Defying destruction: Christmas in Cateel

By Andrew Jonathan S. Bagaoisan

After Pablo Log 3

St. James the Apostle Parish in Cateel, Davao Oriental at night - Christmas 2012 with Christmas tree (Shot by Mel Estallo)

CATEEL, DAVAO ORIENTAL (Dec. 25)– The brightest lights around did not shine when this town welcomed Christmas.

The temporary generator powering the parish’s tree of Christmas lights along with Cateel’s rebuilt street lamps had broken down a few days earlier.

With the streets dark, the St. James Church had to call off the customary Misa de Aginaldo.

But the night before Christmas was not silent in the town plaza.

It actually seemed more like New Year’s Eve. The plaza rang with jolting pops and blasts every other minute as children set off small firecrackers to the ground. Some squealed and ran away as the pellets went off.

The town’s youth lounged around the still-littered plaza, taking advantage of the first dry night in days.

Other kids played with soldiers from Davao City who had camped out at the plaza after they responded to the onslaught of Typhoon Pablo.

Children in Cateel plaza playing with firecrackers on Christmas eve 2012 (Shots by Bernie Mallari & Anjo Bagaoisan)

(Shots by Bernie Mallari & Anjo Bagaoisan)

The soldiers have been here for nearly a month, and they only found out days before they would spend Christmas here.

They only hold on to the prospect that they’ll be back at their base by December 31st.

Nearby, some police officers celebrated in the dark over drinks. They blared pop songs from their patrol car and shone their flashlights onto some of the kids who danced along.

Still, duty called for some of the police, who stood guard at a checkpoint.

Mixed commemorations

Our news team here had just finished live reports for TV Patrol and Bandila, where Niko Baua reported that not all families in Cateel would get relief packs from the social welfare department in time for Christmas dinner.

The team was also nearing the one-month mark out of town. They were among the first to meet the storm as it reached the east coast in Leyte, then moved here.

Some cooks on the team tried their best to whip up some dishes: some ham, canned fruit salad, and spaghetti. Just for a familiar taste of Christmas without family.

Before midnight, Niko and reporter Rodney Ray Salas of ABS-CBN RNG Davao went around with their crews to find how residents in other parts of town were spending Noche Buena.

Continue reading



By Andrew Jonathan S. Bagaoisan

After Pablo Log 2

View of Baganga town in Davao Oriental after it was struck by Typhoon Pablo (Shot by Chiara Zambrano)

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.

Continue reading

After Pablo: Desolate

By Andrew Jonathan S. Bagaoisan

Felled trees by Chiara

CATEEL, DAVAO ORIENTAL–It is a scene straight from a post-apocalyptic movie.

Fallen tree trunks, mostly coconut palms, line up the hills like scattered matchsticks mysteriously leaning in a single direction.

The trees left standing are no better and hardly alive. Their leaves are twisted and splayed in that same direction–the track of strong winds brought by Typhoon Pablo (internationally, Bopha).

The remaining palm leaves can be called lucky. The other trees are barren, shook of their leaves.

Everywhere you turn on the roads of Davao Oriental is evidence of the wrath that passed through Mindanao.

Road to Cateel carnage by Anjo

The analogies do not end as you approach the coastal town of Cateel (pronounced kati-EEL).

With trees out of the way, all you see is carnage.

Houses crushed or overturned like cardboard, their contents spilled or exposed. Fields of banana saplings abruptly stunted in growth. Piles of twisted metal where covered courts or towers once stood.

A van is stopped as it traverses this succession of desolation.

Cateel near tree fall by Mel

Meters in front, two men hack axes at a leafless two-storey-tall tree. A rope encircles the dead trunk as a group of men wait to pull it down.

The van waits for the fall, its passengers getting off to the stinging heat of the late morning sun.

Past the fallen tree, the van reaches the town’s plaza. Or at least what’s left of it.

Our reporter Chiara Zambrano describes it on TV: “It was as if someone lifted the entire town up and then dropped it.”

Continue reading