Thursday, December 20, 2012

Still Lucky

Note:  This post was supposed to be published last December 5 but mobile communication and internet services were cut off in the wake of Typhoon Pablo.  It took Smart Communications fourteen days to fix everything and restore internet connectivity to all of Lianga.


On the early morning of December 4, Typhoon Pablo (International name: Bopha) made landfall near the many remote coastal communities that rim the borders of the provinces of Surigao del Sur, Davao Oriental and Compostela Valley provinces.  In the hours that followed it carved a wide swath of death and destruction inland which, in the frenzy of media reporting following the event, have seared the names of towns and villages like Cateel, Baganga and New Bataan into the national consciousness.

Lianga is only a little further north of the primary disaster zone and was spared the full brunt of Pablo's fury but even it got caught in the northern edge of the violent storm system and was still given a beating that locals will be remembering for many decades to come.

The southern and northern edges of the town where most of residential houses are built close to the seashore or are actually built on stilts over the high tide mark got the worst of it as gusting winds topping 170 kph caved in walls and ripped off roofs while huge waves made more savage by the double whammy of a storm surge on top of high tide seawater levels smashed the frail wooden structures into pieces forcing more than a hundred families to flee to safer ground, many of them escaping only with the clothes on their backs.

Near the town center, Pablo demolished two seaside eateries built along the seawall behind the new market mall and public market.  What used to be a long stretch of reinforced concrete sea dikes guarding the town from the sea was ripped apart and the underlying fill of limestone rocks exposed and scattered everywhere.  It was as if the coast had undergone some form of intense artillery barrage. (See additional pictures)

Our family home is located in the same area and protected from the open sea by a backyard garden almost a hundred meters long and a low but stout concrete wall topping a cement dike.  Against Pablo's onslaught even these protective barriers proved feeble and useless as vicious storm waves hammered in one after the other, surging over the seawall and eventually punching huge holes through the concrete ramparts until almost nothing of these protective barriers remained standing.

My mother's beloved flower and vegetable garden virtually disappeared under a carpet of frothing green seawater thick with floating debris.  The waves and storm surge also obliterated an outdoor toilet and laid waste to a laundry shed our family had used since my childhood days.

Violent winds peeled off corrugated metal roofing sheets and sent them flying off to the ground like plunging guillotine blades ready to kill or maim the unlucky individual foolish enough to come outside at the height of the storm.  My mother was almost clobbered by one when she gamely ventured out in order to monitor the storm surge that at the height of Pablo's rampage was already licking at the back walls of our house.

It was clear to us that as noontime of that day came that the worst of the typhoon was over.  As we began to tearfully count our losses and inventory what we have managed to save, it had became obvious that despite the fact that Lianga had been given a serious battering by one of the worst storms that has ever deigned to pay it a visit in living memory, its luck, as far as natural calamities are concerned, continues to hold.  No human casualties were reported and actual and residual losses in terms of property and agricultural damage have not been as extensive as originally feared.

Even those here who have endured severe storm damage or have even lost their homes and what little valuables they had have grudgingly conceded, in the wake of the Pablo's passing, the truth that they could have fared worse and could even have lost their very own lives and that of their loved ones if, as originally projected by PAGASA meteorologists, the typhoon had stormed ashore in Surigao del Sur instead of farther south.  Yes, we were still dammed lucky and counting ourselves fortunate that while we here are tallying up our losses we can still afford to commiserate and condole with the many other nearby and neighboring communities who, because of some capricious fate or the unfortunate roll of the dice, have suffered a disastrous aftermath to Typhoon Pablo many many times worse than our own.


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