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Landslide survivors recall more harrowing tales

By CHRIS V. PANGANIBAN

MAWAB, Davao de Oro— More harrowing tales of the Feb. 6 deadly landslide in Masara village in neighboring Maco town, continue to emerge from survivors seeking refuge at various public schools here.

Jesibel Garcia, along with her husband and seven children, narrowly escaped the mudslide.

They were among the fortunate ones, as a total of 13 family members, including their father, three siblings, and eight nephews and nieces, were caught in the tragic incident. Jesibel’s niece, also buried by the slide, remains missing.

Jesibel’s husband, Israelito, had worked as a miner at Apex Mining Company for a decade.

Having just been discharged from the hospital after battling traumatic depression for the second time during their month-long stay at Lorenzo Sarmiento National High School, Garcia shared her account with this reporter during an outreach relief mission on Saturday organized by Philsaga Mining Corp. Foundation, Inc. (PMCFI) based in Rosario and Bunawan towns in Agusan del Sur.

Most of the deceased family members resided in Zone 1, the epicenter of the disaster, while Garcia’s family lived in a house and sari-sari store in Zone 2.

“We huddled together in the store, and my husband embraced us tightly as we witnessed the powerful wave of cascading landslide. It’s almost miraculous that we survived,” she recounted.

Garcia has arranged for a mass for the deceased, some of whom were already in an advanced stage of decomposition, while others’ bodies were dismembered.

Apart from her family, her mother and younger brother Ramil were spared as they were visiting relatives in Mati City.

All the deceased family members were laid to rest separately at the public cemetery in Mawab town.

Another survivor, Margie Cuentro, 71, currently sheltering at Lorenzo Sarmiento National High School with her 40-year-old son who works at Apex Mining Company, recounted their miraculous escape from the mud avalanche while inside the company shuttle bus.

Marvin, her son who is a bus driver, sustained a blood clot on his skull when hit by a rock but managed to survive by jumping into an area where two Gmelina trees intertwined, aiding his escape.

“He was unconscious upon arrival at the hospital but regained consciousness after 24 hours in a coma,” Margie recounted.

Cuentro, who resided in Mawab, frequently visits her son in Masara.

Mary Yap, 56, along with her six children, now temporarily housed at Mawab Central Elementary School, shared the loss of their half-hectare banana and coconut farmland in Masara, buried by the mudslide. While their house in neighboring Elizalde village was spared, they were evacuated due to its proximity to the riverbank, a hazard zone.

With their livelihood lost, Yap’s family, now reliant on daily food aid from the local government of Maco, faces uncertainty about the duration of available supplies.

Yap mentioned that Mayor Arthur Carlos Voltaire Rimando has yet to designate a safe relocation site for them to build new homes, considering that the school evacuation centers in Mawab will be needed by students by March 15.

Touched by the plight of three young children and three teenagers orphaned by the landslide, Reygela Decalit, managing director of PMCFI, pledged scholarship grants for them.

“My heart is heavy. This is the first time I truly feel the weight of helplessness,” Decalit expressed during an interview at the outreach mission.

The scholarship grants include free tuition to any school in the Philippines, a monthly stipend of P4,000, free board and lodging, uniform allowance, and book allowance for collegiate students. K to 12 students will receive free tuition and miscellaneous fees, book allowance, and uniform allowance.

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