Kin of missing victims in Baungon torn between searching and grieving

LIBORAN, Baungon, Bukidnon (MindaNews/22 Dec) – Farmer Reynor Doluna, 53, could still not accept that his namesake son is gone. Five days after it happened, his family is still at a loss after he was told that his son was among 51 others who remained missing after flash floods brought by tropical storm Sendong ravaged the town.

Elders in the village have already initiated traditional prayers for the dead, now on the third night, for his son.

Reynor Doluna Sr., 53, shows the picture of his missing son Reynor Jr., who was carried away by rampaging flood waters in the Tumalaong River in Baungon, Bukidnon when typhoon Sendong wrought havoc in Northern Mindanao. MindaNews photo by Walter I. Balane“But I will resume the search tomorrow,” Doluna vowed. “I have to see the body of my son, we have to know,” he said in the vernacular.

His wife, he said, has been devastated over what happened and has always been crying these past few days, that’s why they will not give up the search yet.

“We are trapped in between. We need to find the body, but we need to deal with reality,” Doluna said after he went to the medical mission conducted by the Bukidnon provincial government in the village Wednesday.

Reynor, 23, the fifth of the Dolunas’ 10 children, went to a relative’s house late Friday afternoon in the next village by the bank of Tumalaong River to get a shirt that he left a day before. He was planning to use the shirt when applying for a construction work in Cagayan de Oro City by Saturday. “But he never came back, we lost him,” said his father.

Liboran villagers said during that night, they heard Tumalaong’s noise. “I heard what seemed like the smashing of logs and rocks along with the strong current of the water,” said Marjun Escalona, a motorcycle driver and Reynor’s friend.

Doluna has refused to fall in line for the Provincial Social Welfare and Development Office staff that were validating a list of victims and releasing food, kitchen and sleeping materials. In those lines, they need to tell social workers about what happened to them and kin.

“What will I tell them? I have no proof that my son is dead,” he said.

Doluna joined relatives of the other victims from Baungon in the search in funeral homes in Cagayan de Oro and even in the city’s dumpsite in Zayas, to no avail. After today’s search, he might just stop and deal with the grief.

He admitted that after his search on Thursday, he might stop and deal with their grief. “Tomorrow, when I go back to the dumpsite, I might be alone, I might be the last one going back.”

Doluna said aside from losing a son, the flood also damaged his vegetable garden, which was his main source of livelihood.

Kin of victims like him from the village and in other areas in Baungon, which is located upstream of the Cagayan de Oro River, also lament that fare to and from Cagayan de Oro City has doubled, making it even more difficult for them to continue the search.

Volunteers from Brgy. Lingating and neighboring villages take a 40-meter trip on a makeshift bamboo raft crossing the Tumaloang River in Baungon town in Bukidnon Wednesday (Dec. 21, 2011) to bring relief goods from the provincial government. Eleven bridges connecting the town to the rest of Bukidnon and Cagayan de Oro were destroyed by flashfloods brought by tropical storm Sendong. MindaNews photo by Walter I. Balane

As of Tuesday, the PSWDO declared about 39 confirmed dead and 116 still missing from Bukidnon. The provincial government has declared state of calamity in Baungon and three other towns.

Baungon was declared isolated on the day of the flash floods after 11 bridges and spillways were washed out. On Tuesday, officials said one route was reopened. This was good news for those who have vehicles even if it is for a longer route.

But for passengers like Doluna, who need to travel to Cagayan de Oro to continue their search for bodies of relatives, going to the city is becoming another tragedy. Emily Pacuño, 37, said that from Liboran to Cagayan de Oro the fare used to be only P40 on a passenger van. After the tragedy, the fare has doubled to P80.

“This is taking advantage of the poor even at our lowest state,” she said, hoping that the fare would go back to normal. Her cousin Nelgelyn Palma, 28, was one of those who died. Her body was found in Opol, Misamis Oriental.

But they are still searching for those of Palma’s husband Jose and daughter Angie.

Pacuño said they are grieving for a relative and have continued their search for the others.

The flashfloods destroyed the Cabula Bridge so passengers from Liboran have to get off in Maasin, cross the Cagayan River using pump boats, and take another van from Maasin to CDO. But van operators charge P40 up to Maasin and another P40 for the trip to the city. She said this has become an added burden to relatives who ply the route to search for the victims’ bodies.

Search operations continue in Baungon town, too. In Imbatug village, Victor Estillore, from Agusan Canyon in Manolo Fortich town, have twice visited Sitio Cabli, along the Bubunawan River near the facility of Cagayan de Oro Electric Power and Light Company (CEPALCO).

His son, Mark, worked as an engineer in the plant. On the eve of the flashfloods, Mark told him there was flood but they were safe. He also inquired about their situation at home and promised to join his family for Christmas as December 24 was his day off. That was the last thing Estillore heard from his son.

On December 17 they have searched for his body in the riverside area where the employees’ quarters used to stand. He has also searched Cagayan de Oro’s funeral homes and coastline. But they were not lucky.

“We will continue to search wherever possible. We will do what we can to find him,” he added.

On December 21, he returned to Cabli with relatives and the aid of two sniffing dogs, one of them Mark’s pet.

“Maybe his dog will find him, maybe he will show up this time,” he added. (Walter I. Balane / MindaNews)