MAKILALA PUBLIC CEMETERY, North Cotabato (MindaNews / 01 November)
There are no flowers on most of the tombs in this cemetery that would have been teeming with relatives paying respects to their departed loved ones on All Saints Day.
Few candles have been lit, too.
For the first time in 25 years of selling candles and snacks at the Makilala Public Cemetery on the first two days of November (All Saints Day on November 1 and All Souls Day on November 2), vendor Risa Delfino says this is the first November 1 that is “mingaw” (lonely/deserted).
“Tungod ni sa linog” (This is because of the earthquakes), adds Delfino.
Residents are still reeling from the effects of four destructive earthquakes in a span of two weeks, thousands of them rendered homeless and jobless.
In previous years, recalls the 46-year old Delfino, there would always be a huge crowd and half of her candles would have been sold by 2 p.m.
This year, she purchased 2,000 candles of various sizes, in early October, before the first of what would be a series of four earthquakes above Magnitude 6, happened.
As of 2:15 p.m. Friday, Delfino, who works as a motorcycle driver ferrying passengers, sold only 175. There were too few customers to buy candles, crackers, chips and softdrinks.
When MindaNews arrived at the cemetery at around 2 p.m., there were only two vehicles parked on the road. There was no police checkpoint, and no designated entry and exit points. Two policemen were seen resting nearby.
Where families used to visit together, there was only one. All together, MindaNews saw in half an hour only one family lighting candles, and less than 10 other individual visitors. At one point, there were more vendors than visitors.
Except for the family of four, the others stayed only a few minutes to offer the flowers, light candles, pray, then left.
Near Delfino’s makeshift stall, Alvin Llagas also waited for customers.
Llagas, who makes a living out of fashioning used tires into garden pots, has been selling cutflowers every November 1 and 2 at the cemetery for five years now. Like Delfino, Llagas lives in Barangay New Cebu, a few meters away.
Last year, he purchased seven kilos of cutflowers to sell. This year, he said, he bought only three and his pail of chrysanthemums and anthuriums was still full. He hopes a few more visitors would come on All Souls Day to make a sale.
Flower vendors along the national highway in Makilala told MIndaNews on Thursday afternoon that there were too few buyers. They said they had no choice but to sell the anthuriums and chrysanthemums at discounted prices — a hundred pesos for a bunch of several dozens of red anthuriums and 250 pesos for a similar bunch of chrysanthemums.
Residents of Makilala and neighboring areas have experienced four earthquakes in succession, all above Magnitude 6, within 15 days from October 16 to October 31.
Just as residents were starting to recover from the Magnitude 6.3 quake on October 16, they were shaken by yet another temblor on October 29, with an even higher magnitude – M6.6 at 9:04 am and M6.1 less than two hours later. Two days later, on October 31, M6.5.
In Makilala’s 38 barangays, six have been reported killed and eight others missing as of 8 a.m. Friday, according to municipal administrator Sheryl Orbita.
Orbita said late Friday afternoon that they were still consolidating reports on the number of evacuees as residents from hinterland villages fled their areas following the October 31 Magnitude 6.5 earthquake that triggered landslides and in some areas, totally destroyed what were earlier classified as partially destroyed.
Thousands of residents have pitched tents in school grounds or on the side of the road, a number of them putting up makeshift signages appealing for food, water, medicines and ‘trapal’ to be used for tents.
One appeal written on plywood ripped from a collapsed house in Sitio Lambac, Barangay Malasila and placed at the center of the highway begged passersby “Kaluy-i mi” (Have mercy on us). (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)