We arrive at the building site and Ireen explains the purpose of our visit to one of the carpenters. Rodel comes forward and introduces himself as one of the surviving Barace family members. He invites us to ‘come in’ and we sit down on one of the wooden support beams. Rodel is 27 years old and we discover that he and his two brothers, Saturnino Jr. (18) and Michael (16) along with a couple of carpenters are building this house to replace the home they lost in the earthquake; the house is being partially funded by a local foreigner who heard about the great tragedy that had befallen Rodel’s family.
Rodel was in Tagbilaran at the time of the earthquake and he tells us what happened to his family on that fateful day. The family set-up was the following: Rodel lived with his wife and two children in his grandparents‘ house and his two brothers and sister lived with his parents near by.
When there was no school, Rodel’s two children, Sasha (7) and Jyle (4) enjoyed going to their grandparents’ house to have breakfast and watch television and today was no exception. On this particular day however, Jyle did not want to stay long at his grandparents’ house and decided to venture back home but not before instructing his sister to stay where she was. The little boy was on his way back home when the earthquake struck. Cracks opened up in the ground and the boy was stranded. His grandfather who was working on his house immediately ran to him as did all the members of the family from different directions. They reached him but then the earth started to give way alarmingly; Michael who was on steadier ground was able to jump over a crack and run for help. Tragically, the others were being engulfed by the earth which was sinking all around them.
Rodel lost his parents, his son Jyle and his sister Elizabeth in the sinkhole that day. His brother Saturniño Jr. survived but only after suffering the terrible ordeal of being buried in the soil with his father’s feet next to him. The earth was hot and sticky and Saturniño felt desperately depressed fearing he had lost everyone in his family. He managed to remove the earth down to his waist but could do no more. Meanwhile, his brother, Michael was frantically looking for help from neighbours and was his brother’s one source of encouragement during his ordeal. Saturniño was to be in the ground for six hours and it was Rodel who had rushed back from Tagbilaran who eventually pulled him out of the ground.
We remain in touch with Rodel and the others we met in late January. It is our hope to offer support to the families who suffered personal tragedies in the earthquake. Rodel and his wife are wicker basket weavers and we are looking into ways in which we could help them and their neighbours find new markets for their products. The small town of Antequera is well known for wicker weaving and the products are of high quality.
Rodel Barace relating his family's tragic story.
Rodel’s daughter, Sasha
Our team walking back from visiting Rodel and his two brothers