The one thing I’ve noticed while I’ve been here is that the whole country places emphasis on the 40th day of an event. An emphasis that takes place from the 40th day&night of the biblical flood, the flood of Noah’s time.
My trip to northern mindanao this past week overlapped the 40th day of the flood and it’s aftermath. I attended forums in both Cagayan de Oro and Iligan City. I heard the stories of the survivors, stories that made me feel relieved that I was nowhere near affected areas, and stories that saddened me as I relived, albeit merely a reflection of the events as they transpired on December 17th, 2011.
After the forum in Cagayan de Oro, we marched from the venue down town, across to a bridge over the Cagayan de Oro river where a memorial service was being held for the victims, both those claimed and those who survived. It was there that I learned the story of two new parents, who frantically made sure their baby daughter was safe as they tried to get clear of the roof of their house, as it was swept away by the water. The husband was swept out to sea, separated from his wife, holding on to a log and praying that he did not hit any of the bridge pylons as he surged under them in the swollen river. He said he spent about 12 hours at sea before he was picked up by some fishermen who had volunteered as search parties.
He was reunited with his wife (she couldn’t remember much due to unconsciousness) but they quickly determined that their baby girl wa last seen with their mother in law. Sadly the latter died at the hospital from dehydration (due to prolonged sea exposure and excessive heat) before they could find out what happened to their baby. As of now, their baby is still missing and they begged all there to encourage anyone they knew who had pulled infant out of the water to return them to their parents. Some people have adopted the rescued children to replace ones they lost in the flood.
The next witness account was an 11 year old girl from one of the Barangays further up river. She got up on stage in front of the microphone and before she could say anything, the tears poured out. We were by then making our way back to the car, through the 1000 or so people and on everyone’s face that I passed, in the flickering light of the candles, I could see the same tears pouring down as the survivors and the people of Cagayan grieved with the girl, and with each other, as they remembered the terrible and life-changing hours of the Christmas season of December 2011.
Many agree, the flood was aggravated by the presence of clear cutting logging operations, mining and plantations that stripped the river watersheds of their topsoil-trapping cover, but even without these, I think that people still would have perished. I do not think that it would have been in 1250+ lives lost like it was this year in the muddy waters. Despite what I just said 2 sentences ago, I think that regulation of these operations in the future would help prevent repeats of the ‘world’s most deadliest storm of 2011’
-Here is a link to the 40th Day of Sendong article, published on the 41st Day of Sendong