One year hence

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By Stella A. Estremera

Spider’s web

Sunday, December 8, 2013


SAME time last year, we have just witnessed the devastation brought about by typhoon Pablo. With roads made impassable by landslides and fallen trees, it took three days before vehicles could finally reach Cateel in Davao Oriental.

The scene that welcomed the first ones to arrive was unimaginable. Not one house was standing, everything was in shambles, debris was scattered everywhere, while people walk around trying to survive.

But on that third day, while distress is still written in the faces of the people, they were already literally picking up the pieces of their lives. While relief goods were still scarce, lechons were already being roasted by the roadside, beside the debris of what were once homes. Apparently the hogs killed by the typhoon were cleaned and cooked. With their cookwares scattered all over and not much kitchen utensils to use, cooking the pigs whole made a lot of sense. Tanglad is more resilient than coconuts, you know.

People who came to help also found treasures that delighted them… lobsters and crabs for lunch, dinner, and sometimes even breakfast.

In this small coastal town facing the Pacific, lobsters and crabs are common fare, so common, the locals no longer sell crabs in the market. Only outsiders slobber over a fresh catch of giant crabs.

“Hilas man paminawon, ma’am, pero sum-ol na man gyud kaayo (While it may sound boastful, we no longer appreciate the taste of crabs),” said a lady who owns a house along the highway where visitors, with the guidance of locals, drop by to buy huge crabs.

Crabs are brought to her by fishermen and farmers, she said, in exchange for some dry goods the farmer or fisher needs. She keeps them at home, waiting for the next visitor to come knocking.

That there were no crabs in the public market was first noticed by a friend who frequented the town for their rehabilitation projects.

She was all set to go home and have heard so much about Cateel’s crabs and prawns and so she went to the market to find none.

Asking around, she was told, no one buys crabs that’s why it’s not sold. Through those first days of devastation, however, nature nourished them in a way that us, urbanites, would have slobbered over.

One year hence, the surroundings are green again, Poo island is no longer bald. But life is not yet back to normal. People are still making a lot of sacrifices to make do. It’s never easy to lose one’s home and rebuild in a year’s time.

For Filipinos, houses are lifetime investments, and to thousands in this small, quiet town, they have lost these lifetime investments.

We browse through photos of the devastation in Eastern Visayas and know that they are worse off. How long will they ever recover? More than a year, definitely.

The national government may have already brushed aside their concern for typhoon Pablo survivors still trying to built up the pieces of their lives, and are bumbling their way to make it appear they care about what happened in Eastrern Visayas, but we know, the people will be needing help much longer than the attention span this short-sighted government has.

Over in Barangay Andap in New Bataan, Compostela Valley, where Pablo’s wrath released a long, endless river of boulders that rendered over a thousand residents missing and never to be found, a monument build through initiative of private individuals was inaugurated to commemorate the devastation last December 4, 2013.

“Naka-recover na ba ‘mo?” Comval Governor Arthur Uy egged the residents from the stage where a short program was being held.

From the crowd were a spattering of cheers and a louder dissenting voice. No, they have not recovered yet.

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on December 08, 2013.

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