By Connie Calipay and Samuel Toledo
LEGAZPI CITY – The culture of generosity and service prevailing in the island province of Canduanes has reputedly saved lives among Catandunganons at the height of the two recent deadly typhoons that hit them, and Gov. Joseph Cua feels mightily proud of it.
“For a very long time now, our culture of voluntarily opening doors to our neighbors even before they knock during the onslaught of deadly typhoons have saved thousands of lives already. And I know it will continue as such,” Cua told PNA in an interview.
Cua takes pride in being a native of the island province, and could intimately identify himself with this culture of helping a neighbor in need of shelter and food in times of devastating typhoons. Catanduanes was formerly a part of Albay, and subsequently its sub-province before it became a separate province
“This culture of extending a caring hand is our secret why we have very minimal if not zero fatalities or injured despite being constantly battered by strong to very strong typhoons,” he said.
Super Typhoon Rolly whipped Catanduanes with up to 310-kilometer per hour gustiness as it made its first landfall in Bato town last November 1. The howler left at least four people dead on the island.
During tropical cyclones, Cua said, families residing in concrete and sturdy residences offer shelter and food to their neighbors whose houses could not withstand strong typhoons.
“Without this practice, thousands of lives could have been lost already, considering the frequency and the strengths of typhoons pummeling our province every year,” he said.
Even during post-typhoon briefings, Cua is vocal in telling other government agencies that there were more people evacuating or taking refuge in private houses than in evacuation centers.
“This practice of taking shelter in private houses has been going on for quite some time already. Maybe because we have proven it effective in saving the lives of our neighbors,” he noted.
Several Catandunganons echoed their governor’s view and observation. One of those who took shelter in their neighbors’ sturdier houses is Melanie Rodriguez of Barangay Cabugao, Bato town.
Melanie said she and her family evacuate every time there is a typhoon after a harrowing experience in the past. “We lost our roof, we hid under the sink. We were soaked in rainwater as we feared how we could survive the typhoon while my kids were crying. I don’t want my kids to experience that again,” she recalled.
Ester Molina, who also transfers her family before a typhoon hits their province, said it is fearsome to be complacent. “What is important is that everyone is alive. Material things could be easily replaced, fixed, but is the most important),” she said in their dialect.
Molina said together with her granddaughters, they evacuated to the house of her sister located on higher grounds during the past typhoons that hit Catanduanes.
Salve Traqueña of Barangay Binanuahan, also in Bato town, said she has gotten used to accommodating neighbors and relatives during typhoons. She said she opened her home to three families during “Rolly’s” recent onslaught.
“Our house is open for them, most especially we are in a coastal barangay, we need to help one another,” Traqueña said, adding that before “Rolly” hit the province, she was able to buy sacks of rice which were consumed by the families that took shelter in her home while waiting for relief assistance from the government.
Marilou Tito-Estonactoc, who also opened their house to evacuees, said they knew Typhoon Rolly would be very strong, so before it hit their province, her mother prodded their neighbors to take shelter in their house.
“Our house is always open for our friends and relatives in times of typhoon. We want to help by saving lives, by giving then shelter in times of need,” Estonactoc said.
Cua has expressed hope and confidence this tradition of benevolence and taking care of neighbors during disaster crises would continue and flourish. (PNA)