Pablo survivor: From Andap to another village, a new life, new family

NEW BATAAN, Compostela Valley (Mindnews/ 02 November) – Bonifacio Casag carried a small black bag as he passed by the San Roque chapel on his way to the marker of the dead and the missing or “Victims’ Wall” on Saturday morning, All Saints Day.

He was accompanied by a woman carrying a baby girl.

Casag’s first wife, Merly , 32 and four-year old son, John Mar nicknamed Jimboy, were separated from him when the debris flow of mud, water, tree trunks, houses, rocks and boulders swept across several villages including Purok 17, where they lived.

Farmer Bonifacio Casag lights candles at the "Victims' Wall" in Barangay Andap, New Bataan, Compostela Valley province  on Saturday, Nov. 1, 2014, in memory of his wife, son, mother and sibling who perished during Typhoon Pablo on December 4, 2014. MindaNews photo by Toto Lozano
Farmer Bonifacio Casag lights candles at the “Victims’ Wall” in Barangay Andap, New Bataan, Compostela Valley province on Saturday, Nov. 1, 2014, in memory of his wife, son, mother and sibling who perished during Typhoon Pablo on December 4, 2014. MindaNews photo by Toto Lozano

“Abi gani nako patay na ko” ( I thought I was dead), the 37-year old farmer told MindaNews. Casag lost his wife and son, mother and a sibling on December 4, 2012, when super typhoon Pablo came to forever change Andap’s landscape and the residents’ lives.

Farmer Casag left Andap for Monkayo town in February 2013. From there he moved to Panag, Barangay Camanlangan, New Bataan late last year where he continues to farm and where he resides with his new family – his 23-year old wife Griselda and two-month old baby Vanessa.

As he retrieved three white candles from his black bag, Casag said he opted to leave Andap because “sakit kaayo” (it’s so painful).

He returned here for only one reason: to pay respects to his dearly departed.

After handing over the bag to his wife, Casag walked to the “Victims’ Wall” where the list of the dead and the missing were handpainted.

He was not the first visitor here. Flowers had been offered and candles lit by those who came much earlier.

Casag lit his three candles and offered prayers.

Farmer Bonifacio Casag, 37,  left Barangay Andap, New Bataan last year for another village where he continues to farm and where he now resides with his new family - his wife Griselda, 23, and two-month old Vanessa. MindaNews photo by Carolyn O. Arguillas
Farmer Bonifacio Casag, 37, left Barangay Andap, New Bataan last year for another village where he continues to farm and where he now resides with his new family – his wife Griselda, 23, and two-month old Vanessa The two other children in the photo are residents of Barnngay Andap.. MindaNews photo by Carolyn O. Arguillas

Griselda and Vanessa stayed on the roadside where he left them.

On the “Victims’ Wall,” under “Yangkatbug” (Missing) are the names of Merly, Jimboy and his name.

“Abi nila patay na ko. Gipapapas nako” (They thought I was dead. I had my name deleted), he said. Although a white coating was painted over “Casag, Bonifacio,” viewers can still read his name.

Minutes later, the Casag family was seen walking past the chapel they passed earlier, Bonifacio carrying Vanessa, Griselda holding the umbrella they shared.

The chapel itself looks new. The façade has been changed, its floor now tiled, the interiors painted in white. The wall behind the chapel is the same. The only reminder of Pablo is that portion of the old ceiling which residents opened and climbed into, to seek refuge.

It was from this chapel’s ceiling early morning of Tuesday, December 4, 2012 where residents witnessed the horrors and heard the screams of neighbors and relatives whose houses were swept away by the debris flow.

The chapel was the last remaining functioning structure on the right side of the road. The rest of the structures of the poblacion — houses, barangay hall, health center, elementary school, resorts, the highway to Maragusan town as well as trees and farmlands – were buried under what the Mines and Geo-Sciences regional bureau estimated as five-meter (16.4 feet) deep debris of rocks and boulders, stretching about a kilometer wide and flowing all the way down to Barangay Cogonon some 10 kilometers away.

Barangay Andap was the hardest hit among the areas struck by Pablo and had the most number of dead and missing – at least 430 out of the 612 killed in Compostela Valley province. According to the records of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, Pablo claimed the lives of 1,067 persons in eight regions nationwide. (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)

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