Cateel folks angry, cry for relief

Dec. 15, 2012

(First of Two Parts)

“We have no food because there are no jobs here (because of Pablo).  The government has only given three kilos, what saved us is our stored NFA rice.  On our own we look for food,” Lorna Dolosa, a resident said.

Davao Today

CATEEL, Davao Oriental, Philippines — After the devastation left by Typhoon Pablo on Davao Oriental, residents in Cateel are desperate and angry over the disarray of relief operations and absence of government intervention.

For this, Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Secretary Dinky Soliman flew to the town Friday to check on this incident.

Davao Today traveled to Davao Oriental on December 8 to the municipalities of Cateel and Boston, which were worst hit, to report on the situation.

Entering the town, one sees few buildings remain as houses are leveled off.  The St. James Parish, the biggest church located in the town park, appears to have survived the storm.  But it is only the façade that is actually intact as the roof is torn out and everything inside is in disarray.

Residents flocked to the town hall, standing atop wooden chairs and holding their mobile phones up in the air.  “We’re trying to get a signal,” they told in chorus, as they try to contact relatives to send help and tell them of their loss.

Residents need all the help they can get from the worse typhoon to hit the Philippines this year and the first typhoon to hit their province in recent history.  Crops are destroyed.  Food is scarce.  Houses are leveled off.  People have nowhere to sleep which can protect them from the cold and rain.  Clean water source is rare and some have already gotten sick from drinking unclean water.

“This is the worst-hit area in the entire region.  Really worst.”  One youth, who came in from his studies in Davao after the storm hit his family.

He told this reporter that his mother is now in Davao because of psychological trauma and that many in Cateel have been thinking of relocating.

“There is no government here.  It’s everyone for themselves.  They say that many have already helped but where is it?”  he said.

Another resident complained that relief good only end up in the hands of purok (sub-village) leaders tasked to distribute them.

“Everyone knows that food packs wouldn’t last until this is over.  They made sure that their families come first,” the resident said.

The same resident also lamented that there is no presence of government officials now in relief and other tasks of recovering from the disaster.

“Relief and other services are much disorganized.  No one can deny that.  Village leaders have not taken the lead on what to do,” the source said.

One resident Lorna Dolosa, approached her neighbor to ask if they have still medicines for her children Loida and Peter Pan are experiencing diarrhea.

“My children are complaining of stomachache.  They must’ve drank water from a different source which is not potable,” Dolosa said.

Dolosa, 50 years old has six children.  Her husband is contract-based laborer hired daily for PHP 250.

“If my husband earns only 1,500 pesos per week, then it would only be spent to pay debts,” she said.

They have no food.  They have sold their lands because they can no longer afford to cultivate it.

“We have no food because there are no jobs here (because of Pablo).  The government has only given three kilos, what saved us is our stored NFA (National Food Authority) rice.  On our own we look for food,” She said.

Water, she said, is not safe.  She made it a point to boil the water before they drink it, but to no avail.

Only a few people can be seen working to fix their homes.  Many are on the street, seemingly shocked from the impact of the storm that destroyed their homes and damaged their crops.

People cannot help to be critical of the government every time their stomach rumbles. source who asked to be anonymous said that this couldn’t have happened if the government is pro-active.

The source said that before the storm, or any calamity would happen, the factors that may contribute to the loss of lives and property must implemented and enforce, including government policy.

“Take logging for example,” the source said.  “Big lawaans are being cut in the mountains of Aliwagwag, which is illegal.  But, no checkpoints and outposts have stopped them,” the source said.

The source alleges that the loggers are people in local government authority themselves.

“Logging here is very big.  One of the known loggers belongs to a very prominent person in the provincial government,” the source said.

The source said that if the government is serious, it can find a logging plant in Tawid sub-village, Taytayan village, Cateel.

As night falls, darkness wraps over the town except for lights from the outside broadcast vans and the luminous white Rizal monument in the park.  The town-hall now is pitch-dark after a day filled with people lining for relief and news on rescue.  Some people still gather in the dark, discussing what to do next.  (John Rizle L. Saligumba/

comments powered by Disqus