By: Jose Santino S. Bunachita, Nestle L. Semilla December 11,2016 - 11:14 PM


The unbearable odor coming from Kalunasan creek which passes through Guadalupe cave, a holy place, has raised calls for the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB-7)to investigate nearby jails

As thousands of devotees of the Patroness of Cebu, the Our Lady of Guadalupe, walked the streets on Sunday in a solemn procession to celebrate the eve of her fiesta, unknown to many, hundreds of the faithful had endured not just the long walk but also the repugnant smell of a cave in Barangay Kalunasan, where the Blessed Mother’s image stands for veneration.

The Our Lady of Guadalupe Langub Shrine, Cebu’s most iconic grotto, has been reeking of feces and urine presumably from Cebu’s biggest jails located atop the village.

The stink that whiffs through the sacred place from the nearby Kalunasan creek had gotten worse in weeks that devotees now have to cover their noses and mouths while praying before a replica of the Our Lady of Guadalupe inside the cave.

Others had stopped attending weekly Masses at the Langub Shrine because of the foul odor that had become very difficult to endure; except for yesterday, when a sizeable crowd of 100 showed up to attend Mass on the eve of today’s fiesta celebration.

Residents around Kalunasan also complained of nausea and vomiting from breathing in the smell, day in and out.

Kalunasan Barangay Captain Nunilon Monares Jr. is certain that the Cebu Provincial Detention Rehabilitation Center (CPDRC) and the Bagong Buhay Rehabilitation Center (BBRC) are to blame.

Monares will ask personnel from the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR-7) to also inspect the two facilities today.

“Dapat sad gyud i-check ang mga jail kay ang baho gikan gyud diha. Tungod na gyud na sa kadaghan sa mga inmates diha (The jails really have to be checked because the smell comes from there. It is because there are already so many inmates there),” he told Cebu Daily News.

A technical team from EMB-7 is expected to visit the area of the Our Lady of Guadalupe grotto in the barangay today to conduct water sampling of the creek to verify if it is really contaminated with human wastes and urine.

According to Monares, the EMB-7 had already conducted a water sampling of the creek five years ago when they first started noticing the stench from the creek.

But until now, they have not been given a copy of the results. He said he will remind the EMB personnel about it today.

Sneaking in human wastes into the creek

The barangay captain said they suspect that personnel from CPDRC and the Cebu City Jail have been releasing some of the contents of their septic tanks into the creek.

“Naa na sila’y binuang nga inag kusog sa uwan, ablihan na nila ilang septic tank para mogawas ang sulod kuyog sa ulan (That’s what they do during heavy rains, they open up their septic tank so that its contents are released together with the rainwater),” he said.

The Cebu Provincial Detention and Rehabilitation Center (CPDRC)  has enforced a stricter policy on conjugal visits following an incident where a woman faked a marriage certificate to be able to avail of conjugal privileges with a high profile inmate. (CDN FILE PHOTO)

The Cebu Provincial Detention and Rehabilitation Center (CPDRC)  (CDN FILE PHOTO)

In earlier interviews, both CPDRC acting jail warden Dr. Gil Macato and Cebu City Jail warden Supt. Jessie Calumpang denied the allegations, claiming that they had no problem with their septic tanks while belying claims that their contents are thrown into the Kalunasan creek which traverses the cave and hundreds of households in Barangay Kalunasan and neighboring Barangay Guadalupe.

With this problem, Monares said he plans to call the management of both facilities again to a meeting to look into the probable cause and source of the foul odor in the area.

He added that it is not possible that the smell is caused by household wastes from nearby houses in the area since it would not have been as grave as it is now.

“Maluoy na gyud ko sa mga maagian sa baho. Mura gyud ka og kasukaon sa kabaho (I really feel sorry for people who get to smell the foul odor. It is so bad that you can almost puke),” he said, adding that there were times though when the smell was bearable.

