he says. “Murag dili jud ka pagawason sa tubig, ba. Thank God naka-saka mi ug higher ground, pero naay mga wala naka-lahos. Ga-tan-aw mi sa likod, pero gi-ingnan ku skung papa ‘Ayaw na’g tanaw sa likod!’ Kay sakit man kaayo mag-huna-huna ka na naay mga na-biyaan na mga tao.” They were staying in a relative’s house in Nazareth, all four families cramped inside, because there was nowhere else to stay. Nevertheless, Miguel feels relieved that although they lost everything, they didn’t lose each other. “Tulo mi sa family nabahaan, sa Balulang, sa Tibasak, ug sa Consolacion, pero at least nabuhi rami tanan.” When they got back to their house in Consolacion, the sight broke their hearts. “Pag-balik namo dadto murag ghost town najud ang Consolacion, so few nalang ga-stay sa Consolacion karon…


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‘Sendong’ aftermath. Relevant discourse on matters affecting the city are also heavily discussed in the group. Xavier University, as well, was quick to respond and came to the aid of the flood vicitims. The morning following the flood, University Chaplain Fr. Eric Velandria, SJ and KKP-SIO immediately organized a team to conduct a relief operation at evacuation centers and affected areas proximate to the University. NSTP students were initially mobilized to gather food, water, and clothing from establishments around the city. The relief operations, named Operation: Tabang Sendong, established its headquarters at the Agriculture Satellite Canteen, thus giving the University a hub for all reliefrelated activity. Donations and manpower started to pour into the headquarters, allowing Tabang Sendong to expand its scope of operations to include heavily hit areas aside from evacuation centers. To facilitate the operations efficiently, committees were formed according to function (i.e. executive committee, receiving, deployment, repacking, information, documentation and communications). Volunteers from and outside the XU community, like Japanese set up relief operations. From regular student Issey Tanaka, who flew in all citizens donating food and clothes, to private the way from Japan to help out, came to companies holding feeding programs and provide manpower during the three-week to countries sending monetary assistance, relief operations. The University has also the help extended to the victims was collaborated with different organizations overwhelming. such as the Catholic Relief Services in its Cyberspace also became a hotspot for relief efforts. relief operations and The Covdissemination of ered Courts, ininformation. Google tended for use contributed in the as the venue of form of creating the Christmas a name-finder Party at the time HOUSES TOTALLY WASHED OUT of disaster, was software purposely made for faraway converted into relatives and friends to know their loved an evacuation center for affected members ones’ whereabouts. This is the same database of the XU community. About 142 families used during the tsunami that hit Japan early (700 individuals) were housed in the center, last year. where they were provided with relief goods Thanks also to the power of social and free medical services. media, information on the catastrophe went The University is also taking an active viral and worldwide donations came pouring role in the multi-sectoral disaster response to help the flood victims. On twitter, tweets team called Sendong-aid headed by the asking for donations were trending, as well Department of Social Welfare and Develas on Facebook where profile photos and opment. Sendong-aid, of which XU is the wall posts of netizens were ‘Sendong’- secretariat through the Kristohanong Katilrelated. A group on Facebook called “Mata ingban sa Pagpakabana - Social Involvement na CdO”, whose members are spread all over Office, established its command center in the world, went the extra mile by facilitating the XU Gymnasium. donations from its members and setting As of press time, the efforts of Tabang up a consolidated online database on the Sendong have provided relief to thousands

