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Bacolor voters revisit lahar-buried town

ELECTIONS on Monday made Bacolor, a Pampanga town buried by the Mt. Pinatubo eruption 25 years ago, come to life again as residents from nine resettlement sites returned to vote there.

Carla de los Reyes, originally from Barangay Concepcion who moved to the Madapdap resettlement in Mabalacat City, went to Bacolor Elementary School on Monday, joining thousands who fled the town during the June 1991 eruptions and October 1995 lahar flows.

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Bacolor has 43,843 voters in 21 barangay, more than a quarter of the population a few months before the eruptions. Residents refused to register as voters in their host towns, which include Mexico, Arayat, Magalang and Floridablanca, and the city of San Fernando.

“I come here … when I vote and during the La Naval [town fiesta],” said De los Reyes, a teacher. She is one of the 1,068 registered voters in Barangay Concepcion where only 100 people live now, fewer than the chickens, numbering in the thousands, in poultry farms in the village.

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The prospect of returning to Concepcion was unlikely in the immediate future, she said, citing the accessibility of schools, hospital and government services in Madapdap.

Alicia Nuqui, who is in her 60s and was a resident of Madapdap, returned to Barangay Talba in Bacolor eight months ago. Talba has 1,902 voters who live mostly in resettlement areas.

Nuqui and her family moved into her brother’s house in Talba. Some of her grandchildren needed to establish residence in Bacolor because they wanted to apply for scholarships offered by Don Honorio Ventura Technological State University.

Even people who were not yet born when Mt. Pinatubo erupted, or were not affected by the disaster, wanted to return to their original villages.

Aetas air IP concerns

Erwin Enriquez, 18, said he would move to Talba when life there was “comfortable.” He has lived in the Madapdap resettlement all his life but his parents tell him the family has to return to Talba because “that’s where our roots are.”

Wanting to have their voices heard, hundreds of Aetas in an upland village in Hermosa, Bataan, trooped to polling places on Monday to vote.

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“The votes of the indigenous peoples (IPs) are also important,” said Erlinda Ignacio, 59, a tribal elder in Pastolan Aeta village in Hermosa.

Ignacio and other Aetas voted in a crammed classroom that was the only voting place for their community of 681 registered voters. “God will take care of us,” she said, hoping that the next leader would look after the needs of IPs.

Elena de Lara, 32, said she voted for candidates whose platforms addressed issues plaguing IPs in the country, such as ancestral domain rights.

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TAGS: Aeta, Bacolor, Elections 2016, Indigenous people, IP, lahar, Mt. Pinatubo, Pampanga, Pinatubo, voter
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