‘Pablo,’ Christmas and celebrating life

Karlos Manlupig
Despite being left with almost nothing, residents of Cateel and Baganga in Davao Oriental will celebrate Christmas through prayers and thanksgiving

CELEBRATE LIFE. Residents of Davao Oriental are eager to celebrate Christmas with or without food on their tables. Photo by Karlos Manlupig

BAGANGA, Davao Oriental – Displaced and deprived of their livelihood after Typhoon Pablo pummeled Davao Oriental, residents of the towns of Cateel and Baganga have nothing to offer except prayers for Christmas Eve. 

Taking refuge in the roofless classroom of Grade 5 Section Masipag in San Antonio Elementary School in Cateel, two families are planning to celebrate Christmas by simply praying together. 

53-year-old Edwina Masidog, mother to 8 children, said they have all the reason to celebrate life this Christmas.

“Even if we have lost our homes and properties, we should celebrate the birth of Christ by expressing our gratitude that we are still alive,” Masidog said.

The room, which was temporarily covered by a tarp, is drenched from the rainshowers caused  by a low pressure area, but Masidog said this would not dampen their optimism.

“Unlike our previous Christmas celebrations, this year’s celebration would be quiet but will be filled with prayers to seek help and guidance. Christmas will symbolize our faith that we will be able to stand again on our feet,” Masidog said.

“It is possible that we will have no food on our tables for Noche Buena. Rations are going low. But this is nothing. We are even planning to have parlor games for the children. We can overcome this disaster,” Masidog said.

18-year-old Jason Gonzales of Barangay Ban-ao in Baganga said that Christmas must be celebrated despite their sad conditions. 

TEMPORARY HOME. 18-year-old Jason Gonzales tries to fix a temporary shelter after Pablo ripped through their home. Photo by Karlos Manlupig

Standing on the spot where their chapel used to stand, Gonzales is trying to fix what was left of the structure, which he said, should be a symbol of hope for the residents in his coastal village.

“Hopefully we will have a new chapel in our village because this will serve as a sign for the people to unite and work together to rebuild our lives. I believe that we can recover faster if we will unite. And this would be the best way for us to remember the birth of Christ,” Gonzales said.

UNBROKEN FAITH. This is where a chapel used to stand. Residents are hopeful they will be able to rebuild it. Photo by Karlos Manlupig

Survivors

Gonzales, his mother, stepfather and 8 siblings were able to survive Typhoon Pablo when they transferred from one structure to another.

“It was chaos. Roofs and wood were flying everywhere. I even saw a structure that was burning tumbling destroying everything in its path. All that I was thinking that time was to make sure that my younger brothers and sisters are safe,” Gonzales narrated.

He added that the last structure where they took shelter was a classroom.

“We thought we were already safe until the entire roof was blown away. All that we heard was a loud bang and the walls started to fall at us. Luckily we were able to hide under a long and sturdy table. We were very lucky,” Gonzales said.

REFUGE. Without a roof, what used to be a classroom provides temporary shelter to residents who survived Typhoon Pablo. Photo by Karlos Manlupig

Like the rest of the residents in their town, the Gonzales family will be missing pansit, adobo and buko salad for Noche Buena.

“We will definitely celebrate Christmas with or without food on our tables. We can still make this Christmas happy for us. But we are thinking of roasting our remaining chicken,” Gonzales said.

He added that like the previous Christmas celebrations, they will still visit their relatives and neighbors on Christmas day.

“This is just a passing experience. We should strengthen our faith and double our efforts to recover,” Gonzales said. – Rappler.com


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