effrey Caangay was exhausted from his prelim exams when he came home to their house in Tibasak, Macasandig. He had fallen asleep when his father woke him up, saying the water was rising. Fast. “Ngit-ngit kaayo, grabe na kaayo ang hangin, and murag in a state of shock jud ka kay first time pa ni sa imung life nahitabo,” he says. He had managed to turn on this flashlight and find his way to the rest of his family that was washed outside, when he heard his older sister Vanessa scream for help. He handed his flashlight to their father, so he could rescue his sister, while Jeff made sure their mother and younger brother were safe. His father and his sister had stayed on a tree near their house but as the water rose even higher, the tree had collapsed, submerging them in water. His father emerged, but a piece of debris had hit his sister on the head and knocked her unconscious. His father held on to electric wires, and all sorts of debris passed, cutting his right leg and scraping his left. Jeff, after using their floating refrigerator as a raft, had made his way to a high neighboring house with his brother and mother. “Ayha pa daun ku na aware na ang tubig, ni-abot na ug 40 to 50 feet,” Jeff relates. “All you could hear sa palibot jud nimo [kay] mga tao gapangayo ug tabang. Tanan jud. Mawala daun sila. Mawala na dayon ang mga tingog.” At around 5AM, the water had receded. Jeff came down and inspected the damage the flood inflicted to their house. “Sa first jud namo na search kay daghan kaayo ug patay. Babae, bata, tigulang… pati lalaki,” he recalls. Their neighbors had directed him to where his sister lay. “Naalaan gani siya’g mannequin, kai puti man kaayo akung ate… I was hoping jud na buhi siya. I was hoping na okay ra siya...” She was already covered with a blanket when Jeff saw her. Jeff talks about how guilty he feels that he didn’t get to say goodbye to his sister and tell her how much she cared for her. The days that followed the death of his sister, his mother was greatly depressed. Days after [his sister Vanessa’s] burial, “Sige dayon siya’g ingon na ‘Mag-uban ra lagi ta, Van, mag-uban ra ta puhon’,” Jeff recalls. At dawn on Wednesday, sharing one room with his grandmother, Jeff’s mother started making breathless noises, and her lips were beginning to turn blue. Jeff checked her pulse and her mouth, and felt nothing. They rushed to the hospital, but it was too late. “It’s indescribable jud how [it feels when] a son [loses] his mother… timing na Christmas pa jud, ug New Year pa jud.” Since the flood, and everything that followed it, Jeff talks about how his life has changed— that he should be more responsible as a kuya so he could guide his younger brother. “He’s too young pa jud para mawalaan ug mama, dapat amu jud siya i-guide, basin ma-misguided siya, basin aha siya mapaingon…” Jeff had promised his mother that he would finish his studies, and that he really would, and find a job to support his family. He sees his situation now with his brothers and father as an opportunity to strengthen their bond together, although it is the greatest challenge of all to keep living without their mother and sister.

Consequential effects of ‘Sendong’ in the city also include the decrease in water supply, the increase in the prices of basic commodities and the spread of leptospirosis. Heroism in times of disaster At the onset of the flood, there are accounts of people frantically warning their families and neighbors of the fast-rising flood, thereby giving them ample time to save themselves. Others braved the current to rescue stranded people. River-rafting businesses like Bugsay turned their rubber rafts into rescue vessels, pulling living people in to safety, while the officers from the Armed Forces of the Philippines hauled in the dead bodies. The Philippine Coast Guard also rescued and retrieved people who were washed out to the sea. Fishermen along the coasts of Opol, El Salvador, Agutayan Island, Balingasag and Camiguin also lent their hands in rescue and retrieval operations. Relief: volunteerism and kindness overflows Victims who were displaced by the flood like the Balistoys were housed in evacuation centers around the city, mostly elementary schools. In the latest report of DSWD, there are 3,535 families in 25 evacuation centers in the city. The victims were given relief goods by various groups that immediately

14,661


of families in about 150 communities – including evacuation centers – inside and beyond the city, reaching as far as Iligan. Also, XU has been able to raise around Php 20 million worth of cash, check, and bank donations. To date, XU is involved in resettlement and rehabilitation efforts, especially in the five-hectare plot in Barangay Lumbia the University has donated for the purpose of relocation.

30 25 20 15 10

3 HOUR RAIN (mm)

Resettlement: New homes, new lives With houses washed away, Roque and hundreds of other victims now ask themselves: “Where do we stay?” The disaster has resulted to 51,757 damaged houses, with 14, 705 of them totally wrecked and 37,052 partially damaged, according to the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Managment Council. Those who were displaced by the flood are temporarily sheltered in barangay halls, parish churches, and public schools--those that were not inundated by the floods. Others sought refuge in their relatives’ houses. President Benigno Aquino III has ordered that those displaced should not be allowed to return to their areas due to the geo-hazard risks constantly present in these areas. It is for these families that the relocation efforts are being fast-tracked. In an open letter to City Mayor Vicente Emano, University President Fr. Roberto C. Yap announces that “Xavier University will grant the local government of Cagayan de Oro City, usufruct rights to Five (5) hectares of the University’s property in Lumbia as resettlement site for families whose houses were 45 destroyed during Typhoon Sendong”. 40 As of January 20, resettlers have started using the land for 35

