Christmas among the ruins

‘We won’t allow the disaster to spoil our celebration of the birth of Jesus’



BAGANGA, Davao Oriental—Dominga Daipan’s only wish this Christmas is to serve pansit  (noodles) as noche buena to her seven children.

The problem is she doesn’t have this special Filipino dish for Tuesday’s special occasion.

The 47-year-old Daipan is among families living in makeshift houses in the coastal village of Ban-ao, which was hit by Typhoon “Pablo” on Dec. 4.

“We have nothing left after Pablo pummeled our village. We know we are poor and we have suffered numerous crises in our lives, but this will really be a different Christmas. We do not even have rice on our table. I hope I can cook pansit for my children for noche buena,” Daipan said.

“In previous Christmas celebrations, we usually serve pansit, buko (coconut) salad and grilled pork. We also do videoke and visit our friends and relatives,” Daipan narrated.

“But we are trying really hard not to allow this disaster to spoil our celebration of the birth of Christ,” she added.

With their local chapel destroyed, they have been holding their “Simbang Gabi” on a tennis court.

“Like during the time when baby Jesus was born where He gave hope to mankind, the celebration of Christmas this year is also a symbol of hope for us that we can rebuild our lives and regain our livelihoods again,” Daipan said.

Daipan’s neighbor, Onelia Mandaue, said their close-knit community of 23 families in what used to be a coconut farm would spend Christmas Eve together.

“We only have canned sardines and NFA (National Food Authority) rice but we do not care. What is important is that we were able to survive Pablo. We should be really thankful that we are breathing right now,” the 49-year old Mandaue said.

“To express our gratitude, we will gather and pray together on Christmas Day,” Mandaue said.

Aside from celebrating life, which they say is their “second chance,” they would include in their prayers their appeal for support so that they may quickly bounce back from the disaster that they are presently fighting.

“We would be really happy if we will be able to eat fresh food again. And for our long-term needs, we are praying really hard for livelihood assistance including funds and materials so that we can start fishing and farming again,” Mandaue said.

She said that they could not forever rely on relief goods and that they wanted to be self-reliant again.

For Jason Gonzales, 18, the disaster is just a “passing experience” that should be faced with an unwavering faith and hard work.

“We can overcome this. We only need patience and effort,” he said.

Fixing images of Jesus and Mother Mary, which were the only items left in their chapel, Gonzales appealed for help to rebuild the church.

“This chapel is our symbol of hope and unity. That is why I am also urging the people in my town to strengthen our unity so that we will stand firm together,” he said.

No reason not to celebrate

Gonzales, who survived Pablo, along with his eight siblings, mother and stepfather, said he thought they would all die when the typhoon slammed across the region, leaving more than 1,000 people dead and another 800 missing.

Tens of thousands are still in evacuation centers in the aftermath of the first typhoon to hit the region in memory.

“I think this is one of the greatest lessons I have learned from Pablo and Christmas—that we should always be willing to help,” Gonzales said.

He added that with or without food they would still try hard to make Christmas a happy day.

“Even if we will not be able to serve good food for noche buena, there is no reason for us not to celebrate the birth of Christ,” Gonzales said.

Residents of typhoon-hit areas, however, continue to leave their homes.

Olan Emboscado, who initiated the Help Cateel relief drive, brought his family to Davao City from his hometown Cateel.

“This will be our saddest Christmas. Not only for me or for my family, but I guess for my townmates,” Emboscado said.

“It’s been raining hard there and most of them are sleeping wet,” he said.

Emboscado said more residents of Cateel were leaving for fear that another typhoon would again hit them.

“We all can’t feel Christmas now but if there is one thing to celebrate, that is the second life of our loved ones there. With such a devastation, it’s still a miracle that they survived, and I think it is something to celebrate,” he said.

In New Bataan, Compostela Valley, Emiliano Bastial, 42, a farmer and occasional pedicab driver, will be spending Christmas with some 2,000 evacuees at the grandstand fronting Cabinuangan Elementary School in Cabinuangan village.

Bastial said Christmas seemed a “faint ring of a child’s bell in the past.”

“There are moments when I think that it’s Christmas even if I do not have a house,” the father of four said as he sat in the bleachers, watching other evacuees queuing for relief goods being distributed by a Japanese company.

The storm’s fury sent rampaging waters cascading down from the mountains of Andap, some six kilometers away, to a community in Barangay Poblacion where Bastial’s house once stood.

“We’ve lived for several years in that house. Now it’s gone,” he said.

Stench of death

A gloomy Christmas Eve greeted New Bataan on Monday. Streets were muddy and rain the night before flooded a part of the national highway. Ominous rain clouds blocked the hills surrounding the town from view.

The heavy stench of death, not Christmas, was in the air, as if to remind rescuers the exact number of those who died could never be known.

But still people were trying to go back to their normal lives, said pedicab driver Rey Teliwik, 46. He said stores and shops were starting to open again.

“We do not have a problem with food as many have arrived. The problem is what future do we have after this,” he said.

Even as stalls selling fish, meat and fruits have sprouted at the town center, anyone could notice the dearth of Yuletide-related decorations.

