DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 23 Jan) – “If we only have a choice, we don’t want to live here.”
This is the common sentiment of those living at the flood-prone Jade Valley Homes in Barangay Tigatto here.
Jade Valley Homes sits beside the Davao river, which overflows when strong rains come, thus flooding the communities along its banks.
Romeo Amistad is aware that the subdivision where he lives is prone to flooding, even before he decided to buy a house at the place. But since he had no other place to move in, he admitted that his family assumed a foreclosed property at the subdivision four years ago through the Home Development Mutual Fund (HDMF, or Pag-IBIG).
“We were looking for an affordable house, so we chose this place,” he said.
Amistad, who used to live with his in-laws in the Ecoland area, said it was his son, a call center agent in the city, who acquired the property.
They learned that the previous owner was disheartened by the frequent flooding and eventually stopped paying the monthly amortization.
Amistad said his son Weng now pays the monthly amortization of P2,300.
“We were told by the real estate agent that the flood will never happen again,” Amistad said. “But what happened on Sunday, according to our neighbors, was even worse than the flood in 2002,” the puppy vendor lamented.
The Amistad house is 10 meters away from the edge of the riverbank. There is yet another house closer to the river, but it was abandoned by the owner two years ago because of the frequent flooding.
Over the danger level
Last Sunday’s flood did not only submerge the houses close to the river, but even those as far as a kilometer away.
Yet another Jade Valley resident, Berly Bautista, said that he too assumed the house. The previous owners, relatives of the Bautista family, moved to another place after the flood in 2002.
The Bautista home is much farther from the riverbank, around 300 meters away. They, too, admitted they were aware of the flooding in the past. “But we have no other place to go, ” said Bautista.
In one of the concrete posts, his relatives left a mark about five feet high, which reads: “Danger level.”
“That means if the floodwater would almost reach that mark, we should evacuate,” he said while scraping the mud from the pavement at the gate.
The flood on Sunday, Bautista added, was higher by almost a foot than in 2002. Residents of Jade Valley Homes told MindaNews that floodwaters in 2002 reached as high as five feet.
On Saturday evening, Davao’s Central 911 already issued a warning to those living along the banks of the Davao River that water level may rise due to heavy rains.
But when the water rose to chest level, many of the residents were trapped on roofs or in the second floor of their houses. Forced evacuation started around midnight that Saturday.
The morning after, the Army, Central 911, police and rescue volunteers used jet skis and rubber boats to rescue those who were trapped.
The City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (CDRRMC) reported that some 2,000 families or about 40,000 persons from 15 barangays were affected by the floods.
Worst than 2002
Bonifacio Gustosani Jr., 50, said Sunday’s flood was the worst he has experienced. Born and raised in Tigatto, he said the Davao River has been overflowing even before the subdivision was built.
His house is about 80 meters away from the river, but still, they were not able to save their belongings, including appliances, because the water rose too fast. They had to run to higher ground, to the highway, which is 50 meters away.
Rowena Padogdog, in her mid 40s, also failed to save her belongings. She said that after the big flood in 2002, there were floods every year, but only up to the knees. When the water rose chest level on Saturday evening, they sought refuge in the second floor of their neighbor’s house.
But amid the frequent flooding, Padogdog said they will not leave Jade Valley Homes since they have nowhere else to go. “We have no choice but to stay,” she said.
By dawn of Monday, floodwaters started to recede, residents said. But some parts of the subdivision remain flooded with knee-deep waters.
Like Padogdog, Amistad is also left with no choice but to stay.
But he added that if the city government will decide to relocate them, he would be willing to accept it.
“But if not, we will just stay here,” Amistad said. (Keith Bacongco / MindaNews)