Lumbayao folks turn disaster into heroic community work

LUMBAYAO, Valencia City – It’s 5p.m. and its time to prepare for supper in the house. But instead of staying at home, 62-year old Reynalda Siaroc, is at the common faucet in the village washing sliced meat.

It’s time to cook. Manang smiles as she washed the meat and placed it from one basin to another. This has been her routine for the last four days. On July 7, the fourth and the last day of the retrieval operations in the village in search of bodies believed to be buried in the Monday landslide, she and two other women have to cook for at least 50 persons, including volunteers from the police, army, barangay and others.

In a shed, another group of women are preparing spices and vegetables; in a makeshift dirty kitchen, other women have cooked rice and have heated a big pan.

The men and women of Lumbayao have volunteered to do whatever they can to help make the rescue, retrieval, and clearing operations left by the landslide easier, village chief Bobby Enabong said.

He has been on the site to help in the ground operations while village councilors did other tasks to provide support services to the landslide site workers.

The men of the village, were among the first to respond to the landslide, Enabong said.

A village councilor came to him minutes after the landslide reporting about the number of people believed to be covered in dirt in Sitio Hangaron.

Enabong immediately called Capt. Alejandro Laruza operations officer of the city’s disaster risk reduction and management council through his cellular phone. Another kagawad called Gov. Alex Calingasan. Soon, help from all sides came.

While waiting for help, Enabong said they immediately responded to the site, where they found the bodies reported. They used his pump boat and another owned by the village to transport the bodies via the Pulangi River because the road was impassable. Immediately, he said, they were able to organize the Bantay Bayan to assist people who survived and those stranded by the landslide.

When the rescuers and the search and recovery workers arrived from various organizations, the village teams stayed to provide support. The Barangay Health Workers helped in the provisions for the workers. The Barangay Nutrition Scholars formed a team to cook and serve food to the hundreds of workers and support teams deployed in the site.

“We are just lucky that the landslide took no one from the village,” Felicima Cabaluna, 32, said. She added that the volunteers just came to the common area and offered to do tasks.

She said the village is home to relatives and friends that their effort in volunteer work is a form of thanksgiving.  Many of the volunteers were also considered survivors as they were able to escape from the mud fall.

Rosita Diansing, 48, however has another worry. Her family of six farms corn and root crops in the upland area near the landslide.

“What will happen to our farm? She asked although she vowed to move out if asked by authorities to vacate the farm.

Reynalda Siaroc said they are only doing what they can because disaster struck their village and no one else could do it for them. Enabong said the landslide took them by surprise. But he said they tried to respond with the positive attitude. Using barangay funds and donations, Enabong said they were able to use local resources to respond.

He said foremost of their needs at the moment is a village-based rescue team so they will be better equipped to respond the next time around.

Mayor Leandro Jose Catarata praised the response of the villagers as a commendable and inspiring effort of a community in the midst of a disaster. (Walter I. Balane)


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