Helpless against nature: Valencia rural folks on the quakes

CABANUANGAN, Valencia City (Bukidnon News/9 November) 73-year old
Fabio Concha still couldn’t believe what happened.

He saved only 200 of the 5,000 heads in his seven fish ponds mostly of
tilapia, catfish, and prawn. The ponds were drained by a crack in the
surface caused by the earthquake here Monday, swallowing water and
some of the fishes. The rest were left losing oxygen.

Because it happened early evening, he found only the spoiled fish
stocks when he got to the farm in the dark.

“I tried to save much of it but it was too late,” he said as he worked
on repairing the ponds the day after. Concha, among 90 others, also
lost his house to cracks brought by the 5.2 magnitude tremor.

The next day, the City Agriculture Office (CAO) reported that even the
200 heads left for the fish farmer, have expired, too.

Nora Esteban, CAO supervising agriculturist, said the city
government’s five-pond hatchery adjacent to Concha’s and fish ponds of
three of their recipients were not spared by the quake, considered by
city officials as the worst that hit them for years.

Mayor Leandro Jose Catarata named Cabanuangan or Purok 18 as the area
worst hit in the city.

A civil engineer, the mayor has proposed a relocation of the residents
in selected villages because it is possibly located over a fault line.
But he admitted he needed the official assessment of the Philippine
Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs).

The quake left cracks in portions of commercial buildings, hospitals,
and even government buildings in Valencia’s city proper.  The City
Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Center still could not release
estimates of losses to structures.

But a team from the council who on Nov. 8 to 9 assessed the damage to
structures found the worse in the villages.

As of Wednesday, there were 91 concrete houses already, which were
either totally or partially damaged. By “totally damaged,” building
inspectors meant those with collapsed walls and other parts or “will
collapse” in the next quake.  They added that these houses were no
longer livable and had to be vacated. As of Tuesday, 21 houses were
classified as “totally damaged”.

Engr. Stephen Noveno said most of those houses used substandard
materials, like smaller diameter of steel bars to lock hollow blocks.

The Provincial Social Welfare and Development Office as of Tuesday
estimated about 1,100 persons were directly affected by the quake.
About 14 of the 31 persons injured were confined in hospitals.

Juanita Javier, city social welfare and development officer, said the
city and provincial governments are prepared in terms of funds
available.

“But we lacked personnel and mobility to validate quickly the damage
and the needs of those affected before we could release official
assistance,” she said.

The provincial board of Bukidnon, on motion of board member Ranulfo
Pepito from Valencia City, has called Phivolcs officials in Region 10
to the Sangguniang Panlalawigan to elaborate on its explanation that
it was a quake brought by tectonic movement, not by volcanic activity.

He said quakes of the same magnitude and frequency occurred in
Valencia about 40 years ago.

“What happened now? Why has it returned” he asked.

Also in Cabanuangan, the quake also left the newly constructed Sto.
Rosario Chapel finished only in October with cracks in its pavements,
including those in the elevated part in the altar. Major repairs have
to be made, said Village councilman Rodrigo Rosal, whose family raised
funds to build the church.

The teachers at the nearby 250-pupil Cabanuangan Elementary School
lamented the damage in the school. By 2p.m. the rooms were empty as
classes were suspended when parents and pupils were afraid of reports
of possible repeat tremors.

Teacher Naomi Ara showed the 1.25 meter diameter hole in the upper
side part of the front wall in the Grade III classroom.

“It was too strong that it left cracks in most of the classrooms. We
don’t know if we can still hold classes inside,” she added.

She admitted that the quake took its toll among the children. She
cited the Alculars, whose children used to study in the school.

The family’s house in Purok 20 is among the worst destroyed in the village.

“It was so sudden, there was no time to run,” said Analie Alcular,
mother of three, who was preparing dinner in the kitchen when the
quake occurred.

The walls and columns collapsed. She saw her three children hurt by
the debris. They had to vacate the house, stay outside in the dark and
rainy evening before relatives were able to bring them to a hospital.

Hannah, 8, had the worst injury. She was squatting on the floor
playing jackstone when land shook. She sustained a closed fracture at
the right thigh bone. Doctors said she has to be operated and possibly
installed with steel support.

Her nine-year old brother, Charles, was wounded at the left front side
of the forehead. He had blood clotting at his left eye. He was
prescribed to undergo Computed Tomography scan (CT scan) in Malaybalay
City after experiencing seizures and vomiting. Davencliede, 12, also
sustained a wound at the right side of his head.

Even with the wreck, the children already wanted to go home fearing
another round of quakes, Alcular said.

Efifania Cagampang, a neighbor of the Alculars, also had a hard time
breaking the news to his son in law who was in Gingoog City when the
quakes hit. Two walls of his house collapsed.

“The quake was a destroyer. We were helpless at the instant. We can’t
beat nature,” she said.

In Purok 17, Elisa Balaba, a 42-year old widow with four children, was
traumatized. They were eating when the quake occurred. She rushed to
save one of her four children from a falling door. She got multiple
injuries from her back down to her foot. She managed to get medical
attention only Tuesday afternoon when the assessment team offered to
bring her to the hospital.

“It caught us by surprise. I had to attend to my children first,” she
said. Rubble filled the Balaba’s house.

There were others who were just grateful for escaping danger.

After showing the damage in her house, Nanay Villarosa, of Purok 17,
also displayed her rice pot deformed by debris. She said it’s a
blessing the quake left no one dead.

Her neighbor, Dodong, also wanted inspectors to check his wooden house
even it was not damaged. Others had to run after the team because
their houses were supposedly excluded. One more resident thought the
team would hand aid right after assessment.

An elderly neighbor of the Jardinicos, one of the damaged houses in
Purok 17, said she exclaimed out of fear when the earth moved.

The same quakes have been observed in Valencia in the 1970s, she
recalled.  She said the dogs barked as people tried to walk out of
their houses to flee danger.

“I was so afraid that night. I forgot how I exactly reacted. Aside
from fear, it was also raining, and it was dark,” said Manang Linda,
who explained her reaction.

But Charmaigne Grace Aringo, 17, said she could not forget the quake.
Pregnant for nine months, she was expecting to bear a child this week.

“When the quake occurred I was so full of fear. I wanted to scream
hard. But I was speechless,” she added.

When she was able to manage to scream it was for another reason. She
delivered a daughter minutes after the quake. She plans to name her
daughter “Lyndell” after “lindol.”

At least, she added, “my baby was born despite my fear.” (Walter I.
Balane with reports from Hazel Generalao/Bukidnon News)

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