No Christmas lanterns, no buntings. Not even signs on colorful paper proclaiming a Merry Christmas.

“Maybe the vendors here think that wouldn’t sell. They might have thought the mood now here is different,” said Rhodora Garcia, 60, at Purok 7, one of the worst-hit areas at Poblacion. She and eight other family members have been staying at the municipal gym the past 20 days.

“We still celebrate Christmas here. We are even hoping and expecting another group of donors would bring us presents for noche buena. It’s just that we want to remember it without much merriment,” Garcia said.

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  • chingnarciso

    I wish Binay will read this, and give a Noche Buena for this poor people,instead asking a Ph.44 million to pay for a blood money,to save a one person only.

    • wawa2172

      The blood money to save the life of the OFW in the mid east is as important as the money needed to help the flood victims in New Bataan. If Binay is helping the person who is about to be hanged, I guess he has in some ways have help the flood victims. He is a politician aspiring to be prexy of this republic thus he will be of helping hand. Same with Noy as he is the president of the republic. Remember when the nation criticized Noy’s inaction during the early year of his tenure, halos wala siyang ginawa kundi tuminingin lang sa monitor nang NDCC in Manila. The criticism earn his pride and it wake him up. Ngayon kahit 15 minutes lang siya sa lugar nang bagyo, konting speech at puna, pa picture picture ok na rin sa mga tao.All the politician aspiring for national positions have visited the stricken area with rellief goods na may marka pang mga mukha nita. That Epal to the max. Anyway, ok rin na punahin mo si VP Binay. Sobrang yaman niyan at maaari pang mag padala nang firetruck ang Makati para madeliver nang maiinom at paligong tubig. Sa Gordon ang laging nauuna at ang Olongapo firetruck ang galing, effective po mag deliver nang tubig noon Sendong sa Iligan at Cagayan de Oro City. I hope andoon ang firetruck nang Olongapo sa Davao Oriental. Tabang Mindanao !!!! at salamat sa mga tumulong…

  • Diepor

    I hope they will get their food.

  • havongz

    Where the hell are the foreign donations then ? In the pocket’s of the politicians ?

    • carol

      Ask the president, 

      • havongz

        Just woke up this morning , and it just pains me reading this article . Here I am in Chicago , looking forward to enjoying and getting wasted for tonight’s Christmas Eve dinner with the whole extended family , and then reading this crap . Maayong Pasko ninyong tanan regardless .

  • wawa2172

    In time of happiness we thank Jesus and in time of despair we thank him more. In trying times we remember him most and in our prayer deepness is when we are hurt and at lost especially we are facing the most horrible moment in our lives. To the victims of Pablo, do not lose hope despite the experiences resulting to super typhoon Pablo.  Let us celebrate Christmas kahit sa pighati at kawalan. We know that our life on earth is temporary, move on and look at the horizon, marami ang tutulong sa mga nasalanta, in gods name. A blessed Christmas and spend time with Christ even during the lowest moment of your life.

  • Beguine

    Filipinos are a very hardy race and with very strong will to survive,
    being used to misery, hunger, pain and anguish at being poor
    or suffering after a calamity.

    Our thoughts are with the storm victims this Christmas and New Year, and they
    make us feel extra blessed indeed for having food at our table,
    a roof over our heads and not under any threat from disaster.
    We can only hope and wish that those who can help will help them.


    A very poor woman with 7 children. Where is the Catholic Church that encouraged them to have as many children they can? I live in America. Our hosehold income is 210,000 dollars. We only have 2 wonderful boys in their early 20’s. I am a devout Christian catholic. But your CBC in Phil. are nothing more than tyrants. Same characters as father Damaso. God bless you all there. But faith is something. Opportunity is none existent. How can you crawl out of poverty? 

    • Todd

      Your income is $210,000? Wow! Are you and your spouse nurses?

  • Benito Juarez

    Children suffer the most; inside the most decrepit house they close their eyes to dream mansions exist to see the delicious food and pretty clothes they will never have.  They look like they got the weight
    of the world over their shoulders, that such a young age they are forced to become men and women of their homes so that their parents pawn their pride to land in tigers’ dens in some foreign lands, where they suffer from longings and indignation; they save their best sweats and tears in order to wash the sorrows off of their children’s eyes. Some parents choose to stay with their children but they are forced to sell their pride in order to send their children to the best Catholic schools and provide the best scraggy tools that meager income can buy and hope that some day they will
    break free from their bondage of despair. The priests lead their flocks chant, “Give hope to the
    poor and the unemployed;” yet, they don’t lift a finger to share their bread crumbs.  Politicians, after they drink the sweat and tears of the taxpayers, pay their taxes at slaves rates.  Ohhh what an unjust world!

    Merry Christmas to all.

  • denzel_alfonso

    Ang dami mong anak mam, humingi po kayo ng tulong kay PADRE DAMASO para palamunin ang mga anak nyo!

    • Dog

      lugmok na yung tao nakita mo ng bagsak tinadyakan mo pa! 

