Years of living along river taught family to ignore risk

IT was only about 24 days ago when the Tarans, a family of seven, shared a dinner of barbecue to celebrate the 9th birthday of their middle child, Juros.

Several weeks later, the Tarans gathered once again. But this time, instead of a modest feast, two wooden coffins lay before the now family of five.

Nine-year-old Juros and his brother, John Carlo, 8, were among the three persons who died after the strong current of a river in Sitio Riverside, Barangay Guadalupe, Cebu City, swept them away during the heavy downpour Friday.

The other fatality was identified by Councilor Dave Tumulak as Arturo Cabradilla, 26. 

The three were among a group of people who were standing on a wooden footbridge while some of them tried to catch a snake. The bridge collapsed.

In an earlier report, Tumulak said the accident happened past 10 a.m. but it took hours for rescuers to recover the bodies.

Juros was found in the portion of the river near Katipunan St. in Barangay Labangon, while Cabradilla was recovered in the Banawa area at past 2 p.m. At 5:30 p.m., John Carlo was found near the South Road Properties.

An older brother of the Tarans, 10-year-old John Dave, was also among those who fell into the river. He said he would have wanted to save his brothers, but the strong currents prevented him from reaching them. 

The boys’ mother, Janice, 31, said it has become a habit for her sons to bathe in the river during downpour, so she did not stop them.

Mangaligo man gyod to sila basta mag-ulan mao nga wa ra pud ko magtagad. Nalingaw sad seguro sila gatan-aw sa pagdakop sa bitin, unya nabug-atan ang taytayan. Ako man pud, nagtan-aw ra man ko sa among balkon samtang gasabak sa akong kinamanghoran (It had become a habit of theirs, so I did not really mind. Perhaps they were also fascinated watching our neighbors catch the snake, and the bridge eventually gave out. I was actually watching too, but I was staying in our balcony with my youngest child),” she told SunStar Cebu.

Janice remembered Juros and John Carlo as the most helpful and diligent kids in their brood of five boys.

She said the two would often join her and her scavenger-husband, Nestor, 45, in collecting recyclable trash to sell for P10 to P15 a kilogram.

All the Taran children, including the deceased brothers, had dropped out of school for lack of money.

Janice said they could barely eat three meals a day with their daily income of less than P150, much more let their kids continue with their schooling.

Since the family have been living along the riverbank even before their eldest child, who is now 15, was born, Janice said she and her husband have not discussed moving out of the area.

But with the tragedy, she said they might consider relocating, provided that the barangay or City Government extends assistance to them.

For now, Janice said they will have to deal with their loss and keep an eye on the rest of their children.

“We’ve accepted our loss, but we will no longer allow our remaining kids to bathe in the river,” she said in Cebuano.

With the footbridge now destroyed, the contractor of a construction site beside the sitio has donated and volunteered to build a new bridge, this time made of steel.

Jimmy Belsis, the foreman, said they decided to build the bridge upon the request of the residents.

Guadalupe Barangay Captain Michael Gacasan would not have wanted to repair the wooden bridge, which is the only access for more than 10 families to the main road.

He hopes that would convince them to leave. He said the barangay will ask the City to identify a relocation site for those who are not yet beneficiaries of its socialized housing program. 

Nagiel Bañacia, City Disaster Risk Reduction Management Office head, identified the sitio as a high-risk area and recommended for the residents’ relocation.

“They really need to leave, but that still has to undergo the right process,” he said.

He has asked the Division for the Welfare of the Urban Poor to re-survey the area and re-evaluate the residents, since most of them were supposed to have moved to Barangay Binaliw under the City Government’s socialized housing program. (RTF)
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