CATEEL & TYPHOON PABLO: Beautiful Tales Three Years After

I was standing before the majestic Aliwagwag Falls enjoying leisurely the view as the waters cascade from tier to tier. Branches of verdant trees on the both side are swaying and they seemed like dancing to the sound of the cascading waters. Amazed tourists paused for a while to marvel at the dumbfounding beauty of the country’s highest waterfalls. Everyone is at awe of our town’s crown jewel which is recently developed into the world-class eco park, the Aliwagwag Falls Eco Park, which was built two years after we were hit by Typhoon Pablo. How can I forget the face of this majestic waterfall just days after the storm ravaged it? She was like a helpless woman brutally battered, beaten and raped. But three years after that unforgettable catastrophe, Aliwagwag Falls is back to her shape – more beautiful, more promising. Indeed, where there’s water, there’s life.

CATEEL DAVAO ORIENTAL 57As I stood there staring at the falls, my mind was meandering going back and forth to the three years of what our town, my beloved hometown of Cateel in Davao Oriental, has gone through dealing the aftermath of the most destructive typhoon ever to hit that year. For a town that never experience such massive destruction, the challenges of leaving the past behind and moving forward to start a brand new beginning was never easy. It takes a bravest heart to accept such dismaying fate. And it takes so much courage to move on.

CATEEL DAVAO ORIENTAL 100People lost their homes. Others even lost their loved ones. Agricultural lands were flattened. Coconut trees that serve as main source of income were wiped out. Buildings, schools, churches and infrastructures were damaged if not completely destroyed. Ground zero. These were among pictures of what happened on that sad morning of December 4, 2012. That day will never ever be forgotten.

CATEEL DAVAO ORIENTAL 46

Our people were tested. Some seemed hopeless they left. But for majority, we carried on. We chose to move forward.

Our people were challenged. Our courage was tested.  Some seemed hopeless. Children were traumatized. Few even left. But for majority, we carried on. We fought to survive. People learn to sleep on their make shift houses. They braved the cold nights and braved the sweltering day heat even more. Things were never be same again, many thought so. But we just had to carry on.

These are remnants of Super Typhoon Pablo. But like our people, they are also regrowing.

These are remnants of Super Typhoon Pablo. But like our people, they are also regrowing.

In one my visits during the aftermath of typhoon, I learned to sleep in our roofless house as darkness devoured it by night. I remembered lying on that sturdy bed and how my tears rolled from my eyes as I gazed upon the dark skies filled with stars that served as my ceiling for some nights. It was a heartbreaking experience. People learned to wait for food ration. We learned to go by. And bit by bit we learned to become resilient people.

People are trying their best to go back to their old life.

People are trying their best to go back to their old life.

During the town fiesta, people still come to the town center and celebrate the occasion.

During the town fiesta, people still come to the town center and celebrate the occasion.

Resiliency is the key to moving forward.

Resiliency is the key to moving forward.

But when there’s unimaginable calamity, there is also this opportunity to see the goodness of humanity. Help came. The world seemed to unite to come to us and bring not only help but also hope to get by. People from around the globe come to offer assistance. The NGO’s, the private sectors and international organizations came to help alleviate the lives of the people. The government – local, provincial and national – played a vital role in restoring and rehabilitating what was lost and damaged. Together, they help build back lives. Slowly, we coped. Slowly, we moved forward.

New homes. New beginnings.

New homes. New beginnings.

New homes. New beginnings.

These house were given by the government and some by NGOs and Private Sectors.

The wounds caused by Typhoon Pablo were slowly healing. People are getting back to their lives. Those who lost their homes get new ones. Those farms that are severely destroyed by the monstrous winds are replanted again. Alternative sources of living are introduced. Those who are jobless are taught with new livelihood trainings. Many, especially those who benefited so much from the different aid and assistance given to all victims, somehow considered Typhoon Pablo as a blessing in disguise.

SOME DEVELOPMENTS CONSTRUCTED AFTER TYPHOON PABLO

Roads are newly paved.

Roads are newly paved.

Even schools as far as Malibago are new now.

Even schools as far as Malibago are newly built and typhoon resistant.

