LA TRINIDAD, Benguet – The last quarter of the year ended bittersweet for a province that is hailed for its vegetable and flower products stained in grief by a typhoon’s wrath.

Typhoon Pepeng’s onslaught in October took the province to the limelight of receiving support from leaders and inviting aid from all over the country and the world.

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A highland town mourned the death of 180 residents from the town’s capital alone.

The tragedy has damaged millions in infrastructure, agriculture and fishery. Its gradual has shaped the future of the province in the years to come.

Grappling with the losses local officials have banded for a slow recuperation.

Typhoon debris

Looking back at the damages caused by typhoon Pepeng to the province, Governor Nestor Fongwan said the task of rebuilding the province will “take slow but sure steps”.

Department of Agriculture Secretary Arthur C. Yap reported that the damages brought by Typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng reached to P7.63 billion nationwide.

Damages in the region was pegged at P1.324 billion on the national roads, P82.025 million on provincial roads, P5 million on municipal road networks, and P46.35 million on bridges.

About P486.302 million was damaged on the agriculture, crop damages at P11.825 million, for livestock to P11.825 million, and for fisheries P9.559 million.

Other damages include: the regions flood control structures are placed at P83 million, school wreckage at P154.433 million, irrigation at P177.15 million, health facilities at P4.65 million, power facilities at P5.7 million, Social service facilities at P3.2 million, and the Department of Agriculture (DA) at P92.874 million.

Typhoon Pepeng was the worst to hit the province since the 1990 earthquake making officials and residents take a second look at environmental impact.

Rebuilding

Mayor Artemio Galwan together with Fongwan have begun the task of rebuilding at the capital and the province identifying sites for relocation as evacuees continue to occupy the sites scattered in the province.

In Tuba, the National Housing Authority area in Barangay Tadiangan was identified but the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) deemed it not suitable for relocation based on geo-hazard mapping.

In Itogon town, two sites were identified in Sitio Hoyback Fraction in Barangay Kelly and Sito Kalye in Barangay Tuding.

In the Tublay area, the eastern part of Barangay Lower Coroz was approved by the MGB for relocation.

In the province’s capital, La Trinidad, Barangay Tawang that is under the jurisdiction of the Benguet State University was identified and approved as a permanent site for relocation.

Meanwhile, temporary shelters (tents) are put up in various areas in the valley, the most visible, is at the Benguet State University beside the strawberry fields.

There are 543 evacuees in the highland province, including 200 from nearby provinces.

The spirit of Bayanihan

The Solidarity of Ambassador Victims and Evacuees (Save) was formed as the residents’ initiative to help one another amid the damages, grief and death that left their province.

Save identified the needs of their community dividing these into social, economic and infrastructure development.

The affected families from Little Kibungan recently organized themselves into a similar organization.

Save aims to connect with government agencies to identify how to help the people of Tublay better, initially aiming at the Department of Education and private universities for a “study now, pay later” scheme for families affected by the typhoons.

People have opened their homes for those affected, giving them space in their private lots, homes and businesses “People have to help each other,” Galwan said.

The mayor of the capital town has since called for his constituents to open their homes as well and provide employment to the typhoon affected people.

As the year ended, the province has faced its biggest challenge. But the tragedy has also taught the people to love life, care for nature, and help each other.