In Cateel, typhoon survivors start anew, hope for prosperity

CATEEL, Davao Oriental (MindaNews / 4 Jan) – Resilience is eminent among town people as they slowly restore their lives back to normal from the devastations of typhoon “Pablo” and welcome the New Year with rekindled hope for prosperity.

Amid fallen trees, bald mountains, ruined structures and scattered debris Pablo had left behind, some people were seen clearing the roads and rebuilding their homes or putting up shanties.

Farmers were plowing the fields with carabaos or hand tractors, while others were planting rice.

Some rice paddies have been flooded from the rainfall brought by the low pressure area on Wednesday.

A lodging house, stores selling assorted products, gasoline station and barbershop, among others, are all back to business in the Poblacion area as well as in nearby Baganga and Boston towns.

Chylie Tindugan, 21, a mother of two sons aged 3 and 2, said in an interview Thursday that her partner, Christian Agujetas, 22, has gone back to his job of planting rice for P300 a day.

She said they do not have many plans for this year but only to continue working, especially like them who do not own a land to till.

“We have to work hard in getting back to our feet,” she said in Cebuano, while queuing to charge her mobile phone at the gate of the St. James the Apostle church facing the ruins of the municipal hall and park.

Luisito Alvizo, 20, a resident of Sitio Tianay in Barangay Aragon who volunteered Thursday in distributing relief goods at the municipal center, said they have to start restoring their lives from scratch.

He said he and his family have lost everything, including their falcata and coconut trees, adding that he planned to go back to his old job in Mangagoy, Bislig City in Surigao del Sur.

Doing errand jobs for his employer in Mangagoy, Alvizo said he is earning P2,500 a month, which he thought would be enough to survive from the losses.

Among his plans for this year is to bring his fiancée, Jennifer Agujetas, 21, to Mangagoy or help her find a work abroad as she has attained a college education.

Jennifer told MindaNews she was in third year college taking up business administration at the Davao Oriental State College of Science and Technology in Mati City before the typhoon came.

She could not go back to school anymore after losing all their properties to Pablo, she said, adding that she might apply for a job in Qatar as a cashier or any position that requires her skills.

‘We didn’t listen’

Alvizo recalled that they did not listen to weather advisories before Pablo hit the town last December 4.

“If only we listened to reports of the incoming typhoon, there wouldn’t be many deaths,” he said. “We’ve trusted the Lord. We were hearing masses always but who would expect such typhoon when we didn’t have any experience before?” he added.

In the dawn of December 4, the town folk had been looking at the sea to observe the waves, he said.

It was only at the time when they saw the waves rise to unprecedented heights and heard their loud splashes that they began evacuating to nearby places they thought were safe, he explained.

“The wind was so strong I felt like being slapped in the face. There was even sand in the wind,” Jennifer said, looking pensively at the municipal hall.

“There was blood flowing inside the municipal hall. Some graves in the cemetery were destroyed,” she said, pointing at the direction of the public cemetery not far from the municipal hall.

Alvizo added that a child has been missing since that day who might be dead by now.

Despite their horrifying and sad stories, the people, including children walking home from school on Thursday afternoon, are now smiling. Each of the children was carrying a plastic envelope with a notebook and pencil inside. (Lorie Ann A. Cascaro / MindaNews)