“F

eeling nako bitaw ang ga-kuhaon ni Lord kay ang mga good ones,” Sheena Pagtalunan says. She had no idea that when her father texted her to find a way to get home to Balulang in the rain as soon as she could, a tragedy was about to take place. As the floodwaters were rising fast, their father had run with the current against him to their house, to tell her and her sisters to get out. That exertion of strength was their father’s last, when his body failed him as he had started the car for their escape. “Gi-atake na dayun siya, murag gi-cardiac arrest siya or na-stroke,” she says. In the moments when it seemed like their father wasn’t moving, but he was listening, she and her sisters had said their sorries, thank yous and I love yous, and honoring their father’s heroism of dying for his daughters, they fought for their lives. The water was rising higher than ever and they were flushed out of their subdivision. She and her three younger sisters were left to fend for themselves in the raging waters, and after the sisters had said their goodbyes, in case they would die that night, they got separated— her two other sisters together, and she with her youngest sister, Anikka. The water had devoured the eldest and youngest sisters and they tumbled around and around in the water, when in a terrible moment when the current was unbearably strong and they were being beat up underwater, she lost grip of her sister. “Gina-try nako siya ug reach, tapos nahikapan pa nako iyang ulo, iyang buhok, pero dili na bitaw siya gakaanod with me,” she recalls in tears. “Lord, tabang. Mao ra jud akung gihuna-huna.” Sheena emerged safe, along with her two sisters, and her mother who was in NHA. When she had gone back to their house, it was remarkable that their car, with their father inside, was untouched, when all the other vehicles of their neighbors had been washed away to canals. She felt relieved that their father was still there, and was slowly beginning to accept that he was gone. She had found her sister Anikka lying still and serene, like she was sleeping. “Gi-plastar jud siya ug tarong ni Lord,” she said. Sheena had picked her father for their family’s kris kringle. She had always asked her dad what he wanted for Christmas, but he would never answer. Later she found out that her youngest sister Annika had picked her, and their father had picked Annika. The three of them struggled the most that night. To Sheena, the triangle was more than a coincidence. It was a premonition that she should have gone with them that night. Her father’s gift to Annika, Sheena relates, is that he would be there to watch over her in Heaven. Anikka’s gift to her, Sheena knows, is her second life. She says she believes now that her father wants her to take his place as the family’s breadwinner, alongside her mother, and that would be her gift to him. “Na-realize nako na ako jud ang dapat magpaka-strong.” She says. “Na-realize nako na dapat ako mag-step in as breadwinner, tapad sa akong mother ug sisters.”

the tents given by the Philippine National Red Cross. The tents can house around 1,000 individuals. XU partnered with land developer A. Brown Company Inc. for the construction of concrete houses where the beneficiaries will permanently reside. “Xavier has been the first to give aid...now, Xavier is the first private sector to donate land for the homeless,” Maria Ressa reports in Rappler.com. XU’s relocation area in Lumbia is only one of the seven proposed permanent shelter sites identified by the Department of Social Welfare and Development. The other six are located in Calaanan, Indahag, Balulang, Camaman-an, Taguanao and a 50-hectare lot in the municipality of Villanueva.

In Calaanan, the 13.5-hectare resettlement area has been named the “Tent City”, after the many white tents that sprouted in the area currently being used by some victims. The city government is now fast tracking the building of 2,500 row houses in the area to permanently relocate them. According to City Engineer Mario Batar, each 21-squaremeter row house complete with restroom and insulation can accommodate five families. In Indahag, the settlers will have to pay 50 cents to acquire the land. “Unlike the permanent relocation site in Sitio Calaanan, Barangay Canitoan which is given for free, beneficiaries at the Indahag property will be given a lot under the 50-50

3 hour accumulated rainfall in Xavier University 15-17 December 2011

HOURLY RAIN ACCUMULATED RAIN

5 8 PM

5 PM

2 PM

11 AM

8 AM

5 AM

2 AM

11 PM

0


TS Sendong compared to previous storms that hit the Philippines

PEPENG “PARMA”

FRANK “FENGSHEN”

ONDOY “KETSANA”

JUAN “MEGI”

SENDONG “WASHI”

CASUALTIES Deaths

465

557

464

28

1, 257

Injured

207

826

529

39

6, 048

Missing

47

87

37

4

173

AFFECTED POPULATION Families Evacuation Centers Barangays

cents program of Mayor Emano,” says City Councilor Alexander Dacer in an interview with Sun Star Cagayan de Oro. An empty office Allegations of negligence were flying high when the highest governing official of the land was reportedly absent during the first few days of the aftermath of ‘Sendong’. Relief operations and rescue efforts were headed by the Archdiocese of Cagayan de Oro with the help of private groups when it should have been the city government per official order. Among the first to respond were individual rescue efforts from civilians with boats, and river rafters like Bugsay.

