After Bohol quake: Worry, recovery

Bea Cupin
Worry. That's the emotion prevalent in affected Bohol towns. But people try to find a sense of normalcy

A BELL WITHOUT A BELFRY. The bell of the San Vicente Parish Church in Maribojoc, Bohol lies among the church's ruins, 20 October 2013. Photo by Franz Lopez/Rappler

TAGBILARAN CITY, Philippines — Songs are sung and prayers are said. But the church bells do not toll.

It’s Sunday morning, October 20, in the capital city of Bohol, where only 6 days ago, a magnitude 7.2 earthquake struck, affecting large parts of the province.

The city’s St Joseph Cathedral, unlike many others in Bohol and nearby Cebu province, is intact. But cracks in the building make it unsafe to enter so mass is held right beside the church, under a tarpaulin roof.

Here, people try to find a sense of normalcy, despite the aftershocks that are a rude reminder of what happened on October 15.

Inside a fast food joint, someone accidentally drops a huge pan. The reaction is instantaneous — people are jumpy, the mood is tense. “Ambi nako’g linog nasad,” says one customer (I thought it was another earthquake.)

Tagbilaran’s department stores and commercial complexes are open, banks have since reopened, and transportation is back to normal. Some families camp out in the city’s evacuation centers, but most are back in their homes, most now bearing cracks from the quake.

It’s a different story in other Bohol municipalities affected by the quake.

A province of tents

In most towns, residents camp outside of their homes or in open fields, afraid to go back to their homes because of the aftershocks. Old buildings are a wreck and churches are in ruins.

Diri Flores, a resident of an island barangay in Calape, was out at sea when the quake struck. “Murag gisayaw ang isla,” he told Rappler. (It was like the island was dancing.)

Nearly all families from his community fled from the island via pump boat in fear of a tsunami. The sea receded and within a few minutes, came gushing back, surprising residents who were already trying to board their boats.

Sink holes started forming along the barangay’s sandy shore. It was like nothing they had ever seen in their lives.

More than 160 families moved to mainland Calape, except for the senior citizens who stayed behind. By Friday night, only around 99 families stayed behind. By Saturday, only 60 families from the barangay were staying in Calape’s poblacion.

Diri and his wife, Isabel, said they have no plans of going back to their homes any time soon. “Bahala na among mga balay ug gamit, basta safe mi,” Isabel, who evacuated with only the clothes on her back, said. (We don’t care about our house and things anymore as long as we’re safe.)

Her 5-year-old daughter, Isabel said, is showing signs of trauma from the quake and its aftershocks. “Ug milinog, muhilak nalang sa niya, unya mushagit nga ‘mama, naa nasa’y boo,'” she said. (When there’s a quake, she’ll start crying and she’ll scream: mama, there’s another quake!)

Food, safety

In the town of Clarin, an entire barangay is now uninhabitable after the quake. Barangay Bonbon residents, like Calape’s evacuees, stay in makeshift tents pitched in the town’s open spaces.

It’s not perfect but it will do, residents say, although they do worry over basic necessities — what they will eat or drink when the relief goods run out. The other day, packs were given out to families but these were barely enough to feed a family of four.

Health issues are slowly becoming a concern in Bohol’s municipalities. Community centers and hospitals buildings are still inhabitable after the quake. Doctors and nurses instead set up makeshift wards outside the hospital itself.

There, work continues — from stitching up the chin of an adventurous child to delivering babies. In one health center in Clarin town, medical staff has made 3 deliveries in a day.

Diarrhea is also starting to become a worry in Clarin as potable water is still in short supply. Dr. RJ Demandante, Clarin’s municipal health officer, says the town’s usual water source has long been questionable, with cases of E. coli bacteria.

Demandante says while she has a supply of diarrhea medicine, it might not be enough to meet the demands of a disaster situation. “Nahadlok ko’g mahutdan ko,” she said. (I’m worried I’ll run out of medicine.)

Worry — that’s the emotion prevalent in affected Bohol towns. They worry about food, the communities they leave behind, the aftershocks that don’t seem to end, and the lives that they will have to rebuild. – Rappler.com

Bea Cupin

Bea is a senior multimedia reporter who covers national politics. She's been a journalist since 2011 and has written about Congress, the national police, and the Liberal Party for Rappler.