Quake survivors in Davao del Sur take care of each other
MAGSAYSAY, Davao del Sur, Philippines — After a 6.3-magnitude earthquake left cracks on houses’ floors and tore open graves of their loved ones, residents of a remote and often inaccessible sitio (subvillage) of Labidangan in Barangay Upper Bala here have started looking after each other as aftershocks continue to jolt their community.
The latest aftershock, a 4.5-magnitude tremor, was felt around 2:45 a.m. on Wednesday.
Celestina Edar, 50, remembers crouching in an open field where they ran in terror after the Oct. 16 quake when neighbors and their barangay tanod (village guard) came looking for her and her family to make sure they were all right.
Edar’s house sits in the middle of a rubber plantation on a sloping ground, a short distance from where most of the houses in the area were clustered. She said they ran to the open field, fearing that the quake might unleash boulders on the slope above their house and roll over them.
Neighbors brought Edar and her three grandchildren to where the other villagers were gathered.
“That night, we decided to stick together and never separate no matter what happens,” said Armando Attic, 50, a vegetable grower and rubber tapper in the area. “Our purok leader made sure of that and asked us to gather everyone,” he said in Cebuano as he recalled how they grouped into four and slept together in the open field that night without mats or blankets.
Attic said the quake was so strong that it left a crack on his floor, ran through his basement and ripped open the grave of his child in the yard. “The fault line runs straight through our house and over my child’s grave,” he said. In another house, he said the grave of his brother was also ripped open.
“The crack (that ran through our houses) was very long, it started from way up the mountain and tore through our houses,” he said.
Most of the concrete houses in the area collapsed.
Live or die
In the morning, coconuts shaken off from trees by the force of the quake littered the ground, said Edar.
“But there’s no one to do the harvest anymore as no one is left there now,” she said.
Attic and Edar were among the 62 villagers in Sitio Labidangan ordered evacuated by the municipal government after the ground fissures were discovered right through their houses.
Experts from the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) said the ground fissures posed real danger to villagers as these would trigger landslides during heavy rains.
Anthony Allada, information officer of Magsaysay town, said the displaced villagers were at first reluctant to leave because the area had been the main source of their livelihood.
But the Phivolcs warned they only had two choices: to live or die. And if they wanted to live, they had to leave.
Magsaysay in Davao del Sur province, which was severely hit by the quake, shares a boundary with Makilala and Tulunan towns in Cotabato province, the latter identified by Phivolcs as the epicenter of the quake.
Earlier, Phivolcs said the upward force that people in the area felt during the quake indicated the area’s proximity to the epicenter.
“When people experience the vertical movement, it only indicates that they are closer to the epicenter,” said Jeffrey Perez, Phivolcs science specialist. He was part of Phivolcs’ quick-response team sent here to check the damage of the quake and to explain to people the phenomenon of the quake.
“The nearer you are to the epicenter, the more intense the ground shaking that you feel. It only confirms that the earthquake was felt at Intensity 7 in Magsaysay town,” Perez told the Inquirer.
Magsaysay Mayor Arthur Davin ordered the evacuation of all residents of Sitio Labidangan after the ground fissures were discovered. The order also covered Purok 6 of Barangay Malawanit, where a landslide killed a 22-year-old mother and her 9-month-old child.
Allada said Sitio Labidangan and Barangay Malawanit had been declared “no man’s land.”
Attic and Edar took refuge with relatives at Upper Bala’s sitio of Kabuhuan, which Allada said was another accident waiting to happen.
Residents of Sitio Labidangan still had nowhere to go but despite their ordeal, Attic said they were thankful that everyone in the village survived.