2019 DavSur Quake ‘bakwits’ rise from the rubbles

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DAVAO CITY — Days from now, thousands of residents hit by a 6.6-magnitude earthquake in Davao provinces and North Cotabato on October 29, 2019, will remember how the disaster changed their lives especially those who lost their loved ones.

Unlike the victims of typhoons Yolanda, Sendong and Pablo who struggled to find shelter a year after the devastation, the 2019 quake survivors especially in Davao del Sur now manage to smile as they have risen from the rubbles. They now live in a house they call their own because of the fast rehabilitation through government response under the administration of the first Mindanao’an President Rodrigo Duterte.

The Newsline visited communities of Magsaysay town in Davao del Sur and listened to stories of the ‘bakwits’ who have recovered from the trauma brought about by the 2019 earthquake.

To date, Magsaysay town has the highest number of internally displaced persons who were relocated and rehabilitated, with three fully-occupied relocation sites amongst 13 readied facilities. 

Magsaysay in Davao del Sur and Makilala town in North Cotabato were hard hit by the quake, but the local government unit of Magsaysay was quick to rehabilitate and rebuild houses through the National Housing Authority, while funds for the lot purchase was from the members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

The town has established three relocation sites for the ‘Bakwits’ and majority of the houses are now occupied.

Federico Dolom, 74, of the Manobo tribe and his neighbor Gavina Ramirez, 78 proudly show the tarpaulin showing the name of their village in Upper Bala.-Newsline.ph

In  Upper Bala sits the Kapayapaan Village, the new home for the 235 Bakwits from the villages of Buhuan and Labinangan, which has been declared as danger zone and no one is allowed to occupy. The  four-hectare property was purchased through the AFP funds and the houses built by the National Housing Authority.

Thousands of families from Magsaysay town lost their homes, livelihood and dreams shattered but majority of them have slowly recovered and one of them is Gina Lum-og, whose husband was the only survivor when the town’s water tank collapsed during the quake.

Lum-og in an interview with Newsline.ph  narrated,  “Human sa hapit isa ka tuig, nakabangon na akong pamilya, bisa’g hinayhinay lang, karon naa na mi balay, naa na ko’y kita kada adlaw, ug ang kahadluk namu hinayhinay nga nawala. Nagpasalamat  gyud mi sa Ginoo nga buhi pa mi ug nakabangon, ug nabalik ang ginagmay nga nawala  gikan sa pagkahugno, nakabangon ra gayud  (After almost a year, my family has risen, though slowly, now we have a house, I earned daily and the trauma slowly vanish, I thank God that we are alive and started picking the pieces of what we lost, we are rising).

In her recollection, “I felt the world ends in me, I did not know what to do, where to start everything was gone, I cannot sleep at night, I kept watching my children — the series of earthquake that took place is still a nightmare, but when we occupied our new home here in Bala, I realized the goodness that God has shown us.  We are alive and having a new home,” Lum-og narrated.

Federico Dolom, 74, of the Manobo tribe, is from  Sitio Kabuhuan in Barangay Bala. His  wooden house was damaged by the October 29, 2019 earthquake. 

At first, Dolom at and his family were so scared when it rains, fearful that they get electrocuted if lightning hits their house that was made of iron sheets. But Dolom is still grateful that their house, no matter how small, is complete with the basic provisions they need. He even said, “kumpleto, bisag gamay ang among panimalay”.

Like Lum-og, Gavina Ramirez, 78-years-old,  whose house was wrecked by the earthquake said everyone  in their new village is happy because they have a house now, compared to other ‘Bakwits’  in other areas, they have finally settled.

“I don’t personally  know the people behind AFP and NHA but I thank them for helping us, now we are relocated and I thank God for our second life,” Gina Lum-og

Lum-og claimed, everyone in their new village could not believe, at first,  that they will be given a new home, “Kabalo baya ta sa mga nahitabo adtong nabagyohan, Yoland ug Pablo, ang gobyerno wala dayon nakahatag ug balay, mao to nga daghan mi nagtuo nga parehas sa mga nabagyuhan dili sab  mi makabalay dayon, pero —tinoud diay ang saad ni Presidente Duterte, nakabalay gayud mi dayon, tinoud diay nga naay sya’y kaluoy sa mga kabus (We know what happened to the survivors of typhooons Yolanda and Pablo, the government failed to immediately provide them houses, but – it is true, Presidente Duterte delivered his promise, we were immediately given new houses, it is really  true that he has compassion to help the poor)”.

Magsaysay Information Officer Anthony Allada told Newsline, the Magsaysay LGU has relocated some 500 families in three relocation sites namely: Malawanit, Banlate and Upper Bala being the biggest.

As it is now, over 1,500 quake victims are still in different evacuation centers, but they will be settled to occupy the rest of the thirteen relocation sites which were prepared by the LGU. Allada said that land procurement and development are undertaken by the LGU using the funds which was donated for such purpose.

The need to secure for relocation is a must, Allada said, while the LGU shall continue to providing them with relief assistance, although, funds are already depleted but the LGU has reverted some resources for the relief assistance “Because the DSWD assistance is not regular”.

The re-settled ‘Bakwits’ are grateful to Duterte’s administration, especially to the NHA and the AFP for supporting their LGU in providing them a new place for abode.

Everyone was caught in awe and had no words to express further their gratitude. They knew they have reclaimed their rights for abode having survived the risks and damages of the 2019 quake. And the “gamay’ng balay” is as symbolic for everyone to start life anew with the presence of government instrumentalities on their side.

“The NHA is committed to build quality housing units for all beneficiaries. We do not sacrifice comfort and convenience. Our earthquake beneficiaries are still by their painful past, and we need to provide them that sense of comfort by making their place a happy home for everyone,” NHA General Manager Marcelino P. Escalada, Jr. said in an interview.

But the challenge remains according to Escalada, as house construction also rely on the capacity of the LGUs to identify and acquire property for relocation. There are LGUs who are doing their best to respond to the shelter-problem quickly, but there are those who find the process as tough and challenging at times.

Children survivor of the 2019 earthquake in Davao del Sur finds comfort in their new homes.-Newsline photo

All NHA housing sites in quake areas will soon be  equipped with solar lights and potable water, a playground and a community center which the agency will provide.

“We will give them a place and space where new dreams, new hopes will flourish,” Escalada added.

For Lum-og and the rest of the Bakwits, rising from the rubbles meant painstaking measures to survive after the devastation. But slowly, their resilience has been proven, building new dreams and some ways onward. —Editha Z. Caduaya/Newsline.ph

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