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Friday, October 22, 2021

Learning earthquake’s lessons

(GRAPHICS BY JOSUA CABRERA)

TWELVE-year-old Dave Virgel Pacaldo of Barangay Bato in Buenavista, Bohol does not know if he would be able to graduate from elementary school in March.

He finds it difficult to study at night inside the tent that his family has called home since the Oct. 15, 2013 earthquake destroyed their house.

Dili ko kadugay og tuon kay mangatulog naman mi (I can’t study for long because we have to go to sleep),” he said.

His family placed a light bulb inside the tent, which the Philippine Red Cross gave them. But his parents and a niece cannot sleep properly with the light on, so Dave can’t stay up late to study.

The Pacaldos prefer to enter the tent just before they sleep when the temperature inside has dropped. They spend the early evening chatting with neighbors, whose houses were also destroyed or damaged by the quake, in a nearby clearing. Other children also congregate there. Sometimes Dave, the youngest in a brood of 10, plays with them.

Dave attends the elementary school in neighboring Barangay Cangawa, about a kilometer away from his family’s tent.

Except for the wall of the Grade 1 classroom, which collapsed, the Cangawa Elementary School is better off than other schools in the neighboring town of Inabanga, now famous for being the site of the fault zone of the magnitude 7.2 earthquake.

Long wait

But a collapsed wall and no word from higher authorities on when it would be fixed are too much to handle for Beverly Lucille Degamo, Grade 1 class adviser.

Degamo said the school realigned the P5,000 budget intended for its garden beautification project to install a temporary wall made of bamboo matting. But the bamboo matting has been damaged for some time now, and the school no longer has funds to replace it.

Cangawa Elementary School’s woes are reflected and magnified in other schools in northern Bohol.

In the Cagawasan Elementary School in Inabanga, parents and teachers pooled meager resources to put up temporary classrooms made of bamboo and nipa.

In Lourdes Elementary School in the town of Cortes, some classes are held inside tents that were made for cooler climate. During dry months, many children got sick because of the heat.

Degamo, whose house was also damaged, said that the pupils were traumatized by the earthquake. A few months after the earthquake, some students ran out of classrooms in panic whenever they felt an aftershock. Some cried out of fear.

Normal

When classes resumed on Nov. 16, 2013, only a few students came back.

“But now, we’re back to normal. The pupils are used to the aftershocks that occur once in a while,” Degamo said.

The new normal in these parts of Bohol is to be alert at all times and adapt to whatever situation comes along.

To prepare children and teenagers for another earthquake or any calamity, Dr. Victor Yntig of the Department of Education (DepEd) 7 said trainings have been conducted to educate teachers about disaster preparedness.

Yntig, DepEd 7’s focal person for disaster risk reduction and management (DRRM), said the department will also train school principals on how to develop their DRRM plans.

“Every school has a different situation during disasters. They need to study their areas and come up with their own disaster risk reduction plans,” he said.

The principals, he added, will be the ones to train their teachers, who will in turn teach students about disaster preparedness.

“Once the entire school is educated, they can introduce regular activities such as disaster drills,” Yntig said.

‘Less afraid’

Grade 4 student Charm Nicole Estorba, 9, said disaster preparedness became part of her lessons at the Cagawasan Elementary School in Inabanga.

Estorba and her classmates need no further reminders of the earthquake. Until now, they still hold classes in a makeshift classroom made of nipa and bamboo that their parents helped build.

Delfina Jumamoy, acting principal of the Cagawasan Elementary School, said their concrete classrooms were damaged by the earthquake and had to be abandoned to ensure the safety of students. School officials feared that the structures would collapse
during the aftershocks.

Estorba said the students are now less afraid. “Naanad ra sad mi sa linog kay halos kada buwan na’ay aftershock. Kung maka-engkwentro mi og aftershock, mugawas mi sa classroom (We’ve gotten used to the tremors because almost every month there are aftershocks. If there’s a tremor, we just leave our classrooms),” she added.

Diane Teodora Torres, 11, a Grade 6 pupil in Cagawasan Elementary School, said that they are more prepared for calamities. “Gitudloan mi nila unsa among buhaton kung naay katalagman para dili sad mi ma-rattle (Our teachers taught us what to do so we won’t get rattled),” she said.

Limited

But for many residents in Inabanga, Buenavista and other affected towns, it’s difficult to get back on one’s feet with very little resources at hand.

Nothing is left of the Pacaldo house in the coastal Barangay of Bato except the kitchen. But Dave said his family does not have the means to rebuild their house.

The Pacaldos’ main source of income is selling wood for fuel at P5 per bundle in Pasil, Cebu City. Dave and his father bring the fuel wood to the Pasil Fish Port on board a motorboat.

Although it makes practical sense to sell to their neighbors rather than travel four to five hours by sea to Cebu City, the Pacaldos cannot find takers for their fuel wood in the town.

Pwede ra man gud sila moadto sa bukid para manguha og sugnod (Our neighbors can always go to the mountains to get wood themselves),” Dave said.

His parents hope his older siblings would help rebuild their house. But they also have their families to consider.
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