Posts Tagged ‘Northern Mindanao’

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Community Floods

January 6, 2009

Rain had been pelting in Iligan for several days before last Saturday night. I usually don’t care about the weather as long as I am safe inside the house and tucked in for the night. I just hide under my blanket and pillows if it’s too cold, or have my electric fan running all night if it’s too hot. That night, however, I sensed a strange nudging that reminded me about the families assigned to my care in the Tambacan community. I then made a quick prayer, “Lord, protect my families in the community. In Jesus’ name. Amen,” then quickly retreated to sleep.
I only learned later the next day that a tragedy had occurred while I slept. The light rains in Iligan had heavy counterparts in the mountains. Water from these mountains fed rivers and streams, which poured down the city. It was about 3am in the morning when they overflew; and flooded the towns of Bayug, Manuang, and Tambacan.
About 7,840 families were displaced totaling to some 38,674 persons in Northern Mindanao. Cagayan de Oro bore the brunt in terms of property damage and persons affected.
Yesterday, a classmate mentioned that most of the families left their houses during the flash flood. Some of them slept on the highways as the evacuation centers had not yet been opened. Some of these families were also expecting aid from the ones who regularly went to them for “survey”*. A visit to the Barangay Captain** made the situation bleaker, he mentioned that our community was the hardest hit. So it was no wonder that I was prepared for the worst when I stepped inside the community.
Mud paved the dirt road to my families. Children scampered as they played. Well meaning folks told us to go the other way as the usual short cuts were too mushy for stepping. People stared at us as some of us ventured wearing clean, all-white apparel in an environment that stands as a stain reservoir. In short; except for the increased mud volume, the community was just as it was when we left it for the Christmas break. It seemed that the houses were already looking their normal selves, despite the fact that many of them had water reaching their residents’ shoulders 3 days ago.
I went to my families, and was relieved to find that their housing complex still stood strong. Despite the fact that their houses were just beside the river, they were among the few in the area were no water even managed to reach their doors.
They mentioned that the water level in the river rose to the height of the dyke, and was a few inches to their doors. Fortunately, the river stopped rising, and their houses were saved from flood damage.
The same, however, cannot be said for those living below the dyke level. A break*** in the dyke caused water to flow to what should have been protected areas.
As I returned to my classmate’s car, I thanked God for protecting my families. I also prayed that He continue to watch over the community as it seeks to rise from their recent ordeal. I could see that they are hardy enough to withstand future calamities. If only they were given the necessary boosts from the city and from landowners…

*That would be us, medical students.
** The barangay is the basic unit of the Philippine government. It is headed by the barangay captain.
***Residents blame the break on someone with the family name Lluch won’t allow the city government to build a dyke on the land. Either the city government is not offering enough compensation, or the landowner is asking for too much. Yet it is the people who suffer in such battles.

Sources:
1. Flashfloods hit Iligan City villages
2. Arroyo orders quick aid for flash flood victims in Mindanao
3. Heavy rains, flash floods mark start of New Year
4. Arroyo to visit flood victims in north Mindanao

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A Cross in the Road Part 1

May 27, 2008

Drive around the streets of Northern Mindanao* and you may find wooden crosses supported by rocks.
These are not shrines to obscure Catholic saints nor are they remnants of the Stations of the Cross displayed during the Holy Week. These are in fact analogous to gravestones, except that there are no bodies under them. They only mark the places where someone was killed directly or indirectly**.
These crosses, however, do not just have a memorial function. They also have a spiritual function. They are said to prevent the appearance of a San Telmo, a ghostly fire that is said to form from blood. Filipino folklore and even some** eyewitnesses, if they could be believed, say the San Telmo looks like a floating fireball. Although San Telmo can be literally translated to English as St. Elmo’s Fire, its use in Filipino vocabulary bears no resemblance to that weather phenomenon. Instead, it bears more resemblance or it could be the same thing as the Will O’ the Wisp.
These crosses are rarely removed from the road. Some of them may stand on the site of violence for days, of which the responsibility of removing them was left to nature. Others, which are placed in sites of heavy traffic are routinely removed. The general rule for removing these crosses seem to be, “The longer it is there, the better everything will be.”
After all who would want to do a legitimate but almost sacrilegious act of dismantling a cross? Who would want to remove its memorial function for onlookers and spiritual function against the San Telmo?

*I am not sure if this kind of cross can be seen in other parts of the Philippines. I never saw one when I was in Luzon or even Cebu.
**One credible witness said he saw a San Telmo while their bus got stranded near a mountain. He and the other passengers saw a flame descend from the mountain in record time. The flame went to the road, and they saw that it was in the shape of three men, two of whom were carrying the apparently injured third man.