CATEEL, Davao Oriental (MindaNews/12 December) — Hungry, angry and desperate, residents of Barangay San Antonio barricaded Tuesday morning a portion of the Cateel-Baganga highway to stop trucks bearing relief goods, claiming the last time they received food assistance was Thursday last week.
About a hundred survivors of this village at the boundary with Baganga town not only blocked one lane of the highway with wood and other debris but closed in on vehicles, particularly trucks carrying relief goods. MindaNews saw the crowd blocking a truck at around 9:50 a.m. Tuesday, demanding relief assistance apparently bound for Baganga.
Erlyn Alcontin and a group of women near the barricade explained the last time they received food packs from government was on Thursday. But the pack consisted of only two kilos rice, two tins of sardines and two packs of noodle soup.
Someone from the crowd said they received another food pack from a Born Again group last Saturday, consisting of the same goods.
“Asa man ang gobyerno?” (Where is government?), they asked.
When MindaNews returned to the area at 1:40 p.m., the roadblock was gone and the crowd had returned to their makeshift tents or their damaged houses.
Jun Butalid, one of those who joined the barricade earlier in the morning said they stopped the blockade around noon when food packs from the Department of Interior and Local Governments arrived.
Butalid said the relief goods from the DILG were the same as previous assistance: two kilos of rice, two tins of sardines and two packs of noodles.
While their stomachs are full, they will not resort to barricading the highway, he said.
Along the road from Baganga to Cateel, one will not miss this message written on white chalk on a scrap plywood on the roadside of Barangay San Antonio: “Help us: we need food, medicine, tent.”
Barangay San Antonio in Cateel and its neighbor, Barangay Ban-ao in Baganga, were the hardest hit when Typhoon Pablo made landfall early morning of December 4, killing several of their neighbors and destroying not only houses but also their livelihood.
Farmer Arsenio Ferando, 65, told MindaNews that when the sun was up the day after the storm, they dried the wet rice and cooked it even if it smelled foul and his grandchild complained it was not rice.
Since food assistance could not be relied on, he had slaughtered five of his remaining chickens. From out of about 30 heads before Pablo came, only about ten survived, five of which had been slaughtered.
Ferando lost to Typhoon Pablo some 300 coconut trees he planted 20 years ago but would plant coconut again and while waiting for them to bear fruit said he would plant camote, banana and camoteng kahoy (cassava).
Coconuts take from six to seven years to bear fruit but Baganga Vice Mayor Arturo Monday, the acting mayor and head of the Incident Command Post, told MindaNews on Tuesday that “it takes ten to 12 years for the coconuts to bear fruits
Farmer Rodel Solinon of Barangay Saoquegue in Baganga, told MindaNews while awaiting his turn to have his container filled with drinking water from an Army truck that he tried to set out to sea to fish but “lahi ang baho sa isda” (the smell of the fish is different).
In Cateel’s town center, MindaNews chanced upon residents running towards a truck distributing relief goods near the Cateel Central Elementary School Tuesday afternoon.
In Baganga, Lt. Col. Krishnamurti Mortela, chief of the 67th Infantry Battalion said they initiated setting up feeding stations on Monday to alleviate the situation in Barangays Saoquege and Central.
Feeding stations were also set up in Boston and Cateel towns on Wednesday.
“Pantawid gutom lang yun. They were fed lugaw (porridge),” saidMajor Jake Obligado of the Civil Military Operations.
In Boston town on Tuesday, children stood on the side of the highway, extending their hands as motorists passed, begging assistance in cash or kind. Four days earlier, on Friday, no one was seen begging along the highway in Boston.
But as early as December 5, children extending their hands to beg for assistance were already seen along the Davao-Agusan highway, particularly in Montevista and Monkayo towns in Compostela Valley as early as the day after the storm.
Humanitarian agencies as well as well-meaning groups willing to send help to the survivors of Typhoon Pablo in Compostela Valley and Davao Oriental are being urged to proceed to the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) in Panacan for coordination, to avoid being stopped – or stoned – along the way.
The vehicles moving out of the DWPH are escorted by soldiers.
A team from Davao del Sur wanting to deliver 200 food packs in Montevista town in Compostela Valley where they coordinated with a religious order, had to stop for a quick meeting in Davao City Wednesday morning to assess if they should proceed to Montevista, 100 kilometers away, given the reports of survivors blocking the road.
A team member told MindaNews they also received text messages that vehicles carrying relief goods passing through areas hit by the typhoon are being stoned if they do not stop.
The team was advised to proceed to DPWH but after assessing the choices, opted to risk the travel to Montevista to personally deliver the goods there.
“Kulang pagsalig sa government” (There is little faith in government), the team member said. (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)