For Talisay family, an old tunnel means safety

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Sunday, February 2, 2014


WHENEVER a typhoon comes, the family of 75-year-old Cristina Catagcatag is always safe and sound.

Their secret? A tunnel believed to have been used by Japanese soldiers during the World War 2 in a hillside village in Barangay Manipis, Talisay City.

Catagcatag, her grandchildren and neighbors holed up in the tunnel early yesterday, away from the powerful gusts and heavy rains brought by tropical storm Basyang.

They were packed like sardines in the damp passageway that can accommodate more than 20 people.

“Mas maayo diri kay dili ka mapadpad sa hangin. Pila ra baya atong kalag intawon (We’re better off here, where the wind can’t blow us away),” Catagcatag told Sun.Star Cebu when the news team inspected the area that a landslide hit.

Basyang damaged their houses when it made landfall at dawn. Roofs were ripped off by the strong wind, while other houses toppled to the ground.

When super typhoon Yolanda lashed out at the Visayas last Nov. 8, Catagcatag said they also took shelter in the tunnel, which her ancestors had also used.

“Dugay na kaayo ni diri. Bata pa ko mao nani ilang gamiton (This has been here for a long time. Back when I was a child, this was already our emergency shelter),” she said. The tunnel sits below their house in Sitio Kampo 5.

Though the concrete tunnel provides them with a secure cocoon, there are some potential threats: snakes and rats. That’s why, Catagcatag said, they always check it before they moved in ahead of a storm.

“Sa una kay naa la’y molatay nga bitin ug moambak nga mga ilaga (Before, a snake would suddenly show up and the rats would jump),” she said.

One of the residents, Hermelisa Dilit, 29, immediately took cover in the tunnel on Friday night when the wind started to grew strong. She brought her one-year-old son.

“Nakahilak nako gabii kay kusog na kaayo unya kami ra sa akong anak (I cried last night because the winds were powerful and my son and I were the only ones here),” she said.

Inside the passageway, it was pitch dark. They used a gas lamp that could last until the morning.

By 4 a.m., Dilit said, the storm weakened. They went out and saw that their houses were damaged, but they were relieved to have survived unharmed.

For Catagcatag, Dilit and other families, the tunnel has become a safe harbor for any storm that comes into their lives.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on February 02, 2014.

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