MULTIMEDIA

PHOTO ESSAY: Guinobatan buried under the rubble

Text and photos by Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 03 2020 09:30 PM | Updated as of Nov 04 2020 01:28 PM

Martin Panal needed to wait for the water to expose the remaining rebar to see where he can dig what remained of his house in Barangay San Francisco, Guinobatan town, Albay. 

At 7:30 a.m., Panal and others returned to the river, two days after a catastrophic flood buried their village. He was trying to trace the flow of water coming through the dike, which was built through their village to carry the runoffs from the rock quarry further up the slope.

“Nu’ng makita ko na and’yan na ang tubig, lagpas bahay na, akyat na ako sa bubong pero ’yung iba nasa loob pa ng bahay,” Panal said.

He recalled how his buddies tried to escape. “Lima nasa loob pa ng bahay, ’yung tatlo nakaligtas pero ’yung dalawa inanod na, ’yung isa nakuha sa Oas, ’yung isa nakita namin diyan, nakapulupot diyan, wala na, kamay na lang ang nakita namin nakakapit pa sa kahoy,” he remembered, pointing to a nearby coconut tree stump.

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Panal told his wife to take the kids to the nearest evacuation site a day before. “Alas-7 pa lang ng gabi nasa evacuation na ang mga iyan,” he mused.

It’s a sunny day today but he walks with his head down, visualizing where everything used to be. Pia, his youngest daughter, keeps him company today as they try to uncover the rebars. With a copping saw, he cuts those piece by piece and piles it on a mound nearby.

“Eto kung ano makuha ko ipunin ko na lang kung mabenta, kahit P300 pesos OK na para meron lang bigas o kung ano diyan, sardinas, kahit ano lang na puwedeng maulam,” Panal said.

The place where the water flows now is exactly the spot where his house used to stand. It would be difficult to stay in this place and build a house again.

Panal wonders why the only thing that remained of their house was the door. He tells his children later that the door holds a special mark. They found it ripped from the hinges and stuck between currents and debris not far from where he stood.

A census tag on the door is the only proof of residence Panal can give to authorities in a patch of land in Barangay San Francisco, Purok Kuwatro, where a creek now runs filled with black sand and boulders.

In major disasters such as these, where structures are destroyed, they still need documentation to bring to authorities to prove that they are residents in the place to get a sure slot with housing agencies.

“Kaka-census lang sa amin nu’ng nakaraan,” he noted, “siguro gupitin ko na lang itong yero, para madala ko itong tag.”

Jean Razon walked briskly through the black sand, as she mentioned the names of her relatives. As she scaled the boulders that now form little hills, she recited her relatives’ names, recalling how they escaped through a window and past a labyrinth of houses and pathways at the height of the typhoon and the rampaging flood.

“Anak ni Tito Alex 2. Pamangkin niya 2. Si Tito Raul, Tita Melody, ’yung anak niyang isa. Tapos si Myra, si John Lloyd, si Kuya Ace, tapos ako, si Ivan,” Razon says, counting with her fingers the people who escaped death that day. 

“Mga bandang 8 po nasa bahay na kami, malakas na ang hangin, biglang tumakbo sila dito sa amin. Sabi ni tita, ‘Jean, wala na kaming bahay, pinasok na kami.’

“Sabi ko, nasaan ’yung mga aso? Sabi ni Tita, huwag na daw ’yung mga aso basta kami na lang.”

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Razon recounted how they escaped the fury of the flood and landslide, as it rumbled down from the nearby quarry site. They barely made it, as all 14 of them had to squeeze through a shattered window and into safety in less than 10 minutes.

“Dito po kami sumuot, sa bintana na ito, inapakan po namin ang foam (mattress) na nilatag ko para maka-apak kami sa bintana. Dito po kami umakyat, tapos d’yan, tapos umakyat kami dito, hawak dito tapos akyat,” Razon recalled.

“Wala po kami nasalbang gamit maliban po buhay namin, OK lang po gamit mawala pero masmahalaga buhay namin ang nasalba po namin.”

“Dalawang option lang po naisip ko po noon, it’s either sabay-sabay kaming mabubuhay or sabay sabay kaming mamamatay kasi hindi ko po kayang isa man po sa amin mawala,” Razon says.

“Kaya nu’ng nakataas ako, hinintay ko po silang makalabas lahat.”

“Miming, labas ka d’yan.”

Today Razon came back for their pets. As she walked through one of the houses buried in debris, she called out their names one by one. Miming is one of the lucky ones to survive.

Back at their temporary shelter made from discarded G.I sheets, Razon is surrounded by pets and their belongings. Despite what’s left, she is glad that all 14 of them are safe, ready to rebuild their home.