THE earthquake that destroyed thousands of houses and left more than 200 dead in Bohol also affected the barangay elections in the province last year.
The tragedy, however, did not discourage three leaders in the barangays of Napo, Loon; Anonang, Inabanga; and Poblacion, Sagbayan from serving their neighbors.
The Commission on Elections (Comelec) had set the barangay elections on Oct. 28 last year, but eventually held special elections in Bohol almost a month later.
Jeanette Vidal, then a councilwoman of Napo, had more than three weeks to weigh her political options.
She was a first-term councilor, with two terms left. She could continue serving in the council or she could focus on her job as the guidance counselor of the University of Bohol’s high school department in Tagbilaran City.
Vidal, 34, had seen the damage the earthquake caused in her neighborhood, which is located along the coast and at the back of the ruins of Our Lady of Light Church in Loon.
To run for a higher position would mean more headaches, she admitted.
Her family’s house was among the 282 houses that were either damaged or destroyed during the quake in her community.
“I knew it was not going to be easy,” she said.
Vidal decided to run in the elections and she won as Napo’s new barangay captain.
She said she was thankful for the voters’ trust, although she had heard comments that she was politicking and unfair in distributing assistance from nongovernment organizations (NGOs) and the local government.
Vidal faced some difficulty in explaining to her neighbors that not all could receive housing assistance, only those families that were badly affected by the tremors.
Vulnerable individuals – ill children, the elderly and persons with disabilities – were given priority.
“Labad sa ulo gamay kay naa gyud uban na dili makasabot sa pamaagi (It was a bit of a headache because some people refused to understand the procedures),” she said. “But I really have to understand. Dili pud sayon ang amoang naagian nga kalamidad (The calamity we endured was no joke).”
Vidal’s experience is similar to that of Asuncion Ybañez, Poblacion, Sagbayan barangay captain; and Felix Caray, Anonang, Inabanga barangay captain.
Both officials recalled being criticized by their neighbors for prioritizing the families who badly needed help.
Like Vidal, Ybañez is also a first-time village chief and she is hands-on in rebuilding the homes of affected families in Poblacion.
“We give priority to the indigent families,” she said.
She said more than 1,000 houses were either damaged or destroyed in the quake in her community.
In Anonang, Caray was the incumbent village chief when the earthquake shook their place.
A fault line surfaced during the tremor, spreading fear among the residents who left their homes and lived in tents.
Caray said he sought a second term as barangay captain because he wanted to help his village. He won.
“Namalik na sila sa ilang panimalay (The people have gone back to their homes),” he said. “Namalik na pud sila sa ilang tagsa-tagsang uma (They have also returned to their farms).”
There were 149 houses that were damaged by the quake in Anonang. Caray said these houses were already repaired, mainly by NGOs.
“Dili dali-dali ang gobyerno paghatag og ayuda. Hinuon, naa may ginagmay (Government takes some time to release help, but there was some),” he said. “Lahi ang ubang NGOs bitaw kay i-direct nila sa mga tawo (Some NGOs are different, because they go directly and help the people).”
As a leader, Caray said he was able to rally his constituents to move on with their lives.
“Wa man ta mangamatay sa trahedya, gilugwayan pa atong kinabuhi (The tragedy did not kill us. We survived),” he said. “Sa ato pa, mangita ta’g medyos nga magpadayon ta sa atong panginabuhian (That means we must do our best to keep moving on and support ourselves).”