CARAGA, Davao Oriental—Vice Gov. Jose Mayo Almario, his wife Nancy, his office staff and workers of the family-owned bakeshop had to unload the relief goods from the truck and bring these to a waiting bamboo raft.
The raft was made solely for transporting the goods across Manurigao River after its bridge, the Baogo Bridge, collapsed at the height of yyphoon “Pablo.” Floodwater uprooted trees and carried logs.
It took Almario’s team some two hours to get the goods across the river. From the other side, the team carried the goods to the highway where another truck was waiting.
“If the bridge was not destroyed, it would have been easier to transport the relief goods,” Almario told the Philippine Daily Inquirer.
The Baogo Bridge connects the towns of Caraga and Baganga, which were badly hit by the typhoon. But its destruction has given the provincial government no choice but to use a Navy ship which means an eight-hour travel from Mati City to Baganga.
While people on the Caraga side have easy access to food, those on Baganga wait in vain for relief from the government.
Almario, however, could not explain why the bridge was destroyed, even after seeing logs and uprooted trees still piled up at its foundation. “Maybe it was just the floodwater,” he said, apparently wanting to elude questions on who cut the logs.
“You ask the mayor,” he added.
Caraga Mayor William Dumaan could not be reached when the Inquirer tried to call him several times.
Residents agreed that the bridge was destroyed by logs and uprooted trees, but they would not say, for security reasons, who were behind the cutting of the logs.
“Mahirap na (That would be difficult),” a resident said.
The Inquirer, however, saw logs and uprooted trees beached along the shores of Barangay (village) Tambak in Baganga and Barangay Baculin in Caraga.
“These came from the river,” a resident said as he pointed to the logs piled on the shoreline a few meters outside his house.
From where he stood, the logs and uprooted trees cover at least 3 kilometers of the shoreline.
Government officials, however, seemed to have no time to check on what really caused the bridge to collapse. The evacuees needed to be fed.
“That’s why I, my family and my staff members did what we just did—cross the river. The evacuees are hungry. We need to feed them,” Almario said.
Almario’s team distributed the relief goods to residents of Barangay Lukod, which is far from the Baganga town center where the Navy ship docks, but is nearer the bridge.
“The relief goods don’t reach us,” resident Conception Gonzales said as she stood by the gate, the only remaining structure in what used to be her home in Lukod.
The bridge is a symbol of hope and desperation for the people here. People, paying P50 per person for a banca ride, cross the river bringing in food, water, gasoline and other provisions for their loved ones in Baganga and Cateel towns.
More people, however, cross the river from Baganga town. They want to escape desperation.
Private Rhean Baliguat of the Army’s 67th Infantry Division said more people from Baganga cross the river.
“A lot of them have children and old people, maybe their parents, with them,” said Baliguat, who is part of the team of soldiers assigned in the area.
“They are leaving Baganga and Cateel,” he added.
Ferdinand Perdizu, a resident of Mati City, some 105 km away, did just that. He “smuggled” his sister-in-law, Leonor Escodillo, and her 1-year-old son, John Kyle, out of Baganga on Saturday afternoon.
“Life is so hard there,” Perdizu told the Inquirer. “They better live with us in Mati than suffer there,” he said.
Escodillo said her son was ill with colds and fever, and there were no doctors who could attend to their needs in Baganga.
Carrying oversized backpacks on his shoulder and a travelling bag in the arm, Perdizu led his sister-in-law and his nephew to a waiting bus on the Caraga side of the river.
“I still have to go back there tonight to get my in-laws,” he said. “I need to save them,” he added.