NEW BATAAN, Compostela Valley (MindaNews/8 December) – Typhoon Pablo did not only change the lives of the people in this valley town but the landscape as well.
This town is known in the province for its natural spring resorts in Barangay Andap, which is seven kilometers from the town proper.
What was once a green landscape of coconut trees and agricultural crops is now swathed with nearly a kilometer-wide of boulders and rocks that stretch down to the poblacion area.
From a distance, it looks like a dried up riverbed since you could only see greyish rocks. But moving closer, one would hear the raging murky waters of the newly-carved waterway.
The new waterway is about 10 meters wide and the current strong as seen on Thursday.
Rene Paglingkod, in his 50s, recalled that they were aware that a storm was coming, but they did not expect that it could wipe out the neighborhood in the barangay proper.
“This was the basketball court of the barangay,” Paglingkod pointed to a portion of concrete pavement, “the rest of barangay-owned structures are gone.”
Another villager, who did not give his name, said he was wondering where the rocks came from.
“This barangay is productive, there were many farms here. We don’t know where these [rocks] came from. We only saw boulders or rocks like these before along the Mayo River,” he told MindaNews.
Paglingkod said there were three natural spring resorts just half a kilometer away from the barangay hall.
But as of Friday, not even a marker was visible that could serve as a reminder of where the resorts used to stand.
“But for those who are familiar with the location of the resorts, especially Bamboo Resort, it’s beside that ridge,” Paglingkod pointed to the western part of the mountain range.
From the devastated barangay proper, the bed of rocks is still visible for nearly four kilometers down to neighboring barangays.
Only a portion of the concrete road is left, spanning only about 20 meters. The road leads to Maragusan town, 50 kilometers away.
The rocks and water virtually swept away everything on its path on Tuesday morning when Pablo struck.
The only remaining structure standing on the edge of the new riverbed is a chapel, with the altar still intact.
But all the structures around it were completely destroyed.
Beside the chapel, Paglingkod said, was an Army detachment that was also swept away, killing four soldiers. Five others were still missing as of Thursday.
The two rivers
Before the flashflood, Paglingkod said there were two rivers that flow on the periphery of Andap—the Batoto and Mayo rivers.
Batoto flows in the eastern side of the village while Mayo flows on the western side. Both rivers also flow beside mountain ranges.
“When the flashflood hit, it became as if one massive river and swept away our neighbors,” he recounted.
When the flashflood subsided about three hours later, Paglingkod said the Mayo River carved its new way in the middle of the boulders that swathed the barangay proper.
Batoto River, on the other hand, carved a path through the coconut plantations and agricultural crops, then traversed the concrete road. Rocks and other debris piled up on the road making it difficult for vehicles to pass.
“The original riverbed is already dead, it’s just like we have a new river. Nobody wants to live on top of those rocks and beside this new river,” Paglingkod said.
Impossible but it happened
In Purok 4 of the poblacion, rocks and floodwater also swept away dozens of houses.
What was once a community underneath coconut trees and some cornfields is now a new riverbed.
Apparently, it is an adjoining new riverbed from Barangay Andap.
Solito Mahilom, 64, recalled that near his house was a cornfield of his neighbor.
“Of course, our purok (hamlet) looks green because of the corn, grass, flowers and the coconut. But now everything is gone,” said Mahilom, who has been living in the area since 1974.
“It looks impossible but it happened,” he said, referring to the devastation wrought by Pablo.
Even from the town proper, the wrath of the storm was evident on the mountain ranges as the trees appeared like match sticks since their branches are gone.
At the town proper, many trees were also felled while some that withstood the typhoon’s fury have no more branches at all.
At the town proper, most of the major streets were filled with mud, but the major roads have been cleared Friday, when President Benigno Aquino III visited the town to hand cash assistance and relief goods to the typhoon victims.
Knee-deep mud also covered the town plaza, public market and the terminal. Motorcycles could hardly negotiate because of the mud, while some portions have already become a waterway.
Mayor Lorenzo Balbin told MindaNews that it would take some time before his town could recover from the tragedy. (Keith Bacongco / MindaNews)