Kin of missing victims in Baungon: we’re torn between searching and grieving

LIBORAN, Baungon, Bukidnon (Bukidnon News/22 December 2011) Farmer Reynor Doluna, 53, still could not accept that his namesake son is gone. He said five days after it happened, his family is still at a loss after he was told that his son was among 52 others who remained missing after flash floods brought by tropical storm Sendong ravaged the town.

He said the elders in the village have already initiated traditional prayers for the dead, now on the third night, for his son.

“But I will resume the search tomorrow. I have to see the body of my son, we have to know,” he said in  the vernacular.

He is worried about his wife who was devastated about what happened that’s why they will not give up yet. He said she always cried.

“We are trapped in between. We need to find the body, but we need to deal with reality,” he said after he went to the medical mission conducted by the Bukidnon provincial government in the village Wednesday.

Reynor, 23, went to a relative’s house late Friday afternoon in the next village by the bank of Tumalaong River. He said his son wanted to get a shirt he left a day before, which he need to use to apply for a construction work in Cagayan de Oro by Saturday.

“But he never came back, we lost him,” he added.

Liboran villagers said that night, they heard Tumalaong’s noise. “I heard what seemed like smashing of logs and rocks along with the strong current of water,” Marjun Escalona, motorcycle driver and a friend of Reynor, said.

Doluna has refused to fall in line for the Provincial Social Welfare and Development Office staff that were validating a list of victims and releasing food, kitchen and sleeping materials. In those lines, they need to tell social workers about what happened to them and kin.

“What will I tell them? I have no proof that my son is dead,” he added.  Reynor was the 5th of the Dolunas’ 10 children.

Together with some relatives of victims from Baungon, he joined the search in funeral homes and even in the city’s dumpsite in Zayas.  Four days of search, he did not find Reynor’s body.

He admitted that after his search on Thursday, he might stop and deal with their grief. Everyday, he added, the number of relatives who go to the city decrease.
“Tomorrow, when I go back to the dumpsite, I might be alone, I might be the last one going back,” he added.

Doluna said aside from losing a son, the flood also damaged his vegetable garden, which was his main source of livelihood.

But for him, it’s nothing compared to the pain of losing and the elusive search for the body of his son.

Kin of victims like him from the village and in other villages of Baungon, upstream of the Cagayan de Oro River, also lament that fare to and from the city have doubled making it even more difficult for them to continue the search.

Baungon town was declared isolated on the day of the flash floods after 11 bridges and spillways were washed out. On Tuesday, officials said one route was reopened. This was good news for those who have vehicles even if it is for a longer route.

But for passengers like Doluna, who need to travel to Cagayan de Oro to continue their search for bodies of relatives, going to the city is becoming another tragedy.
Emily Pacuño, 37, said from Liboran to Cagayan de Oro it used to be only P40 for a passenger van. Now, after the tragedy, the fare has doubled to P80 one way.

“This is taking advantage of the poor even at our lowest state,” she said, adding, she only wanted the fares to go back to normal. The increase in fares takes its toll even for those who do not travel. (See related story).

Pacuño’s cousin 28-year old Nelgelyn Palma was one of those who died. Her body was found in Opol, Misamis Oriental. But they are still searching for those of Palma’s husband Jose and daughter Angie.

She said they are grieving for a relative and have continued their search for the others.

The flashfloods destroyed the Cabula Bridge so passengers from Liboran have to get off in Maasin, cross the Cagayan River using pump boats, and take another van from Maasin to CDO. But van operators charge P40 up to Maasin and another P40 for the trip to the city.

She said this has become an added burden to relatives who ply the route to search for the victims’ bodies.

Search operations continue in Baungon town, too.

In Imbatug village, Victor Estillore from Agusan Canyon, Manolo Fortich have twice visited Sitio Cabli, along the Bubunawan River near the Cepalco electric power facility.

His son, Mark, worked as an engineer in the plant.

On the eve of the flashfloods, Mark told him there was a flood but they were safe. He also inquired about their situation at home and promised to join his family for Christmas as December 24 was his day off. That was the last thing he heard from him.

On December 17 they have searched for his body in the river side area where the employee’s quarters used to stand. He has also searched Cagayan de Oro’s funeral homes and coastline. But they were not lucky.

“We will continue to search wherever possible. We will do what we can to find him,” he added.

On December 21, he returned to Cabli with relatives and the aid of two sniffing dogs, one of them Mark’s pet.

“Maybe his dog will find him, maybe he will show up this time,” he added.(Walter I. Balane)

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