3 years feels like ‘33 seconds’ for quake victims

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3 years feels like ‘33 seconds’ for quake victims

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Scene:   Sports enthusiasts were devastated by the passing of sportsman and civic leader Nemi Monton last Oct. 4.  As president of Amateur Boxing Association of the Philippines (Abap) in Central Visayas, Nemi opened doors wider for Boholano athletes (he discovered Rey “Boom Boom” Bautista, et al).  He will be sadly missed for his energy, great sense of humor and timeless example as discoverer of athletes.

new bishop
Monsignor Alberto Uy is the new bishop of the Diocese of Tagbilaran. 

Scene: Pope Francis has appointed Monsignor Alberto Uy as the new bishop of the Diocese of Tagbilaran.  He will replace Bishop Leonardo Medroso, 77, whose resignation has been accepted by the pope.  

A priest for 23 years, Msgr. Uy is currently the Episcopal Vicar of the Diocese of Talibon and at the same time the pastor of St. Michael the Archangel Parish in Jagna town.


Scene: I thank the esteemed judges and organizers of the Globe Media Excellence Award (GMEA) and the Catholic Mass Media Awards (CMMA) for chosen me as one of the finalists of GMEA’s Explanatory Story for “Rice Bowl of Central Visayas is near empty” and CMMA’s Best Investigative Report on the 3-part series on the recovery of Bohol after the Earthquake. Both articles were published in Philippine Daily Inquirer. Thank you, thank you!

After the strong earthquake in 2013, Boholanos have developed a powerful sense of disaster consciousness. Inocencia Reyes, a grade 1 teacher of Cogon Norte Elem. School in Loon town, demonstrates how to use the “kuratong,” a bamboo traditionally used to call the community, as the school revives it for disaster risk reduction. Leo Udtohan/Bohol Chronicle



It’s been three years since a magnitude 7.2 earthquake brought Bohol province to its knees.

Three years later, change is uneven although industries are bouncing back. The way people see recovery and resiliency would depend on where they are since rehabilitation and rebuilding efforts continue.

The earthquake also taught Boholanos to be better prepared for disasters, especially at the community level.

At Cogon Norte Elementary School in Loon town, one of the hardest-hit areas, the school has adopted the use of “kuratong” – a bamboo communication device – to warn students and teachers of possible calamities.


Inocencia Reyes, a Grade 1 teacher, said kuratong is traditionally used to call community members to assemble at village halls for meetings, alert people or call children home.


She said the school revived the use of kuratong as part of disaster risk reduction efforts, especially when earthquakes strike.

“In case of power disconnection, we can use kuratong to alert our students since no one knows when an earthquake will happen,” she said, noting teachers and students were trained in using the device.

The school has also a student-based disaster risk reduction (DRR) organized by Save the Children to develop and capacitate student leaders who will serve as advocates in promoting DRR in schools and communities to protect them from any harm cause by natural and human made hazards.


Student leaders were trained in first aid and emergency response, leadership, communication and other life-saving skills. They also conduct seminars to their schoolmates about disaster preparedness inside the DRR kiosk.

Boholanos may have picked up the pieces, but the scar left by earthquake remains.


For Genara Somoro, the Bayong falls in Barangay Katipunan in Sagbayan town, is hard to look at, because this is the place where her two daughters and other three lost their lives.

Three years ago, Somoro’s siblings Jonalyn, 13 and Joellene, 11 and their friends-Jess Marvin Empinado, 10, Meme Jane Empinado, 9, Reynaldo Sipsip, 15, were taking a bath at Bayong Falls in Barangay Katipunan, Sagbayan town.   

They were swimming when the earthquake struck, triggering a landslide that buried the children.

Their bodies were never found making the families in a state of emotional and legal limbo.

“Naka-recover naman ko after three years pero lisud hikalimtan ang nahitabo makahilak gihapun ko makahiumdum sa akong duha ka mga anak (I have recovered after three years, but I cry when I remember my children),” said Somoro.

But she learned to accept their fates even closure is elusive.

“Sakit huna-hunahunaun pero dawaton namo kay pagbuot man sa kahitas-an (It is painful but I learned to accept it because it is Heaven’s will),” said Somoro who held the photos of her daughters who vanished without a trace.

“Wala ka namo makita (We never found you),” mother said to her daughters. “Pero kahibaw mi asa mo- naa ka sa Ginoo run (But we know where you are — with our Lord in heaven).”

The Bayong Falls, which was a tourist destination, is now an abandoned place.  It lost its beauty. No one else go there except for the families of the victims who pay homage to the five children every Oct. 15 and Nov. 1 which bring obvious comfort to the bereaved.

Somoro said that although she thinks of Jonalyn and Joellene daily, their death anniversary remains a special day.

Salome Israel, 26, who lost her right arm and has a dislocated pelvic bones resulting from the quake, has found a work at rural health office in Tubigon town after three years.  She said she was denied because of her being handicapped.

“Time will take care and heal of everything,” Israel said.

The fraught passage of three years feels like “33 seconds” for Clement Paulinel Ingking who lost her mother Linda during the 33-second quake.

“The emptiness can’t be filled by anyone… and the grief is always there behind the smiles… we just chose not to move on in order not to forget her and all the memories,” he said.

Full recovery will take still longer.


Panubig festival goes on despite rain

 Amid  a downpour, the participants of the 3rd Panubig Festival in Pilar town last Oct. 11 drew cheers as they danced in honor  to Nuestra Señora del Pilar or Our Lady of the Pillar, the town’s patroness.

The rain did not appear to affect the enthusiasm of the dancers (seven from elementary and three from high school) who wore colorful costumes and props as they showcased the tradition and culture of the Pilarnons.

Butch Bernas, Ph.D., the Panubig Creative Team, said it was amazing “come rain or shine.”

“It was really pouring rain, but people stayed,” Butch told VRS.

 Hundreds, many without umbrellas, including students, were drenched barely for three hours, but stayed on, watching and supporting their favorite contingents.

The heavy rains failed to dampen the spirits of the Pilarnons who had to witness the 3rd Panubig Festival in Pilar town. Leo Udtohan/Bohol Chronicle


“Panubig literally water! It’s raining! It’s water!” said student Lloyd Quieta.

Giant scarecrows also added attraction to the festival.

The event was hosted by Inday Rufing of Kiss 102.3 FM.

Take a bow, Butch. Take a bow, Vanessa Cubrado-Unajan, Panubig Festival Executive Chair.


Thanks for your letters, all will be answered. Comments welcome at leoudtohan@yahoo.com, follow leoudtohan at Twitter /Facebook.


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