Disaster becomes venue for community solidarity in Lumbayao

LUMBAYAO, Valencia City (MindaNews/08 July) – It’s 5p.m., time to prepare supper in the house. But instead of staying at home, Reynalda Siaroc, was at the common faucet in the village washing sliced meat.

It’s time to cook. Manang Reynalda smiled as she washed the meat and placed it in one basin to another. This had been her routine for the last four days. On July 7, the fourth and last day of the retrieval operations in the village for bodies believed to have been buried in the Monday landslide, she and two other women had to cook for at least 50 persons, including volunteers from the police, army, barangay and other groups.

In a shed, another group of women was preparing spices and vegetables, and in a makeshift dirty kitchen, other women had cooked rice and heated a big pan.

The men and women of Lumbayao had volunteered to do whatever they could to help make the retrieval and clearing operations easier, village chief Bobby Enabong said.

He was in the site to help in the ground operations while village councilors provided support services to the retrieval workers.

The men of the village were among the first to respond to the landslide, Enabong said.

A village councilor came to him minutes after the landslide to report on the number of people believed to have been buried in the soil that poured into the highway in Sitio Hangaron.

Enabong immediately called Capt. Alejandro Laruza, operations officer of the city’s Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council through his cellular phone. Another kagawad called Gov. Alex Calingasan. Soon, help from agencies and groups came.

While waiting for help, Enabong said they immediately went to the site, where they found some bodies. They used his pump boat and another one owned by the village to transport the bodies via the Pulangi River because the road was impassable.
Immediately, he said, they were able to organize the Bantay Bayan to assist people who survived and those stranded by the landslide.

When the rescuers and the search and recovery workers from various organizations arrived, the village teams stayed to provide support.
Barangay health workers and nutrition scholars cooked and served food to the retrieval workers and support teams deployed in the site.

“We are just lucky that the landslide took no one from the village,” Felicima Cabaluna said. She added that the volunteers just came and offered to help.
She said the village is home to relatives and friends to whom volunteer work is a form of thanksgiving. Many of the volunteers were also considered survivors as they were able to escape from the mud fall.

Rosita Diansing, however, had another worry. Her family of six plants corn and root crops in the upland area near the landslide.

“What will happen to our farm?” she asked although she said she would move out if asked by authorities to vacate the farm.

Reynalda Siaroc said they were only doing what they could because disaster struck their village and no one else could do it for them.
Enabong said the landslide took them by surprise. But he said they tried to respond with a positive attitude. He said they responded using barangay funds and donations.
He said foremost of their needs at the moment is a village-based rescue team so they will be better equipped to respond in case another disaster happens.

Mayor Leandro Jose Catarata praised the response of the villagers as a commendable and inspiring effort of a community in the midst of a disaster. (Walter I. Balane/MindaNews)