Residents of destroyed town urged to unite for rebuilding after ‘Pablo’


A resident covers his nose as he walks past typhoon Pablo’s victims which are left unattended at New Bataan town in Compostela Valley on Dec. 8, 2012. Almost a month after the typhoon wreaked havoc, officials urged residents to unite in the face of the daunting tasks of rebuilding and reconstruction. AP Photo/Bullit Marquez

NEW BATAAN, Compostela Valley—Almost a month after typhoon Pablo (Bopha) flattened this town on Dec. 4, officials here urged residents to unite in the face of the daunting tasks of rebuilding and reconstruction, admitting that it would take them some time to get over the loss of lives and property.

This whole idyllic town still lay in ruins and the stench of death still pervaded the air more than a month after the storm’s howling wind and torrential rains devastated Andap, a community of more than 2,000 people, claiming 400 lives.

“Honestly, we are not yet OK,” said Mayor Lorenzo Balbin. “People are still depending on assistance as we try to bring our lives back to what it used to be.”

Assistance from local, national and international relief agencies has been pouring in New Bataan since the catastrophe struck and people have been trying to live off it, Balbin said.

It was a Tuesday that Fretchel dela Victoria and other New Bataan residents would never remember.

Rumbling sound

“We heard a rumbling sound and then saw a tall wall of water roaring towards us. We ran as fast as we could, not minding if we had brought something other than the clothes we had on,” the 32-year old resident of Purok (Community) 3, Poblacion, which is near Andap, told the Inquirer as she and other residents did their laundry at a water pipe beside a flooded road leading to Andap.

Trees uprooted by Pablo’s 175-kilometer-per hour-winds choked the upper portion of Mayo River, creating an artificial dam, which eventually collapsed under the huge volume of rainwater that accumulated there, Balbin said.

“The collapse of the artificial dam created a high, wide wall of water that descended downstream, washing away communities below it,” said the mayor.

Residents who survived the disaster said they saw uprooted trees and boulders rolling with the wall of murky water “as tall as two full-grown coconut trees.”

“Like a tidal wave,” said 73-year old Carlos de la Torre, who along with his wife and at least 50 others ran off to a hill as floodwaters swept through the village. “I thought we would die that day.”


Local officials had denied that logging and mining aggravated the disaster, with Balbin saying in previous interviews the local government had banned such activities in the mountains around Andap.

The mayor pointed to the many things that should be done to bring back normalcy to the town.

All of New Bataan’s 16 villages suffered destruction as a result of the flood or the strong wind, or both.

“Homes are in shambles, people’s livelihoods still in disarray,” Balbin told the Inquirer at his office on the second floor of the municipal building, which sustained damage. “But we cannot lose hope. We have to rise again.”

As rebuilding and rehabilitation efforts continue, people in this town have slowly come to accept evacuation as part of their life.


People are so traumatized with last month’s storm, they become jittery at the first sign of rains, according to Marlon Esperanza, municipal information officer.

He said the local government, not wanting to take chances, has decided to enforce preemptive evacuation, whenever necessary.

At least 210 families or roughly 1, 000 individuals were evacuated from six communities in Poblacion and Andap village since Wednesday due to continuous rains, Esperanza said. The evacuees stayed in various schools, crowding further the evacuation centers still occupied by residents made homeless by Pablo, and putting off the resumption of classes last Thursday.

“We don’t want a repeat of the Dec. 4 disaster,” said Balbin, in ordering the forced evacuation.

Balbin said he has asked the government through Undersecretary Benito Ramos of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) to help the local government in the planned re-channeling of the Mayo River.

He said “correcting” the course of the river and de-silting it and other waterways would help manage the flow of water during rains and prevent flooding.

“We found out (during flooding) water already runs through roads instead on riverbeds,” said Balbin.

Rebuilding Compostela

Late last month, the provincial government has kicked off a campaign of rebuilding Compostela Valley.

Dubbed “Tindog ComVal: Walang Iwanan (Stand ComVal: Leave no one behind),” the advocacy exhorts Compostela Valley residents to unite and help one another rebuild, according to Gov. Arturo Uy.

“This is to rally the people to work together for us to move on,” said Uy.

The governor said the outpouring of support from different groups has helped residents in the devastated province focus their attention on rebuilding and rehabilitation.

In New Bataan, Balbin also urged his people to immediately buckle down to work, with aid still coming.

The two officials also expressed gratitude to various aid groups that have sent help

To compensate for the losses in agriculture—the province’s main livelihood—the government gave bags of seeds and seedlings for “quick cash crops” such as corn, cacao, palay and vegetables.

