NEW BATAAN, Compostela Valley (MindaNews / 4 Jan) – “I miss my pupils,” a teary-eyed Lilia dela Cruz said on Thursday, supposedly the first day of classes after the holidays, and after super typhoon Pablo hit this place a month ago.
As of noontime Thursday, only 4 of Dela Cruz’s 50 Grade 4 pupils had reported to class at the Cabinuangan Central Elementary School.
The local government, however, has postponed the resumption of classes to Monday, January 7, as a precautionary measure as a low pressure area (LPA) hovered over Mindanao these past few days.
But since the suspension order came late and circulated only through text messages on Wednesday, some pupils still came to school on Thursday.
“I have no idea yet how many of them were hardly-hit by the typhoon since today is supposed to be the first time that I would see them again,” said the 60-year-old teacher.
Since the tragedy happened, she visited the school almost everyday. “Because I’m worried of my pupils, I don’t know what happened to them,” she added.
A portion of her classroom’s roof was blown away by the strong winds brought by the typhoon last December 4.
The town proper was swathed with knee-deep mud following the flashflood that was spawned by super typhoon Pablo.
Dela Cruz admitted that she also survived the flashflood that hit her house in Purok 1. “Only the roof of my house was visible after the flood,” she said. Furthermore, she was able to save only one of her uniforms.
Many of the houses in Purok 1, which is located north of the town proper, were washed away by the raging mud and water.
Dela Cruz said she is worried that some pupils may not be able to continue schooling due to trauma.
She added that she had spoke with one of the parents whose child is already traumatized by the flashflood.
“Some parents told me that their kids may no longer continue schooling because they would like to be with their parents all the time. The children are already scared even with a light rain,” said the teacher who has been living in New Bataan for 40 years.
Some families, particularly the farmers, have already moved to other places because they lost their livelihood. “Many are farmers whose land and crops were destroyed by the typhoon,” said Dela Cruz.
One of her pupils, she said, had already transferred to Nabunturan town, also in Compostela Valley province, because they fear that another flashflood could hit anytime.
Grade 3 teacher Araceli Ata told MindaNews that she had been asking her pupils regarding the whereabouts of their classmates after the flashflood.
Ata said she had already accounted 36 of her 40 pupils. “Some pupils have told me that they have seen their classmates queue for relief goods,” she added.
But on Thursday, only 10 of them reported to school, the teacher said.
Dela Cruz, meanwhile, has been asking around for the whereabouts of her pupil Rhealyn Flores, who lives in Barangay Andap. The village center was wiped out by the flashflood.
“I’m worried for her because we knew what happened in Andap,” she said as she wiped her tears again. Andap’s landscape has drastically changed since the flood – from being an agricultural land, a new river now runs through it, shaped by the waters brought by Pablo.
A month after the typhoon, Pablo survivors are now the ones removing the mud from the classrooms under the “Cash for Work” program of the government and non-government organizations. Some of them had to use power sprayer to remove the mud from furniture.
Most of the classrooms filled with mud are those beside the creek.
Dela Cruz recounted that her pupils were excited to hold their Christmas party.
“The pupils have already started to decorate our classroom, they were bringing some home-made lanterns,” she recalled.
The teacher also admitted that before the typhoon hit, she was already planning to process the pertinent papers for her retirement.
But when the flashflood hit, she may not be able to file her retirement this year.
“Aside from the fact that I lost all my government documents, I cannot think of it now because I’m worried of my students. Some of them are stubborn but I miss them,” said the teacher who has been in government service for 28 years. (Keith Bacongco / MindaNews)