Krusada: Cagayan De Oro, 7 months after Sendong

Posted at 07/28/12 12:22 AM

Karen Davila returns to Cagayan de Oro City to check on the victims of typhoon Sendong and see how they have so far recovered from the calamity that struck the city seven months ago.

A week before Christmas 2011, the entire nation was shocked to see the extent of devastation and to learn the harrowing tales of tragedy wrought by typhoon Sendong to our kababayans in the cities of Cagayan de Oro and Iligan in Northern Mindanao. 

We wept and mourned with the victims and their loved ones as images of their loss and sufferings flashed before our TV screens. More than a thousand perished, and millions' worth of properties and agriculture were damaged. But nothing will compare to the pain and agony of those who lost family members to the massive floods.

It has been almost seven months since Sendong; the media proceeded to cover other big news including disasters of lesser scale while the rest of us have probably moved on with our lives and our own concerns and worries. But do we remember the victims of Sendong and how they are coping half a year since the one event that changed their lives forever?

Have they "moved on"?

Karen Davila revisited Cagayan de Oro, the very city she covered right after the aftermath of Sendong, to know how the victims of the typhoon are coping.

Hundreds of families left homeless by the typhoon are still cramming in tent cities, which serve as their temporary shelters, and have to suffer from extreme heat under the sun and flood waters sometimes seeping through their tents.

Many of them complain of the terrible heat in their temporary tent shelters; and how far from ideal their situation is.

In Tent City 2 located in Sitio Calaanan, Barangay Canitoan, for instance, they suffer during day time because of the heat but when it rains, they also suffer as water inevitably enters their tents. It is only one of the four tent cities in Cagayan de Oro.

All 200 families share four public restrooms while in Tent City 2.

Tent City tenants

How temporary is “temporary”?

One of the survivors, Ethel Sala, lives with her husband and six children in a tent. She says they could not move on with their lives and find jobs because they could not leave their tents unattended.

While the disaster financially incapacitated her family, it also left them psychological traumatized and constantly terrified.

“Our lives will only become normal again when we have a proper home where my children can sleep soundly. Sendong has scared us so much that we’re frightened and can’t sleep when it rains hard,” said Ethel.

Dabs Liban, community worker of Habitat for Humanity, says that immediately after Sendong, they found the victims looking extremely distressed in tent cities and informal sites where they were evacuated.

“They were really traumatized. In fact, a few weeks later, there was already a suicide case,” he said.

Seven months after the disaster, many victims are have yet to cope. John Paul Barsopia, Tent City 2 resident and member of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP), believes that having no home to finally settle in exacerbates the stress of the residents.

John Paul also claims that proper procedures regarding house grants are not being observed.

Habitat for Humanity

Sendong took away not only Rosalina Absin’s home, but also all of her three children. Her grief-stricken husband is yet to fully cope with the loss; but Rosalina is determined to move forward and live a new life with her unborn child.

After the tragedy, she and her husband were accepted in her relatives’ home. But in the first week of July, they finally transferred into their new house courtesy of the national government and Habitat for Humanity.

A total of 6,000 houses were established by the government and Habitat for Humanity in Cagayan de Oro. The P500 million donation of San Miguel Corporation was split equally between Habitat for Humanity’s housing project in Cagayan and Gawad Kalinga in Iligan.

Charlie Ayco, President of Habitat for Humanity Philippines, says that 12 houses are finished by the non-government organization daily.

After six months, 3,000 quadruplex houses have already been constructed. In April, 1,600 houses have been completed and turned over to its new owners.

Charlie clarifies that quadruplex houses were built instead of the ideal single-detached houses because it is the “fastest, cheapest but durable” housing for the residents of Cagayan de Oro.

Despite building thousands of homes, Charlie believes that while many are still dwelling in tent cities, they could still do better and they should still work harder.

“This is not ideal yet. If it happened that it was my children or relatives that are still in evacuation centers, that won’t be acceptable. That’s how I think of it. That’s how I measure it. But is this a quick disaster response? I think this is the fastest I’ve seen so far!”

Air date: July 12, 2012