CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Philippines – Roberto Labitad and his neighbors on Acacia Street in Barangay (village) Carmen here finalized on Saturday night their evacuation before the arrival of typhoon Pablo on Tuesday (Dec. 4).
Labitad and his neighbors learned a hard lesson almost a year ago when tropical storm Sendong struck the city killing over a thousand people and destroying properties.
But unlike 2011, they are now more prepared for typhoon Pablo. “When the rain is strong and if we feel that it is time to move out, we will move out,” Labitad said.
Like him, his neighbors have already packed their essential belongings. Acacia Street is just across Sitio Cala-Cala in Barangay Macasandig, the ground zero of last year’s flood where an entire community was wiped off the map.
Labitad said they were not taking chances this time. Their plan: evacuate the children before the government could issue Code Blue.
Code Blue is issued by the government for voluntary evacuation.
Barangays 13 and 15, which sit on a sandbar that government has declared a no-build zone after Sendong, are now ghost villages. The once lively community, popularly known as Isla de Oro, of more than 10,000 people is now covered with grass.
Neighbors Rey Jan Abrio and Jevy Jill Asuniel were resting in the shade of a mango tree when the Philippine Daily Inquirer visited Isla de Oro on Sunday. “Hundreds who were washed away by the flood were saved here,” Abrio said, referring to people climbing the mango tree when rampaging floodwater struck on Dec. 16, 2011.
“It (mango tree) was literally flowering with people when the flood came,” Suniel said.
Abrio said his family would move out upon the pouring of the rain. Their house is just outside the 50-meter no-build zone.
“We are moving to our relatives so we can avoid the flood when it comes,” Abrio said.
Suniel said he would rather be safe than go through the experience of another destructive typhoon.
Suniel recalled how their barangay councilors sounded the alarm when water was rising, but residents ignored the warning.
On Burgos Street, the closest street along the riverbank of Cagayan de Oro, residents have been seen preparing for storm Pablo, predicted to be stronger than Sendong.
A family onboard a pedicab even yelled at their neighbors: “Bakwit na ta (Let’s evacuate),” as they moved out days ahead of Pablo’s expected landfall.
Labitad said people have become alert to the dangers of a typhoon.
“We must not take chances,” he insisted.