Earthquake ‘bakwits’ sell plants to motorist for survival amidst pandemic threat

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MAKILALA, NORTH COTABATO –– The internally displaced residents of the 2019 magnitude 6.0 earthquake here are selling plants along the Davao-Cotabato highway to fend for a living despite the challenge of the coronavirus pandemic.

As of Sunday, August 9, some 160 families of Barangay Cabilao, the village considered as a high risk area in Makilala town, remain at the Camp Aurora evacuation center because the municipal government has yet to construct houses for them.

The camp used to house over 300 families, but the local government has allowed others to go home and considered them the “home-based” IDPs because their areas are not considered high risk.

The families who live in the village considered as high risk mostly belong to the Bawa tribe, an indigenous peoples group here.

For each family regardless of numbers, the local government units provide ten kilos of rice a month, which according to Cabilao Barangay Kagawad Neman Damali, is not enough, aside from the lack of other basic needs in their rations like, laundry bar, coffee among others.

Living in trying times, from earthquake to COVID-19, he said their mode of survival is a challenging. They see the craving of the people to ornamental and flowering plants as an opportunity to earn while waiting for their relocation site.

When Newsline.ph team who covered the recent flash floods noticed their presence, bought plants and talked with the vendors, the locals casually narrated their plight.

One of the IDPs shared their plight while Cabilao Barangay Kagawad Neman Damali (2nd from right) listens to his people who like him want to go home and return to their normal life after the earthquake.-Newsline.ph photo

Damali is one of those dozens of residents selling any variety of plants along the highway to survive.

Their location and the variety of plants they sell tempt motorists to stop and buy as one can see the evacuation center behind the wall where they display their products. They are equipped with face masks as they entertain clients.

Equipped with face masks, the displaced residents have been ten months since they occupied the camp but until now, the relocation site for them has not yet been paid.

Karin (not her real name), 51, a mother of five, was teary-eyed during the interview “Kaning tanum amo sab ning gi-angkat motubo lang mi maskin gamay para na mi kita, kay kung magsalig mi sa rasyon, dili gyud mi makalihok, pirting paita (The plants are on consignment, we just add very minimal amount just to earn, if we rely on the ration, we cannot move, it is really hard).

In selling their plants, Marie, a teen-ager said, “Gusto namu mangayo og tabang pero maulaw mi magsige pangayo kay baskog man mi og lawas, maong naninda mi- kanang ilang gipalit ang tanum sa amo, mao na ang ilang tabang -naa sab silay handumanan sa amo- samtang naay covid (We want to ask for help, but we are ashamed of repeatedly asking because we are still able, that is why we are selling and when they buy out plants-they are helping us and they have a souvenir from us while there is COVID).

Living a challenging life in the midst of the pandemic is hard, but the IDPs are hopeful that one day, when you pass by their camp, you will be among the buyers who love their plants and help their plight.-Editha Z. Caduaya/Newsline.ph

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