Stronger Cagayan in the face of disaster

Samuel Macagba Iii
With the memory of Typhoon "Sendong" still fresh in their minds, residents of Cagayan de Oro City have become stronger and more prepared for any natural calamity


CAGAYAN DE ORO, Philippines – Earlier this week, one of the talked about topics in various social media was Typhoon “Pablo.”

The news of Pablo’s arrival brought back painful memories of “Sendong,” which struck in December 2011. It reignited feelings of fear, stress, and anxiety about having to experience another storm all over again.

The events of last year made the citizens of Cagayan de Oro (CDO) more vigilant this year. Citizens became more alert and more responsive. Complacent residents of Cagayan, for example, rushed to the grocery and hardware stores to get the things that they needed for the duration of the storm. 

Most of the hotels and pension houses, especially those far from the flooded areas, were fully booked. Houses of relatives, friends, and co-workers in higher areas of CDO were occupied for several days.

Even before Pablo came to the city, various institutions – like schools and malls – started to accept evacuees from danger zones, showing the importance of employing precautionary and preemptive measures.

FATHER AND CHILD. Evacuees rest at Xavier University-Ateneo de Cagayan in Cagayan de Oro City. Photo by Sam Macagba

To take any risk was not an option this time. In fact, the actions of Kagay-anons were more planned and certain. Perhaps that desire to be secure and safe motivated them to correct some of the mistakes that were made before. 

After experiencing that tragic loss of people and properties, they were more driven to survive another chapter of their lives and the city’s history.

Offers of help

A lot of Kagay-anons expressed their desire to help. People from various ages became more involved in something more than a piece of the corner of their own world.

Student leaders, both in college and high school, volunteered and slept in evacuation areas. Xavier High School alone housed at least 700 evacuees the first night Pablo struck. Administrators and employees of institutions managed outreach efforts. Even those who preferred to stay at home willingly expressed their desire to help out by asking assistance from various government agencies and corporate entities through social media, or by updating other members of the community about the latest events of other members of the group.  

SAFE HAVEN. Xavier University-Ateneo de Cagayan serves as a temporary evacuation center for 700 evacuees at the height of Typhoon "Pablo" in Cagayan de Oro City. Photo by Sam Macagba

All in all, response to typhoon Pablo was more systematic, organized and faster than before. This is probably why the “zero casualty” goal became a reality. There was a more conscious effort to respond and to act responsibly for the welfare of other people. The loss experienced in Sendong made the city stronger as residents realized the importance of working together and having a common cause.

Indeed, this city has proven true the mantra, “What does not kill you will only make you stronger.” CDO is now ready to move on and continue with the rebuilding process. –

Sam is a teacher of Xavier University High School-Ateneo de Cagayan. He also works as the coordinator of the Office for Student Activities and Student Involvement.

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