June 25, 2008
Let me tell a personal story of an encounter with the disaster called Frank.
I went home to attend the funeral of my cousin in Calinog, Iloilo just as typhoon Frank made its presence felt in Samar and was about to ravage Masbate. The following is an abbreviated account of three days of coping with Frank and the unwanted gifts he left behind.
June 21, 1am: I monitored the last official advisory by Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) (http://www.pagasa.dost.gov.ph) at 11pm giving Frank’s position at the southern tip of Masbate. I also consulted an excellent site for Philippine typhoon advisories, http://www.maybagyo.com. As a result, I decided to go on with my first flight on PAL at 5:20am.
June 21, 3am: I left my house in Quezon City after calling up the PAL flight information (855-9999) and got an assurance that the Iloilo flight has not been cancelled.
June 21, 5:20am: My flight left on time but there was a little concern about Frank’s course. I did not know that Frank was already racing us to Panay, having defied all weather predictions and continued on a westerly course. There was little talk in the plane and we got a hint of the tension when the air stewardess announced that coffee will not be served and only packed orange juice is available. The seatbelt sign was also on throughout the flight.
June 21, 6:30am: We arrived at the new Iloilo airport in Cabatuan amid lashing rains and very dark rainclouds. The runway was still fully lighted and I suspect an instrument landing. It was a credit to the pilot’s skill that we landed very smoothly despite the howling wind. I later realized that Frank’s eye was just off Capiz and already ravaging Northern Panay.
June 21, 8:30am: I finally left the airport with my sundo to go to the city to send off, in turn, my brother who had to leave for Bacolod that day. They were late, they said, because they have to fight their way through blinding rain–with almost zero visibility–from my hometown 30 kilometers north of the airport.
June 21, 9:30am: We ate a late breakfast in the city as we watched billboards fly off and water flood the streets of the city. Later, we learned that all sea travel to Bacolod were canceled for the day. We passed by a florist to arrange the transport of funeral flowers (it didn’t arrive for obvious reason).
June 21, 1:00pm: After buying some grocery, we decided to leave immediately for home after hearing the news that in the past three hours, the road we used was already rendered impassable. The northern approach to Iloilo City through Ungka, Jaro was flooded up to more than waist-high, Sta. Barbara was also flooded, and the bridge between Cabatuan and Janiuay was destroyed by a flash flood. We hurried through the eastern approach to Leganes and beat the swiftly-rising waters in Tabuk Suba by a whisker (the last vehicle convoy to pass the route).
We proceeded to Pototan, thinking that we can use the route through Mina and Janiuay to my hometown Lambunao. On the way, we got a report via cell that Mina’s poblacion is already under water and impassable. The Janiuay bridge has also just been damaged and not passable, with unprecedented overflow flooding of its river which changed course. It overrun its hospital whose patients were hurriedly transferred to the Lambunao hospital. Janiuay would have been our nearest alternative route.
June 21, 3pm: We decided to proceed to Passi City via Dueñas. This is the roundabout way to Lambunao via Calinog. By this time we were already encountering flooded portions of the national highway every 2-3 kilometers. It was this time when we heard the news over the radio that the bridge in barrio Maribong between Lambunao and Calinog was just destroyed by yet another 40-foot flashflood, devouring houses all along the Ulian river. After two detours through feeder roads, we hit the wall in Dueñas where shoulder-high floods already blocked the main highway. Dueñas is the place where two big rivers in northern Iloilo, Ulian and Jalaur, meet. Dams in Dingle, San Miguel and other towns were already being opened to avoid their destruction but this also added to the floods.
Photo 1: Typical Frank day
Photo 2: Maribong bridge destroyed
June 21, 4:30pm: Failing to get through the rapidly-rising waters, we decided to go back to Pototan. This is where the last route to Lambunao starts–through a little-used and poorly-maintained road traversing barrios of both towns. There, we were met by its own surging, waist-high flash floods. These have already entered the poblacion and the houses in low-lying areas disappeared under water.
June 21, 5:00pm: Trapped between surging floodwaters, we had no choice but to beat a retreat to the only untried route–to Dingle whose roads are also being rapidly flooded. After a harrowing trek through several stretches of knee-high waters that were rapidly rising due to the overflowing irrigation canals, we arrived at our cousin’s house in Dingle’s poblacion.
There, we were welcomed by her husband, Dr. Bugna, who has his own problems, with the flash flood just leaving his yard and the poblacion ( a first in his memory) and attending to many patients (he was the only doctor in town that day with others stranded in Iloilo City). It is the irony of globalization that my cousin Evelyn in New York City phoned home because she also heard the news about the Iloilo floods at the same time when we were experiencing them.
June 22, 7am: We hurriedly left Dingle for Lambunao when we noticed a respite in the rains. However, just outside the poblacion, we encountered a long, two-kilometer stretch of waist-high floods. It seems that, during the night, the accumulated floodwaters from Pototan has turned back and overran the highway to Dingle at a separate point and from the opposite direction! With no other route, we had to wait out for almost three hours for the flood to subside a little. Then we made a mad dash towards dry ground.
June 22, 12nn: We finally arrived in Lambunao through the neglected road from Pototan via backdoor barrios. This route has its own horror stories with yesterday’s floodwaters cutting out a lane of the road in some places and flooding ricefields and roads in other places. We reached Lambunao and learned it has its own flood stories to tell. After 33 hours of Frank, I am home. The route from Iloilo City to Lambunao is normally less than an hour.
June 26, 2008
On June 23, I had the chance to look at the damage wrought by typhoon Frank when I attended my cousin’s funeral in Calinog and, later, when I traveled back to the airport for the last flight to Manila.