  • Faisal salman


  • accapistrano

    At one point I was sad reading this. At another, I was impressed by the understanding and resilience of the Filipino spirit. We get down sometimes, but we are never out. We get struck to the ground, but we rise again. I wish though that we follow through more than just standing up after falling.  We must not only rise but strive to reach the apex.

    So if I were asked of a holiday wish for government, it would be that it continue its campaign for a corrupt free bureaucracy, robust economy and equal opportunity for all. It is a domino. Free the government from corruption, the economy will grow.  The economy grows, opportunity arises for everyone. Even the poor person described in the article would benefit ultimately.
    If I were asked of a holiday wish for the church, it would be that it focus on the needs of its parishioners more.  In the midst of yapping against government policy, it is forgetting its first and foremost client, the catholic faithful. Tend to the spiritual needs of the flock, that is all that Christ is expecting of you. If possible, and with ample resources, contribute to the physical needs of the people. Then you will be respected. Then will you be revered again and expect a renewal of the faith.

    Let us all pray that the mindset of the Filipino, collectively and individually, changes from dependency and mediocrity to independence and superiority. 

    A government that does its job truthfully and effectively, a religion that reminds (not imposes) people of morality, and an individual that strives to uplift his life from the bondage of poverty.

    Have a blessed Christmas, all.

    • Loggnat

       Ditto and Amen to that.

  • Klepto

    Wow. Kung pancit lang ang makakaya mo sana hindi ka na nanganak ng 7.

    • Dog

       Maawa ka naman sa tao, 7 na nga anak naghihirap na nga kinukutya mo
      pa… ang gaspang ng ugali mo brod. ano naman kung pansit lang kaya nya
      ihanda para sa pasko nila? 

  • Danny Bravo

    maraming  manhid  na  pilipino,,ang  solusyon  parusahan

  • Commentator

    The inquirer has already reported the problems that these people faces and I think it is time for the government and caring Filipinos with capacity to help to think of solutions. Calamity do happen even in US where super storm Sandy victims still faces lots of difficulties. Even Obama ask for $64 billion rehabilitation fund from US congress and I think Philippine congress can also allocate funds for typhoon Pablo’s victims. 

  • Ennimac

    So, what’s the government doing and what’s the church doing about this?  We know that poverty abounds, we know Pinoys are resilient. But what help are they getting?  Put more substance in your article and report on things that matter as much as the fact that poverty exists.

    And 7 kids is a lot of kids. 

    • frudo

      Sana wag na maging walo pa anak ninyo God bless ur family

  • batangsulpok

    Nasaan na ang milyon-milyon donations galing sa ibang bansa?  Anong ginagawa ng DSWD, ni Soliman, di pa ba tapos ang listahan ng mga evacues na tatanggap ng relief goods?  Tama ang kasabihan na AANHIN PA ANG DAMO KUNG PATAY NA ANG KABAYO?

  • $23257130

    grave ha napaka inutil talaga ng gobyernong abnoytard. tu tulog tulog kasi sa pansitan. kawawa naman ang ating mga kabababayan dun sa mindanao. ppppppppwwweeeehhh kadiri abnoytard student government. eeeeewwwwwww

  • rodben

     You are not alone Ate Dominga here in Metro Manila their NOCHE BUENA are depend sa mga bigay na pagkain of other person dahil kahit gas panggatong ay wala dahil sa subrang mahal, kaya di kyo nag-iisa Ate, how high the economic growth we have every year compared to the rich in the world 26yrs already since EDSA, who are benefited of this very high economic growth of Pinas? O baka subrang pa-pogi talaga ang mga naging administration after EDSA ? Just asking. NO MERRY X’MAS AND NO HAPPY NEW FROM THE MASSES…

  • Klepto

    “But we are trying really hard not to allow this disaster to spoil our celebration of the birth of Christ,” she added.”
    Even without the disaster your situation is already in deep $hit anyway. The poverty that plagues  the whole country is brought about by all parties. 

    First we have a useless government that is being ran by thieves and kleptomaniacs who just sit in their air-conditioned offices from 9-5 everyday for the whole month and colllect their salary and benefits. At close to the end of their terms they work very hard again by tsupa ng uten to get re-elected for another term.

    Secondly we have a population who are slaves to good life, lazy, no discipline, cannot think, cannot stand on their own 2 feet, relies heavily to begging from the government, and no skills except to make more babies and add more mouths to feed.

    Third, our churches adds to the problem by teaching their followers(who are mostly bobo & tanga) to keep on doing iyot to increase the population. The result we have very fast growing population but dilapidated infrastructure to support the people. We dont have enough electricity, water, food, medical facilities, and Entertainment. Our education system is rotten, government services are non existent. When calamities strike, people die, while politicians are enjoying hot drinks inside their big mansions or check in expensive hotels using taxpayer’s money.

    Hapi paking xmas…..

    • Pepe Alas

      Napacasama mong tao. That is all I can say.

    • Guest

       One of the few posts with common sense. Thanks.

  • coty

    yeah you tell and proclaim to them that they should rejoice because the govt. just recently passed the RH bill! derisive laughter! 

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