90 80

ACCUMULATED RAIN (mm)

70 60 50 40 30 20 10 5 AM

2 AM

11 PM

0

954, 087

959, 047

993, 227

385, 585

117, 665

54

1525

244

109

52

5,486

6377

2,018

3,199

808

Survivors themselves helped rescue other survivors, as in the case of Roque and his fellow survivor from Macasandig. Cries of outrage against the mayor and other local officials further rose when the unidentified dead bodies were brought to the Zayas landfill to cover the stink. The mayor also drew irk when he thought of allowing flood victims to return to Cala-cala and Isla de Oro, despite the geo-hazard risks present. What started as individual complaints on social networking sites became a collective cry when Facebook groups started planning for actions to be taken against the City Mayor and the other local officials. Facebook groups like Mata Na, CDO! and SAVE CDO have started on their undertakings, with their members staging daily protests at the Kiosko Kagawasan in Divisoria, and collecting thousands of signatures calling for a recall election that, if successful, would result to Emano stepping down from power. The sad reality, however, is that even if the people responsible for the deadly turn out of ‘Sendong’ are made accountable and even stripped of their power, it is but small comfort to those who lost family members and friends in the floods. There is still no bringing back the dead. So, what now? Revitalizing the city and ensuring that the tragedy does not occur once more is now a question poised primarily to the city government, although the same responsibility rests in each individual. Archbishop Ledesma says in his pastoral letter, “We have to cast a broader look at the entire river basin area of Cagayan de Oro

River. This extends to the northwestern part of Bukidnon and surrounding areas. It is for these reasons that we have to strengthen the Cagayan de Oro River Basin Management Council, a multi-sectoral effort to protect and conserve our most precious natural resource after our human resources – the river system.” Apart from watershed protection, assessment of the city’s urban planning should be undertaken. It should be able to keep up with global standards in neomodern urban living without harming the Earth’s natural processes. The flood warning systems that should have been installed three years ago following urgent recommendations must also be a top priority. The sense of complacency should be scrapped and warnings should not be taken lightly - the city is not hazard free. Unless the city wants to experience yest another disaster with as much or more severity as ‘Sendong,’ concrete actions are necessitated. The city is not invisible to typhoons and disasters. And as the city learns this lesson the hard way, we are still thankful for it has awakened and united the people. We are thankful for the donors and volunteers. Most of all, we are thankful for the survival of other flood victims who hurdled through the disaster. “Ang uban gali, sa tanan iyang pamilya, isa ra’y naluwas. Magpasalamat ko [kay] gibinlan ko’g asawa ug tulo ka anak,” says Roque who is trying to muster the strength to move forward. And just like him, we hope to get back on our feet, move ahead and ensure the mitigation of the thief of the night that was ‘Sendong’.C


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learned as much as I did (if not more) in my three days in Sultan Kudarat than in my three years of college. On November 3, 2011, I found myself riding a van to Sultan Kudarat with two other XU students, three faculty program officers of Kristohanong Katilingban sa Pagpakabana – Social Involvement Office (KKP-SIO) and a driver. The province is only one of the many areas assisted by Catholic Relief Services an international non-government organization in partnership with XU through KKPSIO. My job was simple: to learn as much as I can in the three days that we’d be spending with farmers in the outskirts of the city. Despite slipping on the steep hills and getting cuts from barbed wires, I managed to learn a few very important theories from each of the many humble people living in the land where money is grown. 24

Theory #1: Anyone can get rich. Magtanim ay di biro---especially if the people you are selling your hard work are paying you less than you deserve. Manong Ricardo Galve, resident coffee farmer of Bagumbayan, Sultan Kudarat describes his years as a farmer before XU-CRS came to his life, “Lisod jud.” Before, he sold all his harvest usually for a mere P30/kilo to a “middle man”. The middle man would then sell the crops to a huge company like Nestle Philippines, Inc. for P100/kilo, earning him a huge profit of P70/kilo! Farmers would have a hard time selling directly to companies. Without proper equipment to filter the high quality coffee beans and knowledge of how much a good kilo of coffee is worth, farmers would have to endure a low profit for a year’s worth of harvest.

Then, XU-CRS Collaboration Project came along and the residents of Sultan Kudarat were handed with hope. The project involved teaching the farmers around the area how to properly plant coffee beans. Volunteers facilitated in clustering the farmers so coffee can be sold to companies in bulk. The farmers were even made to make a roleplay presentation to practice negotiating with managers for their market studies. “Dako kaayo among pasalamat sa CRS,” Mang Ricardo says. After a year of having the project in motion, Manong Mike Bualan had bought a house and lot, cars, motorcycles and a touch screen phone---all in one harvest. Manong Jimmy Ascuitin, overall cluster leader of coffee farmers and a member of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), however, invests his profit for a greener take in fertilizing Vol. 38 No. 8 December 2011

Sendong Corrected  

Sendong by Senday

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