In the town where ‘Pablo’ made landfall, children list wishes for 2013

BAGANGA, Davao Oriental (MindaNews/29 December)- The children here noisily flocked together on chairs or any flat surface to draw on pieces of white paper what they wanted for the coming year 2013.

Many of the children drew houses.

WISH LIST. Children gather around their wish list of what they want for the New Year 2013 in Barangay Banao in Baganga town in Davao Oriental on Dec. 27, 2012. MindaNews photo by Froilan Gallardo
WISH LIST. Children gather around their wish list of what they want for the New Year 2013 in Barangay Banao in Baganga town in Davao Oriental on Dec. 27, 2012. MindaNews photo by Froilan Gallardo

Some used colorful clay to form a school or a church that once stood in Barangay Banao in this town before Typhoon Pablo (international name Bopha) destroyed them early this month.

On Thursday and Friday, the oversized tent was a beehive of activity as the children scampered from one chair to another until it was time for them to each come up the makeshift stage and tell what they draw and why

A seven-year-old girl, Em-em, stood and told the small crowd, “ Gidrawing nako amo balay sa una. Maayo unta if naa mi bag-o balay kay wala naman ako katul-gan karon. Salin man mi sa bagyo (I draw our old house. I hope we have a new one because we do not have a house anymore. We are survivors of the typhoon).”

Others followed Em-em to the stage and one by one, revealed their dreams for the New Year: a new house, a new school and a new chapel.

“Gusto nako naa mi bag-o eskwelahan nga naa bag-o nga flag (I wish we’ll have a new school with a new flag),” says Junjun, 7, a grade one student at the Banao Elementary School, which was destroyed by Typhoon Pablo.

Barangay Banao, one of town’s 17 villages, was hit hard by the typhoon when it struck eastern Mindanao three weeks ago.

Pablo made landfall in this town at 4:45 a.m. December 4.

According to Banao barangay chair Mera Adlawan Ching, Pablo leveled their school, barangay hall and a makeshift stage, and almost all of the houses of the village’s 520 families.

Ching said that 17 residents died on the night the typhoon struck their village, including two of her relatives.

“Seven died in our barangay covered court where they sought refuge. The winds were so strong that we just hugged the ground to survive,” Ching narrated.

When daylight came, Ching said their village, famous for its white sand beach and a small white island, was obliterated.

Wood debris and fallen coconut trees littered the national highway that links Baganga to the nearby town of Cateel.

The dead also littered the village: two bodies inside the Banao Elementary School; seven bodies under the collapsed barangay covered court; while the rest were pinned under wooden houses that were shattered to pieces by Pablo’s deadly winds.

“There were only a few of us who were able to stand and look after the dead. It took hours before we can retrieve everyone,” Ching said.

Em-em showed visitors where she and her sister hide—under a sink of the concrete one-story barangay hall that collapsed too after the covered court crumpled to the ground.

“There! My sister and me hide under that sink when the entire roof of the barangay hall fell on us. I was hit by a concrete stone, but it was nothing. My classmate died there,” Em-em pointed at the crumpled steel covered court beside the ruins of the barangay hall.

Em-em also showed this reporter where another schoolmate died, inside one of the classrooms at the Banao Elementary School.

“There, that is where she died. Maybe their family thought they were safe here in the school,” Em-em pointed at a small corner of a ruined classroom.

Mona Lisa Pangan, of Xavier University Chapel Ministries, who was part of the team who conducted the psychosocial processing of Banao’s children, said she was glad that Em-em had no trouble narrating her ordeal to total strangers.

“That means Em-em is resilient and was able to bounce back immediately. We also found the same attitude with the other children,” Pangan said.

She said many children have drawn images of houses, their school and chapel—an indication that they wanted to get their lives back to normal again.

The elder residents are a different matter, however. Pangan said many of them are still dazed and troubled of their uncertain future.

Pangan said the next three months will be critical for the residents of Barangay Banao.

Pangan’s team processed a total of 70 children last December 27, and she said they will furnish a copy of their findings to Gail Ilagan of the Ateneo de Davao University psychology department. (Froilan Gallardo/MindaNews)