Little Kibungan remembered
The other week local officials of Barangay Puguis led by Punong Barangay Sonny Victor Balanoy hosted a mass in “Little Kibungan” to remember the 77 people who perished when part of a rain-soaked mountainside cascaded down the slope and plowed through a neighborhood on the evening of Oct. 8, 2009 at the height of Typhoon Pepeng.* * * * * * * * * *
So total was the devastation that even concrete houses were uprooted from their foundations and their occupants buried and reduced to unrecognizable shapes by the sheer deluge of mud and gravel.
I remember that even the strong-willed of rescuers, including then police chief Mario Mayames, were reduced to tears or could not contain their emotions as they uncovered bodies one after the other.
K of C Edgar Waklin who was among the rescuers recalled coming across a human heart severed from a body.
“We found the body afterwards and put the heart back,” he said.
To the credit of the rescuers, all the victims were accounted for and were laid out covered in black bags at the Puguis Elementary School as the community watched in vigil.
The Halsema Highway was cut along several sections and it took weeks before access was restored. Some of the victims had to be brought home to their home towns by helicopter.
In deference to the victims, the province of Benguet skipped the festivities during the celebration of the annual Adivay for that year.
Five years after the incident, Little Kibungan has since rebounded as the survivors rebuilt their homes. “They have recovered and the spirits of the dead appeared to have accepted their fate,” said PB Balanoy.
And on the very spot where a three-story building was separated from its foundation as in a beheading, Catholic priest Junior Ablaza said mass on Oct. 9 for the souls of the victims.
“The dead could not pray for themselves but they can pray for us the living,” said the priest in his homily. “Hence, they needed our prayers.”
“Through our prayers, they will also pray for us,” he added.
I also recall that in the years that followed, President GMA signed a proclamation ceding part of the BSU reservation to the survivors of the incident as a relocation area.
This was never realized for one reason or another, considering opposition from claimants or from those with adverse claims. One reason perhaps is that the stakeholders (concerned line agencies and LGUs) could not seem to get their acts together.
Wonder who gave GMA wrong advice and took the survivors of Little Kibungan for a ride.
Great must have been the surprise of retired Department of Agriculture regional director Faustino Maslan when a well-known dignitary appeared unannounced at the doorstep of his residence in Poblacion, Dagupan, Tabuk City on Sept. 20.
As his equally-surprised neighbors watched, Maslan’s eyes widened when Vice President Jejomar Binay held his hand and lifted it to his forehead in the traditional manner of pagmamano.
Now it seemed they are not at all un-related. They both stand 10 feet tall in a manner of speaking.
The VP is a member of the Order of Demolay while Tino, Sr. is a member of the Free Masonry.
Tino, Jr., a major in the Philippine Marines, is an aide de camp of the Vice President. Max, the eldest of apo Tino’s children, works with the Housing Land Use and Regulatory Board under Binay. Farnaw Claver, Tino’s son-in-law, ran as vice governor in Kalinga under Binay’s UNA in the last elections. Binay is secure in the House of apo Maslan.