Ground zero

MAKILALA, COTABATO - Residents of Barangays Luayon and Kapatagan, together with their small children and elderly, fled to safer grounds when the magnitude 6.6 earthquake struck around 9:10 a.m. on October 29, 2019.

That day was like a nightmare for the residents, who still tremble in fear, as their homes, properties, livestock and even livelihood were lost in just a very short time.

Their fears were aggravated when a portion of the mountain in Makilala crumbled, the ground cracked and tremors continued.

"Di na gyud mapuy-an among dapit, sayang kaayo among mga pangandoy sa kinabuhi, naguba na among kamaisan, gumahan, nangatumba tanan, mao nalang baya to ang among gisaligan aron makahuman akong tulo ka mga anak nga nag-eskuwela karon sa koliheyo sa Kidapawan (We cannot go back where we used to live. Our dreams are gone after our farm was destroyed by the earthquake. We rely on the farm to send our three children to college in Kidapawan)," said a teary-eyed Merlyn Ybanez, 46, farmer.

Merna Pablo, 42, still cries whenever she recalls how they had to evacuate on the evening of October 29. She glanced at her very young children - a four-month-old infant, four-year old son Kyle John, and six-year-old daughter Maricris – as she narrated their ordeal.

"Ngit-ngit kaayo ang agianan, maglisod mi og tikang kay nangliki naman ang yuta, hinay pa gyod kaayo ang siga sa among flashlight ato. Akong bana nagdala sa duha ka bata, ako pod sa 4-months, nagsige kog hilak, sige og lakaw, nangapangos tawon akong tuhod kay madusmo man ko, mabulasot ko sa liki, akong bana, moagakay na nako (The road was dark then and our flashlight was not that bright. My husband was bringing two of our children while I was carrying our four-month old child. There were a lot cracks along the road and I kept on falling into them. My husband had to help me)," Pablo recalled, crying.

Barangay Luayon was one of the severely hit areas. No structure was left standing d after the calamity. Government troops in a chopper immediately responded to rescue the victims.

Most of the victims were airlifted to safer grounds which now serve as their evacuation site.

"Kini, ang Malasila National High School ug Malasila Elementary School mao ni karon ang atong gihimong evacuation site sa mga residente sa duol nga mga barangay sama sa Brgy. Luayon ug Kapatagan. Ni-a sila karon ug padayon nato silang giabagan sa ilang mga panginahanglan (Malasila National High Schoola and Elementary School are currently being used as an evacuation center for nearby barangays like Luayon and Kapatagan. We attend to the needs of the evacuees here)," said Bonifacio V. Selma Jr., assistant regional director for operations of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) in Soccsksargen.

The Malasila evacuation center houses 1,749 families already. The number is taken from the barangays around the "ground zero".

Problems at the evacuation center

One of the problems at the evacuation center is the lack of water and comfort rooms.

Dumoy Water from Davao City along with the local governments of Makilala and Kidapawan City, are donating water. However, these are still inadequate.

"Naay C.R, ipagamit man sa school principal pero lagi dapat naa gyod tubig nga dalhon, mao bitaw ako gyod nagbantay ani, kay kung dili ni bantayan, magbara ni diri. Nang-reklamo na gani ang uban kay sa likod sa mga classroom daghan kaayo og hugaw sa tawo, mao nang paghangin hastang baho-a gyod (The shool principal has allowed the use of the CR but you have to bring your own water. I am watching over the CR because if I do not, the toilet will clog. There are already complaints by some evacuees of the smell of feces because some are defecating at the back of the classrooms. When the wind blows, it carries a really bad smell)," Helen Quinones, 55, said.

Also adding to the problem is instilling order during relief goods distribution, especially when these come from groups of individuals.

"Luoy kaayo tong dili abtik, dili na gyud makabahin, maro-maro sab ang uban kay ang ilang mga bana didto na nag-atang sa gate, mao nang pag-abot sa hinabang sila nalang perme makakuha, magbalik-balik. Mao bitaw, gi-meeting nami sa among kapitan nga kung dunay maabot, ibutang sa usa ka lugar, dayon bahinon sa tanan (Those who are slow may not get their share. Some are also cunning. Their husbands wait at the gate for those who are bringing relief goods and would return for more. Our barangay captain have met with us and told us that if there are relief goods it would be brought to one place for proper distribution)," Marcelina Recamante, 51, revealed.

The evacuees are now getting sick because of the condition there which is not suitable especially for babies, children, sickly, and the elderly.

"Pait kaayo among sitwasyon, naka-ingon ko sa akong kaugalingon, nga Ginoo ko, ayaw tawon kami paantosa, kung dunay katalagman, unta gikuha nalang mi nimo (Our situation is quite bad. I told my self that, God, if there will be a disaster, just take me)," Gregoria Soliva, 65, sighed.

Still positive despite it all

Bertoldo Morales, farmer, still carries his pair of chickens, a pair of goats and his dog hoping that these will multiply someday.

"Daghan kaayo ko'g binuhing kanding ug manok, pero unsaon man dili man sila tanan madala. Tag-usa ra ka parisan akong gidala aron kung dili nami kabalik didto kay lisod naman gyud kaayo balikan ang Luayon, mosanay ni (We had a lot of chicken and goats but we were only able to bring a pair each. We cannot go back to Luayon anymore but we will get used to this)," Bertoldo stated.

Gerlyn Nenaria, 40, continued with her sari-sari store at the evacuation site, as her husband was able to save some of the items in their store. The items were loaded onto a horse.

Challenge to the local government

The evacuees are allowed to stay at the site only until November 11, 2019 to give way for the students. Classes are set to resume Monday.

"Makig-koordinar kita sa local government ngari sa Makilala ug sa bisan asang dapit sa North Cotabato diin asa naa sila sa mga tunghaan ang atong mga victims nga mangita kita og area aron maoy himuon natong temporary shelter sa atong mga bakwit, kay gamiton man sab ni ang eskuwelahan (We are coordinating with the local government unit of Makilala in looking for a place to put up temporary shelters for the victims. The school will soon be used)," the DSWD-12 official added.

Based on the DSWD-12 data, Makilala has the most number of affected families with 20,704 or 103,520 individuals. In Kidapawan, there are 1,924 families affected or 9,620 individuals; Tulunan, 3,659 families affected or 18,285 individuals; M'lang has 117 families affected or 585 individuals.

In Soccsksargen, a total of 29,479 families were affected or 147,395 individuals in 149 barangays and 27,310 houses damaged. Of the structures, 20,913 were destroyed while 6,397 were damaged.

In Davao del Sur, 4,257 families were affected or 21,285 individuals who are now at 28 evacuation centers.

Meanwhile, there was an outpouring of donations coming from different firms, groups, individuals and different local government units in the country to help the victims.

With the Filipinos' resiliency amid disasters and unity and cooperation, victims of calamities are still able to laugh, to smile, and to be hopeful for a new day.


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