Disaster strengthens family ties in Cagayan
ALCALA, Cagayan—Amid pounding rain and a mad scramble to the municipal gymnasium by evacuees, a frail 65-year-old Corona Batalla emerged from the darkness to help policemen unload her wheelchair-bound husband Federico from a police vehicle.
The Batalla couple soon found a spot on the basketball court, where about 750 people, including infants and children, settled.
The evacuees were from Baybayog village and other riverside communities in Alcala town. Winds had begun howling about 3 hours before Supertyphoon “Lawin” (international name: Haima) was forecast to make landfall in Cagayan province on Wednesday evening.
“We could just have stayed at home because we were safe there, but I agreed to come here because of his [unstable] condition and he needed me to be with him,” said Corona, as she wiped her husband’s hair dry. Federico did not say a word, but was teary-eyed.
The couple and other residents here displayed the Cagayan folk’s tightly knit familial ties, which helped them cope with the onslaught of Lawin from Wednesday night until Thursday noon.
In the face of a disaster, residents here turned to their loved ones and relatives for refuge, for support or even emotional comfort.
For instance, in Pagbangkeroan village, the men in several families stayed at home to look after each other’s houses as the typhoon raged, while their wives and the children took shelter at the evacuation center.
They were fathers, husbands, uncles and son-in-laws.
Barber Danilo Cardenas, 54, was torn between staying at home and joining his family of four at the evacuation center. Cardenas said he wanted to stay behind, despite the risk of getting swept off by flood waters, because he had to watch over the family property.
“But then I told myself I needed to be with my family. What is there for them if they lose me?” he said.
Other families with concrete, two-story houses took in evacuating relatives.
Easing gov’t burden
That eased up the burden of the local government, with a fewer number of evacuees to care for, said Jacinto Adviento, Alcala disaster risk reduction officer.
Cagayan Gov. Manuel Mamba earlier appealed to his provincemates to adopt not only family members or relatives but also neighbors.
“These are difficult times, but having been known as resilient people, we will overcome this in no time,” he said.
Strong family ties also became evident on social media, as Cagayan netizens who were not in the province posted prayers for their loved ones on Wednesday evening.
They would then spend the next hours anxious for word from their families when communication lines went dead as soon as the typhoon made landfall in Peñablanca town and lashed the province for the next 12 hours.
As Lawin shook his two-story concrete house in Carig village, Tuguegarao native William Buquel, 48, huddled with his entire family in the toilet, where he thought they were safest.
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