Philippine Self-Help Foundation


The 29th of October was the very first day that four wheeled vehicles were allowed to access the town of Catigbi-an after the 15th October earthquake. Phady, our field worker and I took the first jeepney trip at 6am. Going to Catigbi-an, we passed through the towns of Cortes and Balilihan and saw a number of both concrete and native houses totally wrecked. Signages asking for food were plastered on shattered walls and a lot of people were camping beside the road in improvised tents made up of sacks, plastic covers and tin roofings. 

When we reached Balilihan, I sent a text message to one of our livelihood loan recipients, Ferdinand Bonifacio asking him if he was nearby and could he pick us up to take us to Mahayag, a barangay in Catigbi-an where we have projects. Surprisingly, Dina, his daughter, a PSHF educational loan recipient, came on her motorcycle and gave us a ride. What struck us on arrival in Mahayag Sur was the sight of a flattened hill where big trees had once stood, and where we had sat under their shade on a hot day. The earthquake had been so strong that it had split the hill apart, and rocks and soil had avalanched down to the main road. 

Our first stop is Dina’s family home. I am quite shocked to see that her family’s semi-concrete home is totally damaged. At the time of the earthquake, all of them were there and Josephine (Dina’s mother) was preparing breakfast. All of a sudden, they felt the ground shaking violently, then they heard a big bang and a big crack opened up in their flooring. As soon as they could keep their balance, they rushed out of the house. The next thing they saw was white dust coming out from the walls of their house and then within the blink of an eye their house had collapsed to the ground.

2) Jose Patac (70) (LFBO 741) and his bed-ridden wife Patricia were inside their house when they felt the ground move followed by a loud crack and then Jose saw that the floor had cracked open. Instinctively, he took shelter under the table while at the same time shouting for his wife to come out. Patricia was in bed and it was shaking alarmingly, she slid to the floor and crawled into the living room. When she reached her husband’s side, they both crawled to the front door and just before reaching the main door, the wall next to it collapsed and their aquarium where they had a pet knife fish fell to the ground. Sadly the 12 year old fish died. Jose and Patricia while on their knees were spotted by their son Joselito who lifted his mother in his arms, Jose held on to him and all three of them fled to safer ground.

The once sturdy and concrete house of the Patac couple is no longer safe to live in. The walls on either side of the house have huge cracks and the concrete floor looks as if it has been destroyed by a bulldozer. Patricia who had been bed bound for a month was now miraculously able to stand and walk. Both husband and wife suffered bruises but the trauma brought by the 7.2 magnitude will be forever carved in their minds. One good thing for which Jose is thankful is that his four children who live nearby and they all came to help. Unfortunately, their houses are also destroyed so all five families are now living in an improvised tent but comforted to know that no one was seriously hurt. 

3) Victoria Omapas (LFBO 738) was tending her rice field, together with her aunt Teresita when the quake struck. The two were preparing the rice nursery when they felt the ground move. Teresita noticed water and mud bubbling up from the ground; this was then followed by what seemed like an endless shaking of the ground. Victoria’s reaction was to squat on the ground, Teresita however panicked and barely could move as mud splattered all over her body. Upon seeing her aunt’s reaction,Victoria abruptly stood up and grabbed her aunt. Slowly they made their way to the road, trying not to panic even when they saw that the land had cracked and a large portion of the ground had subsided.

On reaching their home on the hill, they shouted for their love ones. Happily, Victoria’s daughter, grandchildren and husband were all there waiting for them unharmed. Their house however was damaged and leaning over and there was a big crack passing through their house.

Aya, Victoria’s granddaughter suffered from trauma and after the earthquake; the poor thing refused to eat for a day, however, the day we visited the Omapas family, Aya had recovered and was actively playing with her cousins. The Omapas family together with relatives and neighbors were staying in a flat area near a rice field that was thankfully free of cracks. 

Benjamin, Victoria’s husband, has constructed a temporary shelter made of wood and he uses sacks as a wall covering. Fortunately, the entire town of Catigbi-an has a sufficient supply of food and water and the local government unit (LGU) is in the process of facilitating housing assistance for those who lost their homes. 

We are not able to see all our 21 projects in Catigbi-an as we are told that they have evacuated in different places but it is a relief to know that no one died nor was seriously injured during the earthquake. At 4pm, Phady and I bid farewell to our friends, telling them we will be back and we board the jeepney back to Tagbilaran City.

Ireen Ingles

12th November 2013


Dina and her father Ferdinand standing in what used to be the family’s living room.

Jose  Patricia in front of their house with cracks.

The wrecked flooring of Jose Patac’s house and the broken aquarium where the knife fish used to stay.

The big cracks near Victoria’s house. 

 Victoria with her, mother Felisa and two grandchildren; Jay and Aya