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  • Renewbataan

    Mayor Balbin’s statement is nothing but a big LIE. In fact, he owns one of the Gold Processing Plants located in Purok 7, Poblacion New Bataan. I am a native of New Bataan and I exactly know what really had happen last December 4, 2012, when Pablo devastated our hometown. Even the Mayor himself is caught and heard worrying about his house and his Gold Processing Plant than to stay focused on the relief and retrieval effort. I am a known supporter of this administration but when the leadership and dedication of the sitting municipal executive was test thru this typhoon, I realized that he lacks everything that a real leader should have. Indeed, a day before the disaster, the mayor did not do any preventive effort as what was appealed by the President. He instead gather his political party in preparation for the Next Year’s elections than to roam around and implement force evacuation amongst the residents in mountainous, riverside and low lying areas. I APPEAL TO THE MEDIA TO SEARCH MORE AND KNOW MORE ABOUT THE REAL TOTAL HEADCOUNT OF CASUALTIES. 400 FATALITIES AND 200 MISSING ARE ONLY REPORTED WHEN IN FACT ALMOST THE ENTIRE BARANGAY OF ANDAP WAS WIPED OUT WITH A TOTAL POPULATION OF 3 TO 5,000. WHILE I UNDERSTAND THAT CASUALTIES IS INEVITABLE DURING DISASTERS BUT WE COULD HAVE SAVED MORE LIVES HAD THE PEOPLE KNEW WHERE TO GO….. AND IF THERE REALLY WERE ANY PREVENTIVE EFFORT MADE IN PREPARATION OF THE TYPHOON THEN WHY WERE THE MUNICIPAL’S VERY OWN EQUIPMENT SUCH AS DUMP TRUCKS, SCRIPPER AND DOZERS TRAPPED INSIDE THE MOTOR POOL AS EVERYONE SEEN OVER THE TELEVISION? WHY WAS THE MUNICIPAL GYM LOCKED AND THAT THE EVACUEES HAD TO BREAK IN TO IT JUST TO GET INSIDE?????? I JUST CAN’T DWELL ON THE FACT THAT THE FAMILY AND EXTENDED FAMILIES OF THIS MAYOR IS LIVING IN COMFORT WITH VINTILATION WHILE THE REST OF THE PEOPLE ARE STRUGGLING IN EVACUATION SITES. I LOST HUNDREDS OF MY RELATIVES AND DEAR FRIENDS AND I CAN’T JUST SETTLE FOR THIS KIND OF SERVICE FROM THE MAYOR. I APPEAL TO THE MEDIA ESPECIALLY THE PHILIPPINE DAILY INQUIRER TO TAKE A CLOSER LOOK INTO IT. I AM AN AVID READER OF THIS NEWSTAND AND I AM FOLDING MY FULL TRUST THAT YOU WILL HEAR AND CATER MY APPEAL… THANK YOU SO MUCH

  • disqusted0fu

    That’s right. They definitely need to unite and just help each other because they can not expect anything more from Pnoy’s administration.

  • ruel hadcan

    The typhoon hit in the province is just an response of the environment to the people of new bataan, and rest of the province. If you would think, large trees, stones and destroy forest. We know that mining activity cannot continue its operation without logging (doesn’t matter if permitted or not). Further more logging and mining are complementary on each other. In our province, it is clear for all the residents living on the area that our government officials do mining and permitted any activity for the good of mining operations. Because from highest official in the province down to the (some) lowest position (governor, SB members, mayors, and barangay captains) do mining and gain their money from mining activity.
    If you would travel from nabunturan to maragusan via camanlangan, you can witness the mining operations in the area. (Camanlangan, New Bataan; Tupas, Maragusan; Pamintaran, Maragusan; Masara, Maco; and the rest of that mountain range. (Nabunturan to Pantukan)…. 
    Our Mayor in Maragusan in the past years had been always proud on the income brought by mining activity without seeing the on-site and in-site of the mining. Especially in the agricultural sectors, land nearer the water ways (streams and canals). The siltation on the agusan river, and other water ways.
    To the secretary of defense and national government:
    If the government had made their effort to use their equipment for the relief goods. We hope also that they can use it see what would be the possibilities in the town of camanlangan, town below the pamintaran, pamintaran it self.
    Yet mining activity could continue if the government intervention is present, especially the national government. The construction of waste disposal area, (water and waste from the holes of mining should be filter and make sure the water (will not include sands or stones) would only come out from the mining site down to the river.
    To local government officials of Compostela Valley:
    We know as your people in the province that it is hard to accept, that you had participated in the big catastrophe in our province, but it is not too late already. We know that in the coming elections, the governor will remain its position and some of the mayors because there no other candidates. There some probabilities if you will continue the mining activity of the province.(1) there more catastrophe greater than Pablo what will happen; (2) reduction of the morality of the people living in the mining area; (3) increment of the prostitute; (4) reduction of the agriculture or cultivated lands; (5) increase of the siltation in the rivers; (6) lower education rate of the people in the area especially the son and daughter of the abanteros; (7) shifting of the agriculture to mining activity; and (8) increment of the income of some financers with the loss of more lives in the province.

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