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.

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