October 18, 2009 in Baguio City
By ARTHUR ALLAD-IW
BAGUIO CITY — Amam-a (elders) of the Kankana-ey village of Sitio Bulala in Tadian, Mountain Province conduct cleansing rituals after the residents and rescue volunteers from other nearby towns joined the villagers in bury the last seven retrieved corpses in the community cemetery on Wednesday, October 14.
Daw-es, the ancient cleansing ritual, is performed by the amam-a to cleanse the community from this bad experience that has caused death, injury and sufferings.
The community ritual was done after the last seven retrieved corpses from the total 35 deaths were laid to rest in the community cemetery, said Xavier Akien, a resident of Kayan in a phone interview.
He clarified that the dead recovered was not 38 as earlier reported, but 35 based on villagers’ approximations. Injured from the landslide are Erlina Trinidad, John Vincent Trinidad, and Mercedez Gomez, who were brought to various hospitals. (Please see lists of dead residents).
Villagers recalled that on Thursday, October 8, Mt. Bebe above the village collapsed due to the saturated ground from the continuous rains brought by typhoon Pepeng. The slide covered and totally damaged 18 houses and partially damaged another five. There are 32 households in Sitio Bulala.
With three retrieved corpses in Bunga village, Tadian, the death toll in Mountain Province rose to 38. Two survived the landslides in the said village.
After seven days of mobilizing the community and volunteers to retrieve the victims, finally the last seven were recovered yesterday, Akien, the vice president for internal affairs of the Cordillera People’s Alliance (CPA) said. “We need to bury them immediately based on our tradition,” he said.
Like the relatives of the villagers from this city, Akien braved the landslides in the Halsema Highway and went home immediately when he heard the incident on Thursday.
After the Thursday landslides, residents of Tadian, Bauko, Sabangan, Sagada, Bontoc, the provincial government, and from the Lepanto Employees Union arrived and helped in the rescue operations. Food and other needed supplies were also carried in by these volunteers, said Georgia Velasco, a resident of Kayan in an interview.
Various support in the form of economic, social, moral and spiritual were shown in this worst disaster, said Velasco, adding: “These thousands of indigenous peoples were moved by their inherent unity to work together in response to the disaster, together with their local government.”
Nobody is hungry here as the food support from the locals arrived immediately complimented by government relief, she said. She added that the area still has no electricity but a generator was provided for their light needs at night time.
Rehab work under IP framework
Active in development work, Velasco said that immediate assistance to rehabilitate the community is urgent.
“Rehabilitation however must be comprehensive and must consider the indigenous peoples framework,” she pointed out.
Kayan, an old seat of political power since 1903, is inhabited by Kankanaey indigenous peoples. From here, it is considered as the gateway to the Ilocos region as it is next-door neighbor to Cervantes of Ilocos Sur.
During the rescue operations that ended on Tuesday, the villagers observed a “community holiday” where everyone is mobilized for the rescue operations, each has a contributing part whether in the support system or the actuall retrieval work in the task of the moment. Villagers are mostly relatives by consanguinity or by affinity.
Meanwhile, the Bontoc-Banaue Road was opened on Tuesday, October 13, when landslides were cleared from the Mount Polis portion of the artery. Howeverr, the Halsema Highway linking Mountain Province with Benguet remains closed due to the magnitude of the sustained landslides. There is yet no electricity in Mountain Province as of press time. # nordis.net