CATEEL, DAVAO ORIENTAL–It is a scene straight from a post-apocalyptic movie.
Fallen tree trunks, mostly coconut palms, line up the hills like scattered matchsticks mysteriously leaning in a single direction.
The trees left standing are no better and hardly alive. Their leaves are twisted and splayed in that same direction–the track of strong winds brought by Typhoon Pablo (internationally, Bopha).
The remaining palm leaves can be called lucky. The other trees are barren, shook of their leaves.
Everywhere you turn on the roads of Davao Oriental is evidence of the wrath that passed through Mindanao.
The analogies do not end as you approach the coastal town of Cateel (pronounced kati-EEL).
With trees out of the way, all you see is carnage.
Houses crushed or overturned like cardboard, their contents spilled or exposed. Fields of banana saplings abruptly stunted in growth. Piles of twisted metal where covered courts or towers once stood.
A van is stopped as it traverses this succession of desolation.
Meters in front, two men hack axes at a leafless two-storey-tall tree. A rope encircles the dead trunk as a group of men wait to pull it down.
The van waits for the fall, its passengers getting off to the stinging heat of the late morning sun.
Past the fallen tree, the van reaches the town’s plaza. Or at least what’s left of it.
Our reporter Chiara Zambrano describes it on TV: “It was as if someone lifted the entire town up and then dropped it.”