It is mid afternoon and time to head for Loon, our other destination for the day. We are lucky enough to have a jeepney pull up within a few minutes of leaving the Disaster Response Centre and we clamber onboard.
I look out on the left side during the 20 minute ride to Loon and my mind wanders. Who are the owners of the destroyed houses? Are they Overseas Foreign Workers (OFW’s) who have put their savings from working abroad into buying their dream home? Are they local business people? One thing is for sure, there will be a move back to the building of homes with native materials as opposed to concrete.
As we come into the town of Loon, I notice crowds of people and an array of tents and we ask the driver to stop and let us down. We discover that this is a relief supplies distribution center and a camping ground for evacuees. Just behind is the sad sight of the ruins of the Church of Our Lady of Light; it is completely destroyed. The church was built in 1753 and was the biggest church in Bohol. Eight people died in the church that fateful day and only one of the bodies has been retrieved.
Ireen and I walk over to the ruins of the nearby cultural Centre and we start talking to a family occupying one of the tents nearby. We talk to Bebeth, the mother of three children and her younger sister, Jasmin. We are surrounded by friendly children all eager to talk to us. A little boy by the name of Bembem grabs my hand and does not want to let go.
We ask Bebeth if she would show us her damaged home and she agrees to take us there. The children are the ones to lead us down the Spanish stone steps to the shore. These steps were built hundreds of years ago in the Spanish times. We stop off at the elementary school which is now unusable as there is a large sinkhole underneath one of the classrooms. Jasmin tells us that seawater gushed out of the soil when the earthquake struck. This would explain the strange presence of white sand and shells in the ground.
The children guide Ireen and me to their respective homes to see the damage and again we see for ourselves the lucky escapes people had. In Bebeth’s family home, slabs of concrete cover the floor area; the bedroom walls had collapsed on the day, thankfully with no one inside at the time.
It is time to bid farewell to our new friends and we promise them that we shall come back. We have visited a town badly damaged by an earthquake and everyone has welcomed us warmly. There is joy and hope amid the ruins. We shall be back to help Araceli, Joyce’s family and others who lost their homes in the October 15th earthquake.
Tuesday, 5th November, 2013