People of Catanduanes share how they stand up from the wreckage after every storm 2
Residents of Barangay San Isidro Village in Virac, Catanduanes continue to experience water shortage due to the onslaught of Super Typhoon Rolly. Photo by George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News
Culture

People of Catanduanes share how they stand up from the wreckage after every storm

'Ang mga Catandunganon ang tipo ng mga taong di kayang patumbahin ng kahit anong klaѕeng unos.’ 
ANCX Staff | Nov 03 2020

Seeing a photo of their dilapidated home in Viga, Catanduanes on ABS-CBN News’ Facebook account brought shock and sadness to Lucy Felicitas. The 52-year-old Catandunganon, who now resides in Caloocan with her own family, had not been able to communicate with her brother during the onslaught of typhoon Rolly. Power lines had gone out in the area, and it was only when she checked the news that she realized their home was not spared from the wrath of the super typhoon.

Lucy’s brother, Rafael Tojot, is actually captured in the photograph released by the local government of Viga, Catanduanes. He lives by himself in the said family house. Lucy was supposed to visit their hometown last summer but the pandemic derailed her plans. Her last visit was in the summer of 2019.

Lucy, who was born and raised in Catanduanes, says that news about typhoons hitting their province doesn’t surprise her and her fellow Catandunganons. “Sanay naman na kami ѕa ganyang kalamidad,” she shared to ANCX over Facebook messenger. “Kung 20 ang bagyong pumapaѕok ѕa Pinaѕ sa isang taon, haloѕ lahat ng iyon dumadaan ѕa Catanduaneѕ.”

People of Catanduanes share how they stand up from the wreckage after every storm 3
The family house of Lucy Felicitas in Viga, Catanduanes after typhoon Rolly ravaged the province. Photo courtesy of the Local government of Viga Catanduanes
People of Catanduanes share how they stand up from the wreckage after every storm 4
Fallen trees and wrecked homes in Viga, Catanduanes. Photo courtesy of Viga, Catanduanes LGU

When PAGASA reported that Rolly will bring with it “catastrophic violent winds and intense to torrential rainfall,” and when Signal No. 5 was raised over Catanduanes, Lucy knew the typhoon would likely inflict a massive destruction on her hometown.

Catanduanes is an island province that lies completely exposed to the Pacific Ocean, where typhoons most frequently occur, so it is usually the first to suffer the brunt of storms when they hit the country. It is for this reason Catanduanes gained the moniker “Land of the Howling Winds.”

Super typhoon Rolly, which made its landfall in Bato, Catanduanes early Sunday, left six dead and four injured in the province, according to its local government. The Office of the Civil Defense-Region V estimated that about 10,000 homes are destroyed and 80 percent of electric facilities are knocked down.

In a virtual conference held on Monday, Catanduanes Governor Joseph Cua estimated the damage sustained by their abaca at P400 million, and for their other crops, P200 million. The province earns roughly P150 million a month from abaca, its main agricultural product, Cua added.

Infrastructure damage, which includes roads, bridges and school buildings, was approximated at P700 million. About 15,000 people are now currently in shelters.

The governor said Rolly wrought greater devastation to their province, compared to damage caused by previous typhoons Rosing in 1995 and Nina in 2016.

In the said conference, Gov. Cua appealed for help from the national government. He also requested telcos to expedite their restoration efforts so that locals could again establish contact into and outside Catanduanes. The provincial chief also requested for water, as their water utilities were also destroyed. He said their disaster funds have already been depleted due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Meanwhile, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque assured the governor that assistance is on the way. In a Nov. 2 press briefing, Sec. Roque, mentioned that they have scheduled flights to deliver relief goods to Catanduanes in the next few days and have brought a VSAT equipment to establish satellite voice and data communication with the island province. He also mentioned that Malacañang will be deploying a rapid damage and needs assessment team from the NDRRMC in Catanduanes.

People of Catanduanes share how they stand up from the wreckage after every storm 5
The Office of the Civil Defense-Region V estimated that about 10,000 homes are destroyed in Catanduanes. Photo by Bayan Patroller Miggy Rodulfo

 

Surviving storms

When storms visit your hometown every so often, you have no choice but learn to live with it. And that’s how Luz Fortuno, Lucy’s childhood friend, remembers her younger years living in Viga. During strong typhoons, she recalls neighbors, whose dwellings were built only from light materials, securing their roofs and reinforcing the foundation of their houses so these won’t be blown away by the strong wind.

Lucy, who visits her hometown every few months, said Catandunganons heed the warnings of the local government and make the necessary preparations whenever there is an upcoming storm. These include making sure they have food to eat, flashlights, batteries, and a first-aid kit.

Alerto lagi,” Lucy described the Catandunganons’s attitude towards storms. “Kung ano ang ѕinabi ng LGU, ѕinusunod ng mga residenteWalang matigaѕ ang ulo.”

Residents also shared in an interview with TV5 back in 2011 that it’s been a tradition among Catandunganons, especially those living in homes made of concrete material, to open their doors to their affected kababayan. Gov. Cua mentioned in that interview that this is the reason why Catandunganons flocking to evacuation centers is a rare sight, and also why they have low casualties whenever there is a calamity.

Ferdinand Gonzales, interviewed in the same video, shared that his home becomes an instant evacuation center in the town of Digmoton, where flood waters can go over six feet during intense rain. “Kasi halos lahat naman ng tao dun kilala mo naman. Saka kung may kumakatok, dapat pagbuksan mo,” he said.

People of Catanduanes share how they stand up from the wreckage after every storm 6
The ruins of sea vessels and structures in Gigmoto, Catanduanes. Photo by courtesy of Cecilio Hagos, Good Neighbors International Philippines

According to Luz, in their town in Viga, everyone—both the citizens and the LGUs—do whatever they can to support those who are affected by the calamities. “Kung paano sila magkaisa at magbayanihan pag may kasayahan tuwing fiesta, ganoon din sila kapag may kalamidad. Hindi ganun kadali, pero lahat naman po ay nagagawan nila ng solusyon anumang mga pinsala sa kanilang kabuhayan. Kumbaga, nasanay na po sila na daanan ng bagyo, kaya madali naman sila nakakaahon,” says Luz.

According to the governor’s message in the province’s website, it is for its people’s tenacity and resilience that the province got the tag, ‘The Happy Island.’ He said the Catandunganons have learned to harness their unique geographical location and rich natural resources as opportunities for growth.

Meanwhile, as in past storms, Lucy is confident her kababayans will ride out this recent one. “Ang mgaCatandunganon ang tipo ng mga taong di kayang patumbahin ng kahit anong klaѕeng unos. Signal No. 5 man yan, after humupa ang bagyo, babangon yan,” she said.