CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews / 24 December) — Christmas has finally arrived in the relocation site for survivors of the December 16-17, 2011 tropical storm Sendong in Barangay Indahag, an upland village ten kilometers east of this city.
Pio Rellibo, president of Phase 1 Indahag Relocation Center said Christmas has finally come to their village two years after they moved here.
Rellibo said they spent a full year after Sendong, living miserable lives in tent cities before they were finally resettled here in Barangay Indahag by non-government organizations (NGOs) and the local government.
“We now have a Christmas tree contest, caroling contest and even Misa de Gallo was celebrated here. We are finally enjoying the spirit of Christmas,” Rellibo said
He credited the NGOs and the city government for providing the village with electricity; cemented roads and water supply where there was none before.
He said they can finally light the Christmas trees in their homes, enjoy the village parties on their well-paved roads and not worry where to get safe water.
“I can say these developments have helped us to move on,” Rellibo said.
In one row of small houses, Peter Edrote, another survivor, chatted with his neighbors who are making rags that peddlers buy in bulk to sell in downtown Cagayan de Oro.
Edrote said many of his neighbors availed of soft loans to buy sewing machines to make the colorful rags, a popular item among those driving vehicles. He said his neighbors earn P150 to P200 a day making these rags.
“I earn commissions by bringing the peddlers and buyers,” he said.
Similar livelihood projects have also sprouted in other relocation sites in barangays Lumbia, Calaanan and Pagatpat, this city as survivors try to get back on their feet.
Even stories of the ghosts in Sitio Cala-Cala, where an entire village was wiped out, have receded from the survivors’ collective memory.
Saturnino Sembrano, a caretaker, said visits from story seekers about the ghosts have become few and far between.
“I seldom have visitors now asking about the ghosts or the dead. People have forgotten about the lost village. Even the ghosts no longer linger here,” Sembrano who takes care of the only house left standing, said.
Sitio Cala-cala was where a low-cost housing village of 600 houses once stood. A wall of floodwater triggered by Sendong inundated the entire village killing many of its residents.
Sembrano maintains that stories about ghosts – those residents who didn’t survive Sendong — were true and haunted the place.
“For a year after Sendong, the ghosts kept coming back. There were mothers or fathers seeking their children. I saw them.. Now they are gone,” Sembrano said.
“Maybe they have found what they were looking for,” he added. (Froilan O. Gallardo / MindaNews)