COMMUNITY DISASTER RESPONSE IN ITOGON, BENGUET
A hundred men worked the site by day and 50 by night, using crowbars, pickaxes, hoes, rakes, spades, and water diverted from two springs, to remove the gigantic mound of earth that had fallen on Waldo Gallema, a 49-year old small-scale miner of sitio Dalisay in barangay Gumatdang, Itogon, Benguet. The men finally unearthed Waldo’s body on the 16th of October, after five days and nights of nonstop labor.
Waldo had been inspecting his small mine at around 3PM on the 10th of October, after Typhoon Pepeng’s rains had ceased, when the top of a mountain in Bua, barangay Tuding, split, and half of it was hurled to Dalisay, falling on Waldo. His kinsmen wanted to dig out Waldo immediately. But the elders of Dalisay told them to wait a day and a half for conditions to stabilize, lest they too become casualties.
Thus the retrieval of Waldo’s body only began on the 12th. Not only Waldo’s kinsmen, but all his fellow small-scale miners in Dalisay participated; in fact small-scale miners from all over Gumatdang came to help. The women of the community cooked and served their meals, and attended to Waldo’s aged mother.
“Ang galing naman nito,” a disaster assessor for a foreign NGO remarked as he observed the mass cooperative effort. It was impressive.
Yet by the 15th, many in Itogon who had heard about the effort were already saying that it was probably futile. “That’s tons and tons of earth!” The people of Gumatdang, however, persisted. Local leader Nida Cupatan Legazpi explained, “We cannot stop. If we stopped, it would be like saying Waldo didn’t matter. Also, no one in our community will have peace of mind until we retreive Waldo’s body and put it in a proper resting place.”
They found Waldo’s body the next day.
Mass cooperative efforts like the one in Dalisay characterized community disaster response in various parts of Itogon during and immediately after Typhoon Pepeng. It accounted for the immediate retrieval of the remains of six members of the Dungaya family who were buried in a landslide in sitio First Gate, barangay Ucab on the 8th of October. It also accounted for the complete retrieval of the remains of five persons buried in a landslide in sitio Luneta, barangay Loacan, from the 9th to the 15th.
In sitio Duntog, Dalicno, barangay Ampucao, a massive landslide occurred at the height of Typhoon Pepeng. No one was killed because people were able to flee. But the landslide buried six houses, a sari-sari store, a co-op building, a small warehouse, and the road. Since the 10th of October, men from all over Dalicno and its “daughter villages” have been helping the affected families dig out work tools and materials they can re-use to build new homes. They are pausing now, to allow the municipality’s backhoe to clear the road. But they will resume their work in a few days. # Lulu A. Gimenez, APIT TAKO/CPA Research