“Grabe kabaho basta buntag. Naay usahay sa hapon. Akong mga apo nga gagmay pa magsuka usahay sa kabaho (The stench is really awful especially in the morning. Sometimes it would also smell in the afternoon that sometimes my grandchildren end up vomiting because of the foul odor),” said 59-year-old May Ytang, a resident of the area.

When CDN went to the cave yesterday, some devotees were seen covering their noses as they lighted candles and offered petitions.

Eliseo Jacaban, 47, a devotee from Barangay Busay, was visiting the shrine with his son and wife.

Jacaban, who has been a pilgrim for years every fiesta, said that it was the first time he noticed the bad smell from the nearby creek.

“Wala man ko nakamatikod sa baho sauna, karon lang (I haven’t noticed the awful smell in the past years, just now),” Jacaban said.

Another devotee, who requested anonymity, told CDN that while it was her practice to attend Mass at the cave once or twice a month, she was now having second thoughts because the stench had gotten worse.

Guadalupe parish

Fr. Romeo Desuyo of Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish, who oversees the shrine, is calling on officials of Barangay Kalunasan, Cebu City and Cebu Province that run BBRC and CPDRC, respectively, to help resolve the problem of the creek’s pollution.

“Ang directly concern gyud ana ang city, barangay since under sa Kalunasan and CPDRC under sa province mo-action unta usab sila (It’s a direct concern of the city government and barangay since the cave is under Kalunasan and CPDRC is under the province. I hope they would also act on it),” Fr. Desuyo said.

Fr. Desuyo added that although it has only been three months since he was assigned to oversee the shrine, the odor problem has always been existing.

the risen Christ talks to his disciples during a performance at the Our Lady of Guadalupe de Cebu Church grounds. (CDN PHOTO/CHRISTIAN MANINGO)

The risen Christ talks to his disciples during a performance at the Our Lady of Guadalupe de Cebu Church grounds. (CDN PHOTO/CHRISTIAN MANINGO)

He said that the priests and residents believe that the odor comes from the human wastes of inmates confined particularly at CPDRC.

“Maklaro baya nimo ang kalubog sa tubig nga dili na siya normal. Kanang sapa diha, naay times mo grabe gyud ang baho (You can actually see the water is not normal already. There are times when the creek really stinks badly),” he said.

Desuyo said that it had become difficult for them to celebrate Mass in the cave.

“Dugay nana nga reklamo sa residente. Kami bag-o pa lang mi naka-observe, pero mura na gani maglisod sa pagbuka sa among baba kay murag mahigop or matulon namo ang baho (The residents already complained about it. Even if we just recently observed it, it has already reached a point where we even have difficulty in opening our mouth because we can take in the foul smell),” Desuyo said.

To try to minimize the odor emanating from the creek, the parish plans to cover an open canal near the cave.

But Fr. Desuyo said that this mitigating measure may not even work, considering that the creek traverses much of the area.
“Naglatay gyud ang baho sa tibuok sapa (The smell really affects the whole creek),” the priest said.

By virtue of a pontifical decree issued on May 3, 2006 by the Vatican’s Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, the Our Lady of Guadalupe of Cebu was declared as the Patroness of Cebu.

According to historical accounts, when Miguel Lopez de Legaspi and Spanish missionaries landed on the shores of San Nicolas, Cebu, they later gave natives a replica of the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe as Christian converts increased in number.
Accounts are unclear as to when and how the image ended up in a cave in Kalunasan; however, it is said that its discovery happened accidentally.

The image given by the Spaniards is now enshrined in Guadalupe Church; however, the cave, where a replica of the icon has been placed, continues to be the object of pilgrimages by Catholics and tourists throughout Visayas and Mindanao.

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TAGS: Bagong Buhay Rehabilitation Center, BBRC, Blessed mother, Cebu, Cebu Provincial Detention Rehabilitation Center, CPDRC, DENR, DENR-7, Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Department of Environment and Natural Resources in Central Visayas, EMB, Environmental Management Bureau, feces, Grotto, Guadalupe, Kalunasan, Kalunasan Creek, Langub Shrine, patroness of Cebu, smell, the Our Lady of Guadalupe

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