Maglahus Hanging Bridge was reconstructed after it was fully destroyed by typhoon

Maglahus Hanging Bridge was reconstructed after it was fully destroyed by typhoon.

Aragon Dam. the biggest irrigation dam in Mindanao.

There is also Aragon Dam, the biggest irrigation dam in Mindanao.

Aliwagwag Falls was rehabilitated and developed into a major tourist attraction.

Aliwagwag Falls was rehabilitated and developed into a major tourist attraction.

Cateel River View Park and Pablo Memorial Sites

The government also built Cateel River View Park and Pablo Memorial Sites

Sunrise Boulevard in our neighboring town of Baganga

Sunrise Boulevard in our neighboring town of Baganga.

In the neighboring town of Boston, there is also Pacific View Park

In the neighboring town of Boston, there is also Pacific View Park.

Those whose coconut plantation were flattened, they started planting chili. And so chili production and processing became significant. Locals called it Dumang but now it is more popularly known as Hot Pablo. Many benefitted from this alternative source of living. By products are sold abroad. Indeed, slowly, we’re moving in the right direction.

These products now are sold in different corners of the Philippines

These products now are sold in different corners of the Philippines

Dumang makers of Cateel continue to produce Chili Powder.

Dumang makers of Cateel continue to produce Chili Powder.

Some of the coconut farms destroyed by ST Pablo are now converted into chili farms.

Some of the coconut farms destroyed by ST Pablo are now converted into chili farms.

Many sourced to planting cacao trees that can bear fruits and harvested in two years. And so I see another industry thriving in the years to come. During my summer vacation last year, I saw some banana, cassava and taro chips sold in the stores. I found out they were locally manufactured in Cateel. It melted my heart as I sampled the taste of a local delicacy starting to become a pasalubong item from my hometown. This made me prouder about our people, our town.

Proudly Cateel-made.

Proudly Cateel-made.

Souvenir shops in Cateel selling locally made products of Cateelenos.

Souvenir shops in Cateel selling locally made products of Cateelenos.

Traveling to the hinterlands of Cateel, the denuded hills even on the sides of the highways are green again. But you see all trees in uniform. Falcata trees are sprouting like mushrooms. These are variety of trees that can be harvested in 5 to 8 years and worth millions of pesos. Months after the devastating tragedy, locals started planting harvestable trees especially on those areas flattened by Pablo. You see, our people are moving forward. Really fast.

The greens along the highway of Boston are thriving

The greens along the highway of Boston are thriving

Even the sides of Aliwagwag falls are green again.

Even the sides of Aliwagwag falls are green again.

The mountains which were left bald by ST Pablo are also now turning back to their old shape.

The mountains which were left bald by ST Pablo are also now turning back to their old shape.

Three years after the massive catastrophe, blessings still pour in not only in my hometown of Cateel but also the towns of Baganga and Boston which were hard-hit too by Typhoon Pablo. Housing projects are still given to the victims. For some, their houses now are way better compared to the ones destroyed by Typhoon Pablo. For those whose livelihood depends on the bounty of the sea were given new fishing boats and fishing gears. They were given not only resilient homes and new boats, but they were given hope to sail on, start anew and dream again.

Prayers can move mountains. My townmates believed that. I do.

Prayers can move mountains. My townmates believed that. I do.

The happy innocent faces of these kids bring hope to Cateelenos like me.

The happy innocent faces of these kids bring hope to Cateelenos like me.

Give back. Help. Inspire.

Give back. Help. Inspire.

More than three years have passed now and our town including our neighboring towns of Baganga and Boston and so with our people are really moving forward from the wrath of Typhoon Pablo. There are so many things to be grateful. And that includes all those who help rehabilitate and reconstruct these three towns – the government, NGOs and private groups. They build not only our homes, not only our bridges but they concreted the hopes and dreams of the people who are once tested by the rage of nature. But I must say, the courage of our people, their will to survive from the very start and their hopeful disposition to move forward are above all commendable.

Our story is inspiring. Our story is beyond tragedy. Our stories are beautiful tales of hopes and new beginnings.

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