NEW BATAAN, Compostela Valley—Bundled up in a heavy blanket and layers of plastic, 7-year-old Imee Sayson was trembling as she was brought down
from a military truck that arrived at the public gymnasium here Wednesday morning.
Imee made it.
But her father and brother are still missing. She is left without a relative. Her mother is abroad working, according to a neighbor.
“I’m hungry,” she mumbled several times as people tried to ask her how she survived a nearly daylong ordeal, half-submerged in water and mud after Typhoon “Pablo” hit her farming village in a remote area of the province.
Suffering from hypothermia, Imee was among several survivors saved by rescuers in the village.
“She has been complaining of severe pain in the chest and stomach,” said Vic Paulo Bandong, a Red Cross volunteer who was among those who administered first aid to the girl.
Outside the gymnasium, bodies were laid on the ground, waiting to be identified and claimed by residents searching for their loved ones. The truck’s arrival—with survivors on board—also brought great emotional relief to the crowd.
As of Wednesday, 79 bodies had been recovered around the town, accounting for the bulk of lives so far claimed by the typhoon.
A man and his three relatives wailed when they found the body of a girl in the gym, her face covered with mud. It was that of his 8-year-old daughter, Rena Mae Adlawan.
Adlawan’s mother, Bebeng, and her sister, Jade, were still missing. They were all inside their house when rampaging muddy water swept through their community in Andap village.
The man poured water on the girl’s face, gently touching and cleaning it. He later left, crying.
According to his niece, Sadrak Adlawan, her uncle and other relatives were trying to return home to be with the family after working in San Francisco, Agusan del Sur, when Pablo struck.
“We were supposed to go home and be with them during the typhoon, but it was too late when we arrived,” Sadrak said.
Walterio Dapadap Jr., 44, who lives in the town center, located his father’s body outside the gym.
Not usual flooding
“We did not have time to save our 78-year-old father,” Dapadap said.
He said the family had thought that it was just the usual flooding, with water rising slowly and subsiding after the rain. “We were surprised that the water rose so fast,” he said.
Other villagers were beyond grief and disbelief upon seeing family members and friends, and their homes gone. It was as if they were still trying to piece together the events that led to the massive devastation—and deaths.
Bodies, some already decomposing after being submerged in water and mud for several hours, kept on coming.
Outside the fenced gym, people waited for the next returning vehicle, carrying either survivors or bodies.
According to Bandong, the rescuers did not have vehicles to move survivors to the evacuation centers so they could have food, water and medical attention, and to retrieve the bodies so residents could help identify them.
For Imee, it was an ambulance she was waiting for to bring her to the hospital.
But Dapadap, who was himself injured, was optimistic. “After we have buried our father, we will rebuild our homes, our lives,” he said. With a report from Karlos Manlupig, Inquirer Mindanao