After Pablo

Patricia Evangelista, John Javellana

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After everything, the story is about a world that has fallen apart. The center will not hold on its own, not now and not for a very long time.

LIFELESS. A village in Bangaga, Davao Oriental. Photo by John Javellana

DAVAO ORIENTAL, Philippines – This is the story of Pablo, of the many small towns from Andap to Kinablangan. There were warnings of a storm, but very few knew what it meant. When the wind began whipping, those who could ran to schools and gyms and high ground, many of those who died were killed on the way, or crushed under the rubble of evacuation centers that were also built by men who had never seen storms.

There is old man Egido, who stands on the side of the road, smoking his last Marlboro, staring at the coconut trees he cannot harvest. In Andap, a field of rocks is all that is left of the Charlie Company detachment, the 27-year-old man pretends not to cry when he recites the names of his 7 dead, and is wracked by guilt when he speaks of the sergeant whose hand he was clutching slipped in the flashfloods. In New Bataan, there is a young man named Dante digging through bodies, looking for 18 of his family who disappeared when he was in Davao. Maybe he is there still, haunting the funeral parlors and sitting beside unmarked graves. All he wants, he says, is a body to bury.

It is a story so huge it is difficult to grasp. There are families who refuse to admit that “missing” may now mean dead more than a month after Typhoon Pablo. There are mothers who receive bags of rotten rice and cook them anyway, there is electioneering and politicking, but there are also teachers who teach classes in muddy slippers and pristine uniforms inside classrooms without roofs. There are questions of sustainability, of diminishing aid, of changing weather patterns, of livelihoods lost and fields and fields of coconuts that will take months to clear and 7 years to grow.

There is no grand solution, no saviors or messiahs, no single agency to blame. After everything, the story is about a world that has fallen apart. The center will not hold on its own, not now and not for a very long time. It’s like a dropped bomb, an Armageddon of sorts. Survival is accidental, and those who are alive now, face lives so far removed from what they were yesterday. Some are hopeful, some broken, some just trying to keep going. It is an impossible story to grasp, and one whose ending depends on those who are willing to imagine. –

(Video by John Javellana & Patricia Evangelista. Score by Malek Lopez. Rappler thanks Erwin Romulo, Malek Lopez and Erik Matti for the use of this track, initially released as scoring for Erik Matti’s 2012 film Rigodon). 

After Pablo:

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