La Libertad residents struggle to return to normalBy Nestor P. Burgos Jr. |Inquirer Visayas
LA LIBERTAD, Negros Oriental—School teacher Ben Casas is a member of the Philippine Independent Church (Aglipay) but he went to the San Sebastian Catholic church in this town because his church was among those destroyed in the February 6 earthquake.
After hearing Mass, Casas donated two sacks of rice and a box of bottled water for the disaster victims.
“We don’t think about which church one belongs to when we are saving lives,” said Fr. Felipe Luis Ferolina, La Libertad parish priest.
Ferolina said the tragedy following the 6.9-magnitude earthquake and the landslides that struck Central Visayas has strengthened the faith of residents.
Around 1,000 came to Mass Sunday, double the 500 faithful who usually come every Sunday at 6:30 a.m.
Almost a week after the tragedy, residents of this town, 105 kilometers north of the capital city of Dumaguete, are struggling to regain their lives.
Bryan Camero wanted to drive his pedicab again, but said the bridges and roads were still being repaired.
His two daughters were airlifted to Dumaguete City on Thursday for treatment of injuries they got when a wall fell on them during the earthquake.
Since February 6, Camero, 40, has been staying at the La Libertad multipurpose gymnasium along with 30 others mostly from the coastal village of South Poblacion.
“It’s difficult here but we’re afraid of going back because of the aftershocks,” he told the Inquirer. Before the earthquake struck, Camero earned P250 to P350 a day driving his pedicab.
“I have to earn something especially because my daughters are being treated. But gasoline now costs P70 per liter, almost double the P45-per-liter price before the earthquake,” he said.
He said the tragedy was the worst that ever happened to them surpassing Typhoon “Nitang” in 1984 when his family’s house was badly damaged.
“I don’t know what to do but we are thankful we are all alive. I hope we can continue with our lives soon,” Camero said.
Some stores have opened and electricity has been restored in some areas in the town proper after power lines and posts were repaired.
Several of the town’s 35,000 residents have started repairing their houses while some evacuees have returned to their homes.
Classes remained suspended and most of the roads were passable only by light vehicles.
Delivery of food and other relief assistance was slow because of damaged or destroyed roads and bridges.
Potable water was still scarce because the tremor destroyed 500 to 600 meters of pipelines from the Mapaco Spring, the main water source.
La Libertad Vice Mayor Emmanuel Iway said repair of the water system has been hampered by concerns of a possible landslide in the area where the pipelines were damaged.
The Lalimar beach resort has been turned into sleeping quarters of soldiers, relief and aid workers and search and retrieval groups.
“Most people especially in coastal barangays (villages) are traumatized that’s why they do not want to go home,”Iway told the Inquirer.
Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) personnel have begun going around the town telling residents that it was already safe to go home if their houses were not badly damaged.
Iway could not estimate the number of affected residents because there were still no information or reports coming from hinterland barangays that were cut off from the town proper. Twenty-three of the town’s 29 barangays are in mountainous areas.
But he was sure that the town would bounce back.
“It will take months to repair the roads and bridges and probably years for full recovery. But we will overcome,” Iway said.
At the town’s multipurpose gymnasium, evacuees who were readying to sleep on Friday were roused when electricity was restored.
Amid cheers and clapping, upbeat music blared from a radio.