Usman-affected families in Albay village wish for safe relocation site

ALBAY, Philippines – This school year, grade school students from families displaced  by Tropical Depression Usman have free school supplies – thanks to the donations they received since January.

The students include Cyril, a Grade 6 student at Maynonong Elementary School (MES) in Tiwi town. She said her parents did not have to buy her and her two grade school siblings notebooks, pens, papers, and bags for the school opening.

Grade 4 students Angel Pontalba and KC, as well as Grade 5 student Juvy Clapis also received school supplies because they too lost their homes during Usman.

Many of the donations were given at the evacuation centers where affected families stayed for the whole month of January, while some were given during Brigada Eskwela, said school principal Araceli Cerafica.Grade 4 students Angel Pontalba and KC, as well as Grade 5 student Juvy Clapis also received school supplies because they too lost their homes during Usman. 

GRADESCHOOLERS. Angel, KC, and Juvy are from families whose homes were totally washed out.u00a0Photo by Mavic Conde/Rappler

GRADESCHOOLERS. Angel, KC, and Juvy are from families whose homes were totally washed out.

u00a0Photo by Mavic Conde/Rappler

While they residents were grateful for all the help, they had one ultimate wish: a safe relocation site for them soon.

Barangay Maynonong experienced 12 landslides caused by heavy rains brought by   Usman in December 2018. Six people were killed while 3 were missing. A total of 25 families lost their homes, and many other families' houses were partially damaged.

Some 20 families were at risk due to ground cracks in the upper hill slopes at Purok 3, which  “are in the initial stage of developing into a full-blown landslide,” said the Mines And Geosciences Bureau (MGB).

Cerafica said despite the finding, relocation remained uncertain, so they are just asked to evacuate in case of bad weather. 

Landslide threats

With the identified ground cracks, the MGB recommended to relocate the entire barangay to a safer place. It also reiterated the recommendations it made based on assessments made in 2006 and 2011 – that the areas along the cut slopes of Tiwi-Sañgay road, and along the road-right of ways, be declared “no dwelling zones.” These are moderately to highly susceptible to landslides, said MGB. 

This knowledge has fueled the anxiety of barangay residents. The reminders of landslides around them didn’t help, either. 

“If there is a safe place for us, we are all ready to relocate,” said barangay captain Edwina Teves, adding that they still suffered from landslide-related trauma months after the incident.

Two residents suffered a stroke due to trauma. One had died while Angelina Echala, 70, was still recovering.

“There’s one time she urinated in her shorts when she heard the thunder,” said Tevez, who allowed Echala to  stay for the meantime at the Barangay Hall. 

With the rainy month of June, many residents spend the night staring at the steep slopes above, if not across, their homes. 

Help provided, individual efforts

Many of the affected students either lived in rebuilt homes  or moved in with relatives in the same barangay. 

SOLO PARENT. Elsa Bau00f1ares and her three sons in front of their newly built home.u00a0Photo by Mavic Conde/Rappler

SOLO PARENT. Elsa Bau00f1ares and her three sons in front of their newly built home.

u00a0Photo by Mavic Conde/Rappler

Cyril's family moved to the unoccupied house of their grandmother. Angel's house was repaired, while KC's was built in a different location. Juvy's house was under construction. Their fathers all have a work: one as a security guard, another was a road construction worker, while the other was farmer.

Edwina's mother also moved in with her two childless married children to tend to her Grade 4 grandchild, whose mother was already deceased.

Elsa Bañares, a single mother to 3 sons who were all in high school,  rebuilt her house on the same location through the P5,000 cash she got as member of the Catholic Social Action. She saved on labor cost because her estranged husband built it. 

Leticia Cuya, whose house was also destroyed, had just moved to her new house in a new location near the shore. Her daughter, Rochel Mendoza, said they were the last to move out of the evacuation center in MES.

“My mother’s boss lent her money so she can have a new house,” she said. 

She added that the cash aid her mother got from Social Action was used to buy durabox drawers. 

Another senior citizen in Purok 1 used the P3,500 cash she got from the Red Cross for house repairs. 

Landslide survivors Melita Consulta and her son enjoyed a new home through the help of a private individual. (READ: Buried and rescued: Tales of landslide survivors, rescuers in Albay)

GRATEFUL. Melita Consulta and her son Jason now have a new home.u00a0Photo by Mavic Conde/Rappler

GRATEFUL. Melita Consulta and her son Jason now have a new home.

u00a0Photo by Mavic Conde/Rappler

But a few families moved out for  safety reasons, among them, the Climacosa family whose 3 members remained missing after the Usman-triggered landslides. They lived with a relative in Barangay Sugod. 

On June 22, the municipal disaster risk reduction and management team will hold a hazard training for the residents.  The students, teachers, and residents look forward to it.

As they wait for that time when they could be relocated to a safer area, they would have to count on the skills and knowledge they would acquire in that training  to help them survive the next disaster.  – Rappler.com