Phoenix-like, Bantayan rises from the ruins


When Bantayan Island blacked out after supertyphoon Yolanda struck that fateful November 8, twenty-two year-old Jose Tagarda dug a hole in the ground and set up a windmill structure along the coast of Barangay Baigad. An engineering graduate, Tagarda used a ceiling fan to generate windmill-powered electricity to recharge his cellphones to communicate with his sister, Jessica.  Yolanda had not spared the cell sites.

Neither did she spare northern Cebu, displacing instead  22, 867 families in Bantayan, as well as  9,577 in Madridejos, and 6,628 in Santa Fe, per  the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office.

The numbers could strike terror in everyone’s hearts and bring despair.  But not the survivors in northern Cebuand the legions reaching out to help them get back on their feet.

Unknown to many, Governor Hilario P. Davide III rushed to the island the following day,November 9, by taking the firstferry boat trip.With him was a team from the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (PRDRRMO), and personnel from Smart Communications.  The PRDRRMO set up a UHF radio as temporary communication facility, immediately started clearing SMART Communications team set up a “libretawag” center in barangay Poblacion, Bantayan.

Health and safety were among the governor’s priorities after the typhoon. Seeing the urgent need for potable water supply, Governor Davide immediately ordered the purchase of generator sets for the water systems of Bantayan, Madridejos and Sta. Fe towns, and for the other 12 affected local government units.  On November 12, the Governor’s aerial survey of Bantayan and Camotes Islands with the Philippine Air Force, was cut short by the urgent need to transfer four critically wounded patients of Sta. Fe to a hospital in Cebu City.

Meanwhile, Tagarda’s ingenuityshowcased the resiliency of the Bantayanons and their eventual recovery. Nearly a month after the disaster, the people of Bantayan Island are relentless in moving on.

Farmer Art Despi said they have been through similar disasters in the past; Yolanda was just another test for a booming industry, which ordinarily accounts for 80% of egg supplies in Central Visayas before Yolanda hit.

“We who established our industry in 1980s or ‘70s, have no choice but to rebuild,” Despi said. “This is the only way of living we know.”

Most poultry raisers have not yet recovered from the damage of typhoon Frank in 2008. Despi added that he plans to relocate to mainland Cebu.

Despi was present when Governor Davide conducted a ceremonial distribution of seed crops during his visit to the island on November 28.

Around 400 farmers flocked to Barangay Kabac, Bantayan to get their share of the seeds. The Provincial Agriculturist’s Office expected only 200 farmers from the municipalities of Bantayan, Madridejos, and Santa Fe. Like the poultry raisers, crop farmers are working to to recover fast what they lost during the typhoon.

With the help of external groups, the LGUs have been mobilizing their constituents for immediate recovery. In Santa Fe, members of the affected families took over the clearing operation of the municipal government. In line with the five-day cash-for-work program, Mayor Jose Esgana said these memberswill be paid by the non-profit organization Oxfam InternationalP182 each day. All the affected families involved in the clearing activities in the schools received P100 each per day and relief items as compensation.

The will also be implemented in the towns of Bantayan and Madridejos.

In Madridejos, while the relief operations in the town continued, some fishermen had already returned to their normal routine, said Municipal Public Information Officer Jessel Ortega.  Others are still rebuilding their fishing boats.

Christmas at the Capitol

Instead of holding the usual Christmas party, the Capitol employees opted to share their party allowance with Yolanda’s victims.

On December 7 and10, typhoon victims from the islands of Camotes and Bantayan received gift packs from the Capitol. Children received milk, candies, biscuits and toys while the Senior Citizens and Persons with Disabilities (PWD’s) received assorted relief assistance. They received food packs, shirts, underwear and blankets..

All the affected LGUs received financial assistance from Cebu Province. Governor Davide, Vice Governor Agnes Magpale, PB Jose RibomapilHolganza, department heads and other Capitol employees attended the gift giving. Xerxes Alkuino