My hometown is well-known for its “typhoon-free” slogans and promotions. In all my years of living here, I can honestly attest to that. I’ve only experienced storms and typhoons in Cebu (during my vacation when I was around 8 years old), in Manila (it was Milenyo or International name Xangsane that hit the Philippines while I was still working there – which I just thought was strong winds and harsh rains since I wasn’t used to storms), and in Bohol (I think it was Ofel – international name Son-Tinh that had me and my travel partner stranded in going to Bohol).
So when the alert was raised that Pablo (international name BOPHA) was entering our region’s area of responsibility, a sense of foreboding came over me. I was reminded of a conversation I had with my dad before that storms are slowly changing their paths and it won’t be soon before long that the Davao region would be greatly affected.
Well my dad was no Nostradamus of his time, but his words rang truth as seen by the wake of Pablo. I think it was the first time that schools declared “No classes” due to a storm. And for my hometown, it was signal #2. A couple of my officemates missed their flight to Manila for a seminar because all flights were cancelled as well. All school activities were suspended or cancelled to keep people safe during such a time.
Although Davao wasn’t too affected, our neighboring provinces weren’t spared. News of the devastation of the storm were plastered in news. Families were greatly affected, livelihood such as banana and coconut farming were washed over, even fishermen weren’t spared since a lot of people didn’t want to buy their goods for fear that their captured fishes were able to eat human flesh. (morbid actually.)
It was around December 3-5, 2012 that the typhoon made its presence known to the Davao Region. A first as most locals can remember thus people weren’t totally prepared on what would happen. December 5, an invitation to extend our help to the affected areas were given to our office and I for one willingly confirmed my desire. However, instead of a 2-day outreach, a change in schedule landed me on a 1 day outreach (for Psychosocial Debriefing) to one of the provinces that were hit – Caraga.
To explain better, here are some photos for you to see:
Raring to go
We left around 6am to start our 5-hour travel to Caraga. I wasn’t able to take photos of the banana and coconut fields but along the road, you could clearly see how strong the winds were manifested by the bowing of the trees towards the direction we were heading. The mountains that were once full of proud lines of trees, were now barren as if a greater being was playing pick-up sticks using the coconut trees for sticks.
When we reached Caraga’s Poblacion, the site that greeted us was very disarming. Houses with no roofs, muddied roads, logs and debris around every corner.
Collapse of roofing from a new building in Caraga
Houses hit by Pablo
Packed inside the evacuation center
According to our leader, Caraga was the fastest in responding to all the alerts and were even able to evacuate the local residents (especially those along the shoreline) and house them in their designated evacuation center. Aside from that, they were proactively thinking of other designated evacuation centers should the first one collapse.
The Office that made the evacuation possible – saving lives of many residents
Relief Goods for Distribution
Going over details gathered
An overview of the shoreline in Caraga
Residents could still remember how the events unfolded during those days that Pablo enraged the province. Thankfully, they are still able to move past what has transpired and are currently moving forward in reclaiming their lives and livelihood.
What came washing ashore
Life still goes on
After our sojourn at the Poblacion, we went to the broken bridge that highly affected the transportation of relief goods to more affected areas such as Baganga, Cateel, and Boston Davao Oriental.
The bridge leading to Baganga, Davao Oriental
Making ends meet
This DPWH worker has been working for 24 hours in pulling across the line for travelling the river via man-made raft. Some of our companions helped him in pulling while we were there.
Pull for safety
Until now, relief operations are still ongoing all over the city (and perhaps even the country) to continuously aid the Pablo survivors. Hopefully I can still come along to assist in another session of debriefing in the areas that experienced tropical storm Bopha.
Let us extend a helping hand to the survivors and make this Christmas season more meaningful.