Up to the night of June 22, the report on the radio was that the travel on the main highway at Dueñas was still chancy. We had no choice but to go to Calinog via Maribong. We left early and arrived in Maribong, Lambunao’s last barrio before Calinog, at 7:30am. We left our van at the barangay hall and walked to the damaged bridge and used a makeshift bamboo pedestrian bridge to get to the other side. [see above photo]
From the other side, I saw the devastation wrought in three hours by a forty-foot wall of water that raced down the Ulian river just 24 hours before. Before the flash flood reached Maribong, it had already destroyed Lambunao’s new water pumping station on the other side of town, swept away several tens of houses along its banks, swamped several subdivisions peopled mostly by families of OFWs, cut off temporarily the national highway just outside the poblacion, destroyed the Pajo steel bridge going to the West Visayas State College campus in Jayobo, Lambunao, created new river channels, and created a lake out of the ricefields lining the whole Lambunao valley.
In Maribong, it completely destroyed the old unused bridge damaged in earlier typhoons; carved away the twenty-meter approach to the new bridge on Calinog side, carried away more than twenty houses along its banks; inundated areas up to two kilometers away, including the bridge itself; killed one person (with still more than 10 missing, including passengers of a van that desperately tried to beat the surging floodwaters but failed to see the gaping hole after the bridge; and threw a 10-ton six-wheeler sugar cane hauler a hundred meters into the rice fields.
Photo 3: View of Ulian river from Maribong bridge
For the first time in its history, Lambunao had its refugees, with more than a hundred people huddled in its plaza sports complex and rescued Janiuay hospital patients in its general hospital. Situated on a 576-foot plateau, Lambunao’s Poblacion Ilawod also suffered its own mini-flooding when its ill-planned drainage system failed under the onslaught of torrential rains.
In the afternoon, we took a detour via Janiuay, Mina, Pototan, and New Lucena and Sta. Barbara to reach the airport. Further signs of devastation were evident everywhere: destroyed crops, houses, roads and bridges, and mud, mud, mud everywhere.
Photo 4: Janiuay hospital in mud
Photo 5: Suage river from Janiuay bridge
Photo 6: Aftermath of Frank’s flood
The one bright spot was the relatively high morale of the people who were busy everywhere–as families, in groups, as communities, and as volunteers–clearing and repairing houses, roads, rice fields, canals, etc. They also acted as first responders, attending to search and rescue, welfare of refugees, and attending to the sick and injured.
Flights had already resumed at the Iloilo Cabatuan Airport. As I wait for my flight, airport staffs and fellow travelers were talking about the arrival of vice-president Noli de Castro, Red Cross chairman Sen. Richard Gordon, and Sen. Mar Roxas.
[More photos at http://moncasiple.multiply.com]
June 28, 2008
For Lambunaonons, here is the report on the devastation caused by typhoon Frank in our hometown as posted in the Lambunao official website:
“Eight persons were reported dead and more than three thousand (3,000) families were affected by ‘Typhoon Frank’ that hit Lambunao on June 21, 2008. Close to three hundred (300) houses were totally damaged and five hundred (500) were partially damaged. Estimated cost of damaged to infrastructures, agriculture and properties amounted to FIFTY MILLION PESOS.
Barangays located along Ulian and Tagbakan River severely affected by the flashflood are Misi, Tampucao, Pajo, Maribong, Bonbon, Cubay, Cunarum, Pasig, Balagiao, Banban, Agsirab and Manaulan, Sibacungan, Coto, Marong, Binabaan Tirador, Patag, Jayobo and Cabatangan. Landslides occurred in several barangays particularly Cabatangan, Bagongbong, Agsirab, and Jayobo.”
Eight persons were reported dead due to flashflood or landslides. The confirmed casualties were Girlie Loreno 29 y.o. of Brgy. Bonbon; Rogelio Gonzales 60 y.o. of Brgy. Maribong; Rea Lucero 7 y.o. of Sitio Patyo Brgy. Cabatangan; and the five (5) children of spouses Analie and Johnny Latoza (Jane 14, Jaryl 13, Angela 9, Angelica 6, Bonniemar 3 1/2) of Sitio Gibuangan, Cabatangan. Loreno and Gonzales were drowned in the Ulian River while Lucero and the Latoza’s were buried in a landslide.
The infrastructures damaged by the rampaging flood water are the Maribong Bridge, Misi-Tampucao Bridge, and Pajo-Bonbon Bridge. The LWUA main water pumping station located in Barangay Misi supplying the municipality was totally destroyed.
The Lambunao MDCC under Mayor Reynor Gonzales is still conducting relief and rehabilitation operation in the affected barangays.
Photo 7: Ulian river threatens Pajo bridge
Photo 8: Maribong bridge before being overrun by Ulian
Photo 9: No more LWUA pumping station in Misi
Photo 10: Only house foundation left in Maribong
This report and more photos can be accessed at http://www.lambunao.gov.ph. For Lambunaonons and other who want to help Lambunao rehabilitate itself, you can access information on how to contact the municipal authorities for donations and other help through this website.
The Ulian River between Lambunao and Calinog can be seen here in the Iloilo satellite map: Iloilo google satellite maps.
A provincial-level disaster assessment is also available at http://www.iloilo.gov.ph.
Photos and videos of the disaster in Iloilo City can also be seen at http://www.iloilocity.gov.ph.
July 27, 2008
I had a chance meeting with Sen. Richard Gordon, chairman of the Philippine Red Cross, recently during the French embassy celebration of the Bastille Day. He informed me that there is P400 million budgeted for the rehabilitation of damaged water supply systems in Iloilo. I hope Lambunao gets its part of this for its destroyed LWUA water pumping station.