By CHRIS V. PANGANIBAN
PROSPERIDAD, Agusan del Sur--Residents living in the floating village of Sabang Gibong in Talacogon town are bracing for the big floods which is already an accepted natural phenomenon especially at this time of the year.
Already, the villagers in this predominantly Manobo community are now equipped for survival to the heavy flooding which has been worsening each passing year.
The houses and other structures in Sabang Gibong are built to float not to stand in its ground and crafted to dance even with the rampaging floodwaters.
But why do the villagers choose to stay than to leave? The answer is obviously clear. They loved their homeland since it is the source of their living that the years of dealing with great floods taught them a lot about resiliency.
According to folktales, the word Manobo was, originally known as “mansuba” which means river dwellers. Truly, they live up to their name and reputation, and indeed the art of survival has been effectively handed down to them from their ancestors.
“While other communities in Agusan del Sur whine about perennial flooding, villages such as Sabang Gibong find the good in the deluge,” said Michael Sabacajan, Municipal Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Officer..
“People have learned to adapt to the flooding by using floating houses that rise and fall with the water level,” said Sabacajan, also an aide to the mayor, Jesryl Masendo.
During floods, the floating houses would drift to a forest several hundred meters from their sites, or have to be pulled by motorized boats and securely tied to trees.
With their community tucked deep in the 14,000-hectare Agusan Marsh, school children in Sabang Gibong do not enjoy the benefits of technology, particularly in education. The 115 students of the village’s elementary school attend classes in a four-room, makeshift, wooden building that sits on bamboo rafts, which float as the water level rises.
But the Manobo villagers are no longer taking chances following the lessons they learned from the worst flood that battered their village last January when three family members, including a 3-year-old boy and his parents drowned to death when the motorboat they were riding capsized by the rising turbulent flood waters.
The boy, Donaire Noja, was retrieved by rescuers of the Municipal Disaster Risk Reduction Management Office of Esperanza, in Lake Oro five days after the tragic incident.
The boy’s parents, Jimboy Noja, 43, and Judith Osma, 31, were separately fished out in different locations. Judith ‘s body was found by Talacogon MDRRMO rescue team floating underneath a bridge while Jimboy’s cadaver was found at the neighboring town Poblacion of San Luis.
Nine family members who were on board a pump boat took the risk of going back downstream to the evacuation center on the night of January 29 even the rising flood waters were turbulent and without knowing a whirlpool was already developing from a distance.
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