CATEEL, Davao Oriental (MindaNews/31 Dec) — At its strongest, Bagyo Pablo reached the category of a super typhoon with sustained winds of 259 kph. Its diameter was 600 km, its eye 16.6 km wide, and it was dumping 15-30 mm of rain per hour.
This was how powerful Bagyo Pablo was when it made landfall early morning of December 4, battering Boston, Cateel, Baganga, and Caraga in Davao Oriental before wreaking more havoc in New Bataan, Compostela, Montevista, and Monkayo in Compostela Valley, and Trento in Agusan del Sur.
[caption id="attachment_40313" align="alignleft" width="620"] Their leaves broken, bent, and turning brown, the coconut trees stand like ghostly sentinels guarding a desolate land. Mindanews Photo by Dr. Mac Tiu[/caption]
“The howling winds and rain tore out the roofs and windows, shook and shattered the concrete walls, and flew off with the entire balcony of our house,” recounted a typhoon victim in Cateel.
Over a hundred evacuees who crowded a Cateel school gym died when the roof collapsed, triggering a deadly stampede. In Andap, New Bataan, hundreds of fleeing residents were swept by a flashflood that barreled into a gym at the poblacion, killing more evacuees.
Three weeks after the typhoon, a team of staffers and students from the Philippine Women’s College (PWC) of Davao went to Cateel to
distribute relief goods. We brought food, clothing, and water containers. We also brought boxes of medicines donated by Dr. Ruby
Simon who had solicited them from the Far Eastern University NRMHF Class ’84. Earlier, on December 9, a PWC relief team had also gone to New Bataan to deliver relief goods.
We left Davao City at 2:40am on Dec. 22 for the 8-hour trip to Cateelvia Lingig, Surigao del Sur. Nearing Boston, the landscape turned
surreal with thousands of uprooted coconut trees lying helter-skelter like spent matchsticks on the ground. Most of the coconut trees that remained standing were headless, either shorn of their fronds or cut outright at the middle. It was as if the typhoon had giant teeth and chomped off the tops of the coconut trees.
Many more coconut trees looked like giant folded umbrellas, the fronds broken and hugging the trunks. The houses along the highway showed various degrees of damage, with the residents making do with makeshift tents.
This was the scene that repeated itself on the way to Cateel. It was the same in Baganga, we have been assured. If so, the most destructive
center winds of Bagyo Pablo had spanned over seventy kilometers, flattening everything on their path.
In the poblacion of Cateel, not a single house was intact. Debris was everywhere: wood, tree trunks and branches, electrical wires, electric posts, entire rafters, signboards, barbed wires, floor and wall boards, twisted metal frames, iron roofing materials, many of them
Now, we understand what the phrase “Morag naagian og bagyo” means. It is said that a coconut recovers in two years after being hit by a
typhoon. That is probably true for ordinary typhoons. But not in Cateel, the way the coconuts looked. The winds were so strong even the
proverbial swaying bamboos broke.
But the Filipinos are a resilient people. We are battered by some 15 to 20 typhoons a year. And like Filipinos living along the typhoon
belt of the country, the Catelanos and other victims of Bagyo Pablo will surely bounce back.
(Dr. Macario D. Tiu, who writes the column “Bisag Unsa” for MindaViews, the opinion section of MindaNews, is the research director of the Philippine Women’s College of Davao City).