A month after Typhoon Sendong swept away homes, killed thousands and dislocated tens of thousands in Northern Mindanao, survivors plea for decent relocation.
By MARILOU AGUIRRE-TUBURAN
CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY — “All we want is a home of our own,” newly married Melody Ann Abarabar, 20, said while fixing their 5×7 feet makeshift tent in Tibasak, village of Macasandig.
Abarabar is among the 87,485 survivors of the deadly Typhoon Sendong which swept away the entire community along the riverbank of Kalakala River last December 16. Temporarily cramped in a tiny tent, Abarabar pines for the day when she and her husband could finally live on a relocation site earlier promised by local authorities to evacuees like them.
Residents affected by the flash floods brought by typhoon Sendong badly need a decent housing. So badly, in fact, that a father of three committed suicide when his family was excluded in the first batch to be relocated at the Tent City, a relocation site provided by the local government in Calaanan, village of Canitoan in this city.
But Calaanan, a sub-village 15 kilometers from downtown Cagayan, is prone to flooding, Edgar Dogalario, 50, told Davao Today. “We wished for a safe place,” he said.
More than 400 donated shelter box tents that serve as temporary shelters for the evacuees are currently propped up in the three-hectare relocation site provided by the local government. These tents — complete with cooking utilities, purified water, water containers, water purifier tablets, mosquito nets and blankets — can accommodate a family of 10.
“The problem with Calaanan, as my friends who had lived there told me, is that it’s prone to landslide. It’s a dangerous place especially when there are heavy rains and floods,” Sesenio Gultiano, 58, told Davao Today.
“Aside from that, our livelihood would be far from the downtown area,” he added.
“The people are not interested in transferring there (Calaanan) because it’s far from their source of livelihood and there are no schools, markets and facilities within the vicinity,” Francisco Pagayaman, secretary general of the urban poor group Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap (Kadamay)-Northern Mindanao, said. “Many evacuees have wanted to transfer but not in Calaanan,” he said.
Kadamay scored the city Mayor Vicente ‘Dongkoy’ Emano for ignoring the inhuman conditions of the evacuees and the urban poor. Pagayaman said “Emano has no concrete program for the urban poor settlers.”
Pagayaman added that what happened in the city “should serve as a wake-up call for the government to address the demands of the urban poor.”
The affected people need immediate financial assistance, Pagayaman said, “so they can buy what they need.”
So far, nobody has given the typhoon victims cash assistance. “More than anything else, they also need ong-term assistance— that is, housing, in a safe and secure place,” he said.
Before the flashfloods Abarabar, one of the evacuees, worked as a saleslady. In the scamper for their lives, they failed to salvage anything, not even personal documents. Her husband, who works as a welder in one of the biggest malls in the city, would have to strive to sustain their needs. But he only earns about P 160- P200 $3.66 t0 $4.58) a day. Her P 130 ($2.98) daily income as a saleslady could have at least made them breathe easier in these times.
In region 10, the family living wage is pegged at P818 ($18.74) while the minimum wage is pegged at P271 to P286 ($6.20 to $6.55) for the non-agriculture sector and PhP259 to P274 ($5.93 to $6.28) for the agriculture sector.
For Dogalario, a house is what his family needs more than anything else. While he is very thankful that they have been receiving help through relief missions, having a home of their own in a safer place is way much better.
Dogalario has six children. His daily income of P150 to 300 ($3.44 to $6.87) from vending fruits is not enough to sustain their needs. His wife does not have a stable job and while most of his children can work, they only get contractual jobs.
“The government has only focused on providing us immediate aid. It has not peered into our real situation,” Dogalario lamented. His family temporarily lives in a makeshift tent — relatively bigger than the Abarabar’s — beside the covered court in Tibasak.
Another evacuee, Roy Navarro, 33, suffered trauma and depression after the tragedy. Their exclusion in the list of evacuees to be relocated aggravated his condition and led him to commit suicide in City Central Elementary School on January 6.
While many wanted to transfer in a safer area, Feliza Pabellaran, 63, asked for enough assistance to repair her family’s house that had been only partially damaged.
“I don’t want to stay long in the evacuation center,” she said. Her family lives in Tambo, Macasandig; they have stayed in City Central Elementary School after the flashflood. All of their nine cows had died after being wept away by the flash flood. Nothing was left of their belongings but a few plates.
“Financial assistance is what we need most so we can buy materials to fix our house. We will immediately return there once it’s fixed,” she said. Her family does not plan to relocate.
Like Pabellaran, Gultiano also pled for financial assistance. His house was swept by the flashflood. “It would have been better if we’ could rebuild our house. The thing we need most right now is relocation and if possible, a house where we can sleep and take a rest,” he said.
Gultiano is a tricycle driver, married with five children, three of whom are already married. Only two of his children live with him. Nothing was left of their belongings. Even the tricycle he has been renting was also swept away. His net income of P300 to P400 ($6.87 to $9.16) from driving part-time could have helped his family. But without his tricycle, “I don’t know how we can rise above this situation,” he said. (Marilou Aguirre-Tuburan/davaotoday.com)