Soldiers used to typhoons shocked by ‘Pablo’s’ fury

NEW BATAAN, Compostela Valley (MindaNews/ 9 December) — “Maayo pa ang gyera sini kay makalikay pa, pero ining bagyo waay gid kami paadtuan (War is better because we can hide, but with typhoon there’s no way to go),” said Staff Sgt. Antonio Sodosta of the Army’s 66th Infantry Battalion.

The devastated headquarters of Army's 66th Infantry Battalion at the town proper of New Bataan. Mindanews Photo by Keith Bacongco
The devastated headquarters of Army’s 66th Infantry Battalion at the town proper of New Bataan. Mindanews Photo by Keith Bacongco

Sodosta, who was assigned in typhoon-prone Samar province for eight years, said he had never experienced such strong winds and seen such magnitude as the fury unleashed by Typhoon Pablo.

On December 5, the 40-year old soldier and his comrades suffered Pablo’s wrath while they were at their headquarters in the town proper here.

“Grabe ang hangin. Tapos perti kakusog sa tubig. Una gid namon gi-save ang amon mga pusil pero ang iban mga gamit nagkala-anod. Pero di namon ma biyaan amon mga kubo kay may mga importante na gamit” (The wind was terrible. The (rain)water was very strong. We first saved our guns but the other documents were swept away. We also did not leave our hut because there are important things),” said Sodosta, who hails from Tantangan, South Cotabato.

He recalled that rocks bigger than their heads hit them in the different parts of the body while holding on inside their huts.

The huts inside the Army Battalion’s base are made of light materials.

Several huts were totally damaged while many were still standing but partially damaged.

Two 105mm howitzers remained on their positions amid the strong water current. “Di na basta-basta maanod kay bug-at pa na sa 6×6 truck (That can’t easily be swept away because that’s heavier than a 6×6 truck),” Sodosta added.

He recalled that during his stint in Samar with a different battalion, they could still rest well inside their huts whenever a typhoon hits the island province.

“Pero ini nga bagyo, wala gid kalikay iban nga upod namon (But this typhoon was so strong that some of our comrades were swept away),” Sodosta said.

As of Friday, four solders were reported killed while five others remained missing after the flashflood hit their outpost in Barangay Andap.

Andap was the hardest-hit village here, its barangay proper totally wiped out.

While interviewing Sodosta, another Army sergeant arrived to have his lunch break before resuming the retrieval operations beside the nearby Catholic church.

Sgt. Anthony Mendez, from Pavia town of Iloilo, also told MindaNews that he has experienced typhoons when his unit was still in Iloilo.

But the magnitude of their wrath was not the same as Typhoon Pablo.

“Grabe gid kakusog hangin sang Martes, wala gid ko kaagi amo sini sang nagbagyo sa Iloilo (The wind was very strong last Tuesday. I haven’t experienced this kind of typhoon while in Iloilo),” he said referring to Typhoon Frank in 2008.

Moderate rains started to fall in this town again in the middle of the interview, prompting the soldiers to scamper back to their huts to place temporary cover on the holes of the roofs.

“Sa panahon sang kalamidad sundalo gid permi ga una bulig, pero karon, biktima man kami (In time of calamity, soldiers are the first to respond. But now we are also victims),” a more senior soldier told MindaNews. (Keith Bacongco / MindaNews)