Bleak New Year for fire victims

By Nestle L. Semilla December 31,2015
Lahug fire victims put up tents at the fire site where their destroyed houses once stood as UP guards (right, climbing ladder) installs tarp banners of images of UP building to be constructed on the lot. (CDN PHOTO/TONEE DESPOJO)

Lahug fire victims put up tents at the fire site where their destroyed houses once stood as UP guards (right, climbing ladder) installs tarp banners of images of UP building to be constructed on the lot. (CDN PHOTO/TONEE DESPOJO)

SOME of the fire victims from sitio Avocado, barangay Lahug stayed with relatives on New Year’s eve, hoping to ease their sadness over the loss of their homes.

Cristina Rustia, a teacher in Mabolo National High School, didn’t save anything from the fire. She was visiting  relatives in northern Cebu when the fire struck on  December 26.

Rustia said she invested everything she had in that house. She was, at least, thankful that no one in her family was hurt.

Because she was not around when Department of Social Welfare Services (DSWS) staff validated the list of fire victims, Rustia was not able to receive P10,000  financial assistance from the city government.

“Problema lagi ni. Wala ko nakadawat, because wala mi validated paper. Kay gikan kos probinsya pag-abot nako diri naugdaw na akoang balay (It’s a problem. I didn’t receive any financial aid  because I don’t have validated paper. When I arrived, my house had already been destroyed),” she said.

Rustia now lives with her sibling, but she spent New Year’s eve at her parents’ house in their hometown.

Like most of the fire victims, Rustia hopes to be able to rebuild in sitio Avocado. She is not keen about moving to the relocation site in Nivel Hills.

Another fire victim, Gemma Gelsano, spent New Year’s eve at her employer’s house. She and her child had been living in the shop owned by her employer in sitio Avocado.

Because she was not a home owner, she did not get any financial assistance from the city government.

“Adto nalang ko sa akong amo ma’am. Naa may laing shop dool rasad diri (I’ll just go to my employer’s house. They have another shop just near here),” she said.

At least 200 families greeted the new year, without a lavish party, at their evacuation center in the Lahug Elementary School.

The fire that hit sitio Avocado on December 26 razed 89 houses and displaced about 240 families.

It’s still not clear whether they can rebuild because the University of the Philippines Cebu, which owns the property, has announced that it will proceed with the construction of additional facilities in the area. The university has offered a two-hectare relocation site for the fire victims in Nivel Hills.

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