THE smell of dried mud still hung in the air on a quiet Friday morning at Leon A. Garcia Sr. Elementary School. It had been over a week since the majority of the school was submerged by flood on the evening of August 28, 2019.
Upon entry at the school, it would seem that everything has returned to normal after the flood. The pathways are clear and the classrooms are looking somehow clean and orderly.
It seemed like classes were not being held because of how the school was generally quiet. But if you listen carefully you would hear the voices of teachers and students coming from the upper floors of the school buildings.
Ginaliza Nomio, a grade six adviser and the officer-in-charge, said they have come a long way since the day after the flood struck the school and submerged portions of the school.
August 28 flood
Nomio said the flood that happened on August 28 was the worst they experienced in the last ten years. Their area does sometimes experience flood because it is a low-lying area but this would only reach the knees.
She recalled then that the rain was not that strong; hence, they were not expecting that there would be a flood.
“August 28 around 7 p.m. it was really a sudden calamity. Wala gyud naka-ready ang mga tao. Even sa among school wala gyud nakabantay ing-ana kadako ang tubig (It was a sudden calamity last August 28. The people and the school were not ready as to how big the flood was going to be),” she said.
“Trahedya gyud siya nga so far base sa among na-obserbahan kini ang pinakadako nga baha since 2009 (It was really a tragedy. Base on our observation this is the biggest flood we experienced since 2009),” Nomio added.
She said in 2009, the flood they experienced reached the windows only or the regular height of a person.
However, the recent flood almost reached the roof of the one-floored classrooms and submerging everything below it.
After the flood
Prior to the flood, the school was known for being lined with flowers and different plants.
“Ang tanang visitors jud maka-appreciate jud sa among school nga it is really clean, orderly, full of flowers and plants (Visitors coming to the school would appreciate how clean, orderly, and full of plants and flowers the school is),” Nomio said.
After the flood, she said everything was a mess.
“Sa pagkabuntag sa August 29, didto na namo nakita ang grabe nga impact nga gibilin sa baha...Super jud siya kagubot...ang mga gamit gyud ana nawala. Ang uban, na-submerge sa tubig... perting bagaa sa lapok di siya basta basta mahinlo (The flood left a mess on the morning of August 29. We lost some things while others have been submerged by the flood. The mud was really thick too),” Nomio said.
Nomio recalled that the mud was really thick that it was too difficult to walk on it.
“Ang among gibuhat sa mga teachers is simple pa...kay na schock pa tanan. Ang una namo gilimpyo is ang agi-anan namo kay naglisod jud mi unsaon pag atraka. Nung na clear na gamay ang entrance sa school, diha na mi na-atraka (We were still in shock and decided to start simple first by cleaning the pathways. It would be hard for us to clean the school if the pathways are not clear. Once we cleared the entrance, we started cleaning the rest of the school),” she said.
She added “Grabe jud ang lapok. Tagatuhod ang lapok dili na nimo maibot ang tiil if mutapak ka. (The mud was up to our knees. It would be difficult to get out of it when you step into it).”
Nomio said the gym was at a bad state since the debris from the flood gathered there. She said mixed in the debris were some smaller tree trunks that they suspected may have come from upland brought down by the floods.
Most of their teaching materials, school supplies, and school equipment like printers and laptop were totally damaged by the flood. The items that were safe were only the ones that was in the upper floors of their school buildings.
“Di lang ta mag-expect nga masave namo tong naa sa first floor. Kung naa man, katong mga kaya ra malimpyohan (We won't expect that we can salvage everything that have been submerged. If there is any, then those that we can clean only),” Nomio said.
It was a struggle for them to clean up the school after the flood. Water pressure was low in the area since many of the neighbors also needed to use it to clean their areas.
“Kung naa man tulo perting jud gamaya. Grabe jud among pag antos. Katong mga problemha gihinay nalang namo pagdawat kay di na malikayan (If there water running, the pressure is too low. We had to be really patient. We had to accept the situation we are in),” Nomio said.
The school administration and the teachers held an emergency meeting to strategize what they have to do next.
Knowing that it would be difficult for them to clean the school on their own, they called on help from the City Engineer's Office, Talomo Fire Station, and Central 911. Nomio pointed out how the personnel of Central 911 were very helpful.
“In fact gibalik-balikan mi nila hangtod di ma-clear tanan. Gi-make sure sa 911 gilimpyohan gyud nila ang gym...pasalamat mi sa agencies nga nitabang (They, Central 911) kept on coming back until things were quite clean. They made sure to clean the gym first. We thank all the agencies who have helped us),” Nomio said.
Talomo District principals, teachers, and students also provided help in their own simple ways like donating clothes, canned goods, and toiletries. These relief goods will be given to students of school who were affected by the flood. Their district supervisor, Marilyn Marcelo, was also checking on them regular and even visited the school after the flood.
Classes were also suspended on August 29 and 30, which allowed the teachers and volunteers to implement initial steps to clean the school.
Recovering from the flood
“The present situation in our school is we are still on recovery... Go on ra gihapon mi. Resilient gihapon mi despite of everything (We will go on and remain resilient despite of everything),” Nomio said.
Classes resumed on September 2. The school's principal, Enydeza O. Oran, gave instructions to temporarily hold emergency classes. Those sections who used to have classes at the ground floor were merged with classes in the second to fourth floors.
Nomio said not many came on September 2 as many are also still recovering from the flood. However, there are still those who came. Some even have no school supplies with them but still came to study.
As for the teachers, they continue to provide classes to the students but after teaching their lesson, would go back downstairs to continue to help the other teachers in cleaning the school.
The 28 teachers of the school were going the extra mile just to make sure the school will be cleaned and the students will be catered.
“From the first day after the flood they continue to work by cleaning the rooms, fixing and arranging to make the school in order and beautiful again,” Nomio said.
Instead of arriving at school at 6:00 a.m., she said some of the teachers would already be at the school at around 5:00 a.m. They would stay at the school until the evening.
There were students who were helping the teachers cleaning the school.
“Tinabangay jud tanan (We had to help each other),” Nomio said.
The bayanihan spirit was alive among the teachers, students, volunteers, and even the government agencies.
The flood may have damaged the school and washed their things away but it did not dampen their hopes to overcome their current situation.
“We have to start all over again. Never lose hope,” Nomio said.