NEW BATAAN, Compostela Valley, Philippines — A family of four, clutching each other, went over the bodies lined up outside the public gymnasium here. They started to wail when they reached a body of girl, her face covered with mud.
The body of eight-year-old Rena Mae Adlawan was one of the 79 recovered around town, as of 4 p.m. Wednesday. The girl’s mother, Bebeng, and sister, Jade, were still missing, as of Wednesday afternoon.
The young girls and their mother were in their home when rampaging muddy water swept through their community in Barangay (village) Andap.
Upon seeing his daughter, Rena Mae’s father poured water on the girl’s face, gently touching and cleaning it.
Sadrak Adlawan, Rena Mae’s cousin, said they worked in San Francisco, Agusan del Sur, and were trying to return home to be with the family when typhoon Pablo struck.
“We were supposed to go home and be with them during the storm, but it was too late when we arrived,” Sadrak said.
But the Adlawans were not the only ones reeling from tragedy. Around them, villagers were beyond grief and disbelief upon seeing not only their homes but family members and friends gone.
Outside the gymnasium’s fence, more villagers, pain etched on their faces, waited for more bodies to arrive.
The sight of a coming military truck brought mixed feelings in the air– it could be ferrying survivor or dead bodies.
Bodies after bodies — some already in a state of decomposition after being submerged in water and mud for several hours – arrived.
Another military vehicle came, with survivors on board, bringing great emotional relief to those who were searching for them.
One of them was seven-year old Imee Sayson, who was seen by rescuers half-submerged in water and mud in a far-flung farming village here.
“She was fortunately found by rescuers, but his father Rommel and brother Ayel are nowhere to be found,” said Vic Paulo Bandong, a Red Cross volunteer who was among those who administered first aid to the girl.
The Philippine Daily Inquirer tried to ask Imee how she endured the almost 24-hour coldness and being exposed to the elements, but she kept on saying “gutom ko (I’m hungry).”
“She is in hypothermia now and has been complaining of severe ache in her chest and stomach,” Bandong said.
But Imee had to wait as there was no ambulance to transport her.
Bandong said they had difficulty getting transportation, adding that food and water had not arrived.
According to a neighbor, Imee’s mother works abroad and the child is now left without a relative as her father and brother remain missing.
Walterio Dapadap Jr., 44, a resident of New Bataan’s town center, identified the body of his father who was recovered by local relief teams.
“We saw the water coming, but we thought it was just the usual flooding,” he said.
Dapadap described the “usual flooding” as water rising slowly, and subsiding after the rain.
“We were surprised that the rampaging water came and rose so fast. We did not have time to save our 78-year-old father,” he said.
But Dapadap, himself suffering from injuries, is optimistic.
“After we bury our father, we will rebuild our homes, our lives,” he said.