Former OFW loses home in Mindanao quake, ends up in tent

Kristine Sabillo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 02 2019 12:12 AM | Updated as of Nov 02 2019 06:03 AM

Arnold and Jinky Songcolan show a photo of their heavily damaged house in Barangay Luayon, Makilala, Cotabato. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News

MAKILALA, Cotabato (UPDATE)—Jinky Songcolan spent 7 years in Kuwait as a domestic helper to support her family and save up for a house.

Her dream came true and they finally moved into their own home in this town last year.

For Songcolan, it was perfect timing as her contract abroad expired, allowing her to finally retire from overseas work and join her husband Arnold, a tribal chieftain and farmer, in raising their younger children.

But on Thursday, Songcolan’s dream house crumbled after a 6.5-magnitude earthquake hit Cotabato and other parts of Mindanao. This, after a series of other earthquakes that struck the area days before.

“Talagang natakot ako. Sabi ko baka ito na katapusan ng buhay ko. Lahat ng mga hollow blocks parang hangin lang. Ang lakas talaga ng lindol,” she told ABS-CBN News as she recalled what happened.

(I was really afraid. I thought I was going to die. I could see the hollow blocks fall like it was just blown by the wind. The earthquake was really strong.)

The Songcolan family prepares for dinner at their tent outside Malasila Elementary School in Makilala, Cotabato. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News

She believes that she could have died had she been inside the house, instead of watering her plants.

Meanwhile, her husband Arnold was at the foot of the mountain, tapping rubber trees when the earthquake struck.

“Nagdapa ako sa lupa,” he said. “Tiningnan ko mga bundok (parang ang tunog) pumutok na mga baril. May sumasabog.”

(I fell flat on the ground. I looked at the mountains and I could hear something like gunshots. It was as if there were explosions.)

Soon after, their whole village of Luayon was forced to evacuate because of the landslides.

Evacuees at Malasila Elementary School in Makilala, Cotabato receive relief goods from the Maguindanao provincial government. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News

By Friday night, the Songcolan couple and their 2 youngest children joined other residents outside the Malasila Elementary School, 1 of the 9 evacuation areas of the town.

“Masakit talaga kasi pinaghirapan ko sa Kuwait,” Songcolan said, adding that work there was hard. “Sa dami ng trabaho ka 4 na oras lang tulog ko noon [kada araw].”

(It is disheartening because I worked hard for it in Kuwait. I only slept there for 4 hours everyday.)

Songcolon said it had been hard because they do not have any money and have not been able to get their clothes from their heavily damaged home.

The lack of working sanitation facilities and water at the evacuation areas is also a challenge for them.

Despite losing their home, Songcolon continue to stay positive, even laughing as they face an uncertain future.

“Madami kaming blessing na-receive,” she said, referring to the relief goods.

(We have received a lot of blessings.)

Just less than an hour ago, the provincial government of Maguindanao distributed pails filled with relief goods to Songcolon and other evacuees.

Evacuees from Barangay Luayon camp out outside the Malasila Elementary School in Makilala, Cotabato. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News

The couple called for international and local support for earthquake victims like them.

“Sana matulungan kami na 'yong bahay namin makabangon kami para may matirhan kami,” Arnold said. “Kahit maliit lang para makasimula kami para makatayo ng bahay.”

(We hope someone can help us so we can bounce back and have a house again. Even if it’s just small, just so we can start anew and construct a house.)

For now, they will have to wait for the local government to allow them back into the village. Their immediate plan? Construct a new house they can again call their home.