ILIGAN CITY (MindaNews/01 January) – From the Mandulog bridge along the Iligan-Cagayan de Oro highway, one can clearly see how the lethal combination of floodwaters, mud and logs rammed into Barangay Hinaplanon late evening of December 16 to the early hours of December 17.
The riverside village is now a vast wasteland. Piles of logs and debris from the houses that once stood there are scattered all over and in the distance, the indelible image of destruction of the old Mandulog Bridge, two of its center spans lying in parallel direction down the river.
But two weeks after the devastating flashflood, residents are slowly picking up the pieces as they dig around spots where their houses once stood, looking for buried kitchen utensils and other belongings.
Some have built makeshift tents as temporary shelters, like Quiliano Aron , 57, who prefers staying here with his family than in the crowded evacuation centers.
Quiliano, a school janitor who has been living here since 1976, has also set up a temporary kitchen from materials salvaged from the debris.
“This is just our temporary shelter because the city government will no longer allow us to return here. We understand it. We have no problem relocating as long as it’s safe,” his wife, Josephine, explains, while doing their laundry.
They rarely receive relief aid compared to those in the evacuation centers but friends have been helping out.
“If we stay in the evacuation centers, we are worried that our six grandchildren will get sick. The concrete floor is too cold for them. At least here, we have built a makeshift bed,” Quiliano adds.
They have experienced floods before but only up to their knees. “That was normal for us since we are living on the riverbank. But last December 16 evening was the most devastating.”
The water rose too quickly, they were not able to save any of their belongings.
But Josephine and Quliano are grateful that all 10 members of the family made it to higher grounds before the raging waters slammed into their house some 200 meters west of the destroyed Mandulog Bridge, leaving only the concrete floor.
The family’s three dogs were saved, although two of them went missing for a few days.
“One of our dogs named Kenneth, stood on top of a boulder in front our house and kept on barking. My husband tried to carry Kenneth but he would bite him so we just left him there,” recalls Josephine.
Four days later, Kenneth returned to their village The other dog was found a day earlier cloaked in mud, walking along Mandulog bridge.
“My grandson was very, very happy. He even hugged Kenneth upon seeing him near our destroyed house,” she recalled.
Nearby, another resident was seen carrying a tray filled with spoons and fork that she dug from where her house used to stand. She was going to the river to wash the salvaged items.
Quiliano believes that the hundreds of logs, carried by the rampaging waters from the mountains, flattened most of the concrete houses that used to stand on the riverbank.
Mud and debris
Some two kilometers from the junction of the national highway going to Upper Hinaplanon and Luinab, the flood left enormous mud and debris, on both sides of the main road.
Using shovels, they scoop the mud out of their houses and dump them outside using buckets.
Some vehicles are still buried in mud, others on the roadside remain covered with mud, the windshields broken, parts missing.
Scavengers are roaming the scenes of destruction with their trisikads loaded with salvaged items – a piece of roof, appliances, scrap metal – anything that can be sold.
Moving further, the road is covered with thick mud and hip-high silt on both sides, making it passable only to one vehicle at a time.
An excavator and a loader were seen clearing the road of mud and debris.
Several houses were spared by the floods, particularly those located around 500 meters from the edge of the riverbank. But they are covered with mud, too. Houses made of light materials were totally destroyed.
Some grasses and plastic bags could be seen stuck on a roof 15 feet from the ground.
The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) reported that as of 6 a.m. of January 1, there are 15,937 families or 76,625 persons affected by the floods in Iligan City.
Bayug Island and Hinaplanon were the worst hit barangays.
Although relief aid has been continuously pouring in for the victims, most of these are food, clothes, medicine and water.
Kulindao Maruhom, 54, says the food aid and used clothing are overwhelming but they cannot cook their food on time because they have to borrow cooking pots.
The mother of nine says sometimes three or four families take turns using one small pot. “We have to wait before we could cook,” she adds.
Jumalia Ulama, 38, a mother of four, also shares cooking pots with fellow displaced persons presently seeking shelter in a madrasah.
Cooking pots have been distributed in their evacuation center but these were not enough.
Water containers were also a problem until Oxfam Philippines through the Humanitarian Response distributed 900 pairs of water containers – one capable of storing 10 liters, the other 20 – three bottles of water purifiers and two malongs to each family on December 29.
Fifty-year old Rufaida Kawi , who owned an eatery that was also washed out by the floods, says they could only store a gallon of water before the bigger ones arrived. Kawi and the rest rely on the water ration by the city government and other non-government organizations.
Kawi’s cooking utensils and other personal belongings were washed away along with the house and eatery.
About a kilometer away from the madrasah, around 20 families have set up makeshift shelters on the roadside.
One of the evacuees said they refused to stay at the evacuation centers because it is too crowded and far from the source of potable water.
On the roadside is a natural spring where they can fetch potable water, take a bath and wash their clothes.
Kawi is grateful for the assistance they are getting from various sectors. But she narrates that during the initial arrival of relief goods in their village, some used clothing were not appropriate for their culture.
“When I opened the plastic bag, there was a spaghetti dress and other sleeveless blouses. We cannot use that,” she adds.
Wearing short sleeves and mini-skirts is taboo for Maranaos. Traditionally, women are required to wear long sleeves and skirts down to their ankles.
Kawi added that she gave the spaghetti dress to a non-Muslim evacuee.
She said she was not offended when she received the used clothing because “hindi naman siguro nila alam na may marami rin Muslim dito sa Upper Hinaplanon” [they probably don’t know there are many Muslims here in Upper Hinaplanon]. (Keith Bacongco/MindaNews)