By Andrew Jonathan S. Bagaoisan
After Pablo Log 2
BAGANGA, DAVAO ORIENTAL–They’ve never experienced anything like it.
Old-timers here say the last storm of this scale passed them in 1912.
For a century after, the town of Baganga (pronounced ba-GANG-ga) and its neighbors breezed through warnings of strong gales and signal 3 typhoons.
Then came Pablo.
The warnings this time to prepare or leave were hardly heeded by some. They thought it would be just like the previous ones, where nothing happened.
Pablo passed, but it carried away with it their homes, their food, their livelihood, and for a number, their loved ones and their future.
The sight of children signaling vehicles with palms outstretched is growing familiar to those travelling the roads of this region.
At other roadsides, families and neighbors who lost their homes huddle under makeshift shacks of torn iron roofing, plastic tarp, or banana leaves.
Some have brandished signs saying “Donation pls.” or “Tabang”, the local word for “Help”.
With the civilized world waiting in bated breath for the “end” of the world, their cares tug more at the gut to even worry about it.
They have no choice but to beg, what with relief reaching them scant or relief centers a long walk away.
Sure, help has been arriving–the greater number already a week after the typhoon. But the shocked state of local government in the aftermath hampered early efforts to aid those still alive.
When anchorman Noli De Castro and his news team dropped by Baganga, they were met at the municipal hall by hungry and angry residents wondering where all the relief was going.
They heard some had arrived, but it apparently had not gone to them.
As their calls were heard, more help came in. And now, organizations like ABS-CBN Sagip Kapamilya are still raising funds and marshalling donations for the victims of Pablo.
For those who saved their lives and a little more of their belongings, the bigger problem is sustaining them for the long-term.
Their only options: fight or flight.
Baganga is separated by nearly an hour’s drive from Davao Oriental’s oldest town Cateel.
The scenery in this coastal town is no different. Few buildings left unscathed, the roads littered with fallen tree branches, the trees themselves marred into grotesque visages from a horror movie.
The bigger portends of Baganga’s unsure fate are the fields of fallen coconut palms and banana plants, sources of livelihood for many.
The years it would take to start over are too staggering–ten years to produce coconuts and five for banana plants.
Agriculture officials say they plan to start farmers meantime on corn, which will reap them crops more quickly.
Locals confronted with the numbers only wonder if they can wait that long.
With few pieces left to pick up, people are scrambling to salvage what they can still sell.
The roads are lined with rows of coconuts being dried into copra. Fuel is the only remaining use for old coconuts thrown down by the storm.
After this last stock, copra producers are not sure where they’ll get their raw materials next. Or if they’ll keep on with copra.
Some surviving stalls in town try to keep business as usual. Mostly sari-sari stores, they display packets that outlasted the weather or were bought from a well-stocked store kilometers away.
It’s somewhat easier for businesses that meet more immediate needs, like a purified water station along one street, which still has customers coming back for refills.
Across it is a run-down Petron gas station, its roof and its sign blown off.
Its owner says the station had just been opened and blessed a few weeks back. Now it services no vehicles other than those of a TV crew looking for an open space to park and set up their broadcast equipment.
Better off in the fuel trade for now are small roadside stands that sell gasoline in soft drink bottles.
For other businesses selling less-urgent wares, it’s better to open shop even in the midst of rubble than risk earning nothing. Among them, an animal feeds and a hardware store.
Yet not all are gambling on a better future here in Pablo’s aftermath.
Some have already packed their bags, convinced that none among Baganga, Cateel, or the nearby towns can get back on its feet.