By: Morexette Marie B. Erram, Nestle L. Semilla December 26,2017 - 10:14 PM

LAWAAN FIRE: Anxiety and worry are etched on the faces of these women who are among the about 300 individuals from Sitio Caduldulan, Barangay Lawaan III, Talisay City who were left homeless by a fire that razed 87 houses in their community on Christmas Eve, Dec. 24, 2017.

Burned spaghetti, cake, and toys littered Sitio Caduldulan of Barangay Lawaan III in Talisay City, a day after a fire razed down 87 houses that rendered at least 300 individuals homeless on Christmas Eve.

But some of the victims refused to succumb to sadness after the tragedy that struck their lives, especially with the New Year drawing near.

Gingging (not her real name), 27, was busy preparing their family’s Noche Buena past 6 p.m. on Sunday, December 24, when she heard her son screaming that there was a fire.

“Na busy ko ug luto ato. Gikan ra mi sa misa unya akong anak, naa lagi sa gawas kay magdula. Taod-taod, nisyagit naman nuun nga naay sunog (I was busy cooking that time. We just came from Mass and my son was outside playing. Later on, he shouted that there was a fire),” recalled Gingging.

She then rushed outside to check and saw that a thick, gray smoke already filled the air. This prompted her to leave what she was about to cook, and help the other four members of their family who ran for safety.

“Dali ra kaayo nikatay ang kayo. Naugdaw gyud among tibuuk balay pero maayo na lang akong bana nakakuha pa ug mga sanina ug among katre (The flames spread quickly. Our entire house was burned to the ground but, luckily, my husband salvaged some clothes and our bed),” Gingging said.

The Talisay City Fire Department later ruled out butane and firecrackers as the cause of fire. Investigators said the blaze, which was doused at 7:40 p.m., could have been triggered by faulty electrical wiring.

Hours after the fire occurred, Barangay Lawaan III officials set up tents around the fire site to temporarily shelter the victims.

And when some of them, including Gingging, were gathered underneath the tents, they decided to proceed with celebrating the Christmas Noche Buena together, putting together whatever food they had salvaged from the fire.

Gingging said she expected the same thing to happen when it is time to celebrate the New Year.

“Nagsalo-salo mi kaysa sa magmaoy. Nahuman naman ang panghitabo. Basta ang amo malipayon pagpasko unya pagtagbo sad sa bag-ong tuig (We had dinner together instead of mourning what happened. The fire had already happened. What is important was we tried to be happy during Christmas and also to greet the New Year the same way),” Gingging explained.

She said their Noche Buena was composed of whatever food they were able to bring to the table, such as lechon manok (roasted chicken) and pancit.
“Nalipay ra sad mi walay naangol ug walay namatay (We were just happy that no one was injured and no one died),” said Gingging.

The help that came

Help has also started to pour for the fire victims yesterday.

Rep. Gerald Anthony “Samsam” Gullas, the congressional representative of Cebu’s first district to which Talisay City belongs, visited the site to distribute to the fire victims the food packs that were donated by private individuals.

“The Talisay City Government will also provide food ration good for three days any time soon,” Gullas said on Tuesday morning.

He added that the Talisay City Government headed by his grandfather, Mayor Eduardo Gullas, will start validating information pertaining to the fire victims in order to give them financial assistance.

“Possibly early this January, the funds may be released,” said Gullas.

But while they were grateful for the donation they received, the affected residents were also appealing for public officials and concerned government agencies to set up temporary toilets around the fire site.

Sanitary facilities

Amay Hilgado, 40, said their main concern now is where to take a bath, and properly dispose of their waste.

“Ok ra mi dinhi sa tent mangatulog para maanam-anam sad namo ug tukod balik among panimalay kay naa ra mi sa duol. Pero gusto sad mi og tarong nga CR. Naa may tubig pero aha man mi mangaligo? Aha mi mangihi? Para dili sad magkatag ang sakit ug kagaw (It’s OK for us to sleep inside the tents so that we can start rebuilding our houses because we are staying nearby. But we would want a CR [comfort room]. There’s water but where will we take a bath? Where will we urinate? So that diseases and germs will not spread),” said Hilgado.

Hilgado, whose two-storey house made out of wood was burned to ashes, added that they would also need construction materials to rebuild their houses.

The covered court of Barangay Lawaan III was offered as a temporary evacuation site for the victims but most of them opted to stay in the tents provided in the fire site, citing the “relatively long distance” between their houses and the covered court.

“Dinhi lang mi para mabantay sad namo among mga gamit nga na-salvage human sa sunog (We’d rather stay here so that we can watch over the things we salvaged from the fire),” said Hilgado.

What caused the fire?

Meanwhile, an initial investigation by the Talisay City Fire Department showed that the fire started from the house of Ruby dela Concepcion.
In an interview with Cebu Daily News, fire investigator SFO2 Sherwin Algoso said they still have to interview the owner.

“Amo silang gi request to come here at the office pero wala pa gyud sila nagpakita (We requested her to come to our office but she still has to show up),” Algoso said.

Algoso said they ruled out butane and firecrackers as the cause of the fire since there were no sign of firecrackers and butane at the scene.
But there is a possibility that the fire was cause by faulty electrical wiring, said Algoso.

“Mao na gusto namo nga motumaw sila aron maestorya namo kun naa ba silay nabiyaan nga gipang-saksak nga kuryente,” Algoso said.

(That is why we really want them to surface for us to know if they left any appliances plugged into electrical outlets)

Algoso said the house was empty when the fire broke out since Dela Concepcion and her family members were at the market at the time.

Some residents said they believed that a gadget might have been left charging while the Dela Concepcions were out.

A resident, who refused to be named, said she was near the Dela Concepcion house when the fire broke.

“Nakadungog na lang ko nay nagpaka-paka sa sulod. Nabiyaan to nila ilang tablet nga gi-charge (I heard some sparking sound from inside the house. I believed they left a tablet being charged),” the resident said.

Narrow road

According to Algoso, the fire quickly spread to nearby houses, which were mostly made of light materials. A number of homeowners were also attending a community Christmas party at that time, he said.

Algoso said they had difficulty penetrating the area because of the narrow road leading to Sitio Caduldulan.

Algoso said that a fire also broke out in the area in the middle of last year and firefighters were faced with similar difficulties.

“Mao gyud na ang problema diha – ang dalan nga huot kaayo. Naglisod ug sulod ang mga tanker nga mao untay nagdala sa tubig,” Algoso said.

(It has been our problem in that area – the narrow road. Our water tankers have been unable to penetrate the place)

Algoso said they received the fire alarm past 6 p.m. of Dec. 24. The fire was controlled around 7:40 p.m. and firemen declared a fire out an hour later.

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