Albay, CamSur greet new year with grief after deadly landslides

SURVIVORS Members of the Atanacio family spend New Year's Eve at a hospital in Sagñay, Camarines Sur, after surviving a landslide that destroyed their house. —STEPHANIE FLORIDA

SURVIVORS Members of the Atanacio family spend New Year’s Eve at a hospital in Sagñay, Camarines Sur, after surviving a landslide that destroyed their house. STEPHANIE FLORIDA

TIWI, ALBAY—The Bragais siblings’ annual practice of preparing and serving their specialty dishes to welcome the new year was replaced by grief and anguish as their brother Arnel’s body was found on New Year’s Eve.

Arnel was buried in a landslide that hit the community of Zone 1 at Barangay Sugod here during the onslaught of Tropical Depression “Usman” two days earlier.


Village councilor Nemia Bragais, Arnel’s mother, did not expect that she would see her son alive after the landslide.

“I only prayed that he would give me a sign so that we could give him a decent burial,” she said.


Arnel, 22, was a welder in Bataan province and came home to celebrate New Year with the family, like what they always did.

No celebration

But no celebration happened. Nemia was busy preparing for her son’s wake and burial, while the rest of the family chose to rest and sleep as 2019 came.

Arnel was the last to be recovered among the 14 landslide fatalities in the town.

Despite heavy rain, Nemia waited for rescuers to find her son at the landslide site on Monday.

“My son was able to save his wife and child before the landslide hit. He went back to the house to get his jacket, some money and a cellular phone,” she said.

Nemia said she did not know how to explain to her grandson, Daniel, the tragedy that killed his father. “All he knows is his father is in Manila,” she said.


In Camarines Sur province, members of the Atanacio family said they were lucky to survive a massive landslide that struck their village in Sagñay town during the onslaught of Usman.

Escaping death

Merly Atanacio, 50, recalled how family members escaped death in a landslide at Barangay Patitinan. Local disaster officials said 20 landslides hit various villages in Sagñay that killed at least 20 people since Saturday, as heavy downpour eroded slopes in the town.

“Around 7 p.m. of Dec. 29, we were about to sleep when I heard rumblings. I told myself, ‘This is it.’ We had no way to escape so we stayed inside (the house) and prayed hard,” Merly said.

She, her husband Theodoro, 57, and four of their eight children—Crisanta, 7; Cindy, 18; Rissa, 10; and Joey, 14—had already prepared their New Year’s Eve feast when the landslide buried their house at Sitio Santa Cruz.

“An hour later, we just realized that we were outside the house, in the middle of a field floating on a [mattress]. I saw our house from a distance, already wrecked and washed out,” she said.

Damp and cold, the family held on to each other in the dark while clinging on to the mattress.

“I turned around and thanked God that we were still together,” Merly added. “It was raining hard, our clothes damp with rain and mud. We were like carabaos.”

The family had to walk some 2 kilometers to get help.

“It doesn’t matter if we lost our house …. We’re together and alive, and I think that alone is something to celebrate,” Merly said.

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