TAGUM CITY—Some 80 kilometers away from his devastated community, 44-year-old Edwin Balinas has found a place where he wouldn’t worry anymore about food, clothing and most importantly, the threat of another deluge every time it rains.
For Balinas and dozens of others who had fled the death and destruction brought by Typhoon “Pablo” early this month, this city is more than just a safe haven.
Local officials and employees provided them with virtually everything they need—just for them to find comfort and joy despite their misery.
“People in this city are good-hearted. Their mayor provides all our needs. There are always doctors and nurses taking care of us,” said the father of four, whose wife is still missing and one of their four children dead after their hut was wiped out by the flood that swept Andap village in New Bataan, Compostela Valley, on Dec. 4.
Balinas’ 8-year-old son, Angelo, and two other children survived although the Grade 3 pupil of Andap Elementary School has a broken arm.
While other victims left in evacuation centers had simple Christmas celebrations, those living at the Rotary Park in downtown Tagum had in fact, an almost perfect, traditional Christmas.
The city government provided food, such as lechon (roasted pig), toys and other gifts for the children, according to Mayor Rey Uy. “They had Noche Buena courtesy of many sponsors. The city government gave them one lechon,” said Uy.
The evacuees were also treated to musical entertainment, with the city’s band RTU Music Makers performing Christmas tunes, and much to the enjoyment of everyone, Uy even did a rendition of the worldwide dance hit “Gangnam Style.”
“We were so happy because even Mayor Uy danced. We had a party,” 17-year-old Oscar Guerrero Jr. of Poblacion, New Bataan, told the Inquirer.
“This is the first Christmas that I’m on duty,” said Sanchez.
Uy said the city would shoulder the medical expenses of injured victims at the evacuation center, including the surgery of Angelo’s fractured arm.
He said he had also asked the administration of the city run-Tagum City Trade School to waive the tuition of 40 student-victims enrolled in that school for them to graduate.
The mayor also pledged to help in the reconstruction of communities devastated by the storm, ordering the deployment of two city-owned band saws to New Bataan and Nabunturan to be used to cut and saw fallen coconut trees.
Lumber made out of these coconut trees would be used in building houses and shelters for the victims, added the mayor.
The city government also handed out movie passes to the evacuees and for the younger Balinas, it would be his first time to watch a movie.
Another evacuee, Joseph Fuentes, 24, of Poblacion, Compostela, said he and his pregnant live-in partner Elona Jane Gumanit, 20, planned to watch on Monday.
“We’ll watch together,” said Fuentes, a plantation hand of multinational firm Sumitomo Fruits (Sumifru)-owned Compostela Plantations Inc., whose house was also wiped out by the storm-induced flood that hit Compostela town.
Asked what kind of movie he and his partner would like to watch, Fuentes said: “A comedy film so we can laugh.” Frinston L. Lim with reports from Danilo Adorador III and Nico Alconaba, Inquirer Mindanao