Featured Stories Life!

Christmas wish of Lapu-Lapu fire victims: To survive

Christmas wish of Lapu-Lapu fire victims: To survive

After losing her home to a fire a week before Christmas, Isidra Booc is left devastated, struggling to find a way to start all over. CDN Digital photo | Emmariel Ares

CEBU CITY, Philippines — For many of the residents of a coastal community in Lapu-Lapu City, Cebu who lost their homes to a fire, their Christmas wish is simple: To be able to survive.

While many wish for material things this Christmas, these fire victims from Barangay Pusok in Lapu-Lapu City desire a chance to start over after the tragedy that hit their community. 

Last December 12, 2023, residents of Sitio Sta. Maria in Barangay Pusok were all in shock when a fire engulfed their homes in the afternoon, leaving almost nothing behind.

READ: Lapu-Lapu fire: Chan urges Council to declare State of Calamity

From a typhoon to a fire

So as Christmas Day approaches, fire victims are left carrying the only belongings they have left while they try to search for new homes.

Christmas wish of Lapu-Lapu fire victims: To survive

An aftermath of the fire that broke out in Sitio Sta. Maria, Barangay Pusok, Lapu Lapu City on December 12, 2023 | via Paul Lauro

One of the victims, Antonio Saraosas, was at work, like many others, when he heard about the fire.

On his way home, he saw the smoke from the fire and was feeling anxious that the fire might have burned his home. True enough, his house was among those burned and he could only salvage little of his personal belongings.

Saraosas lives by himself after his children have all gotten married and have lived with their own families now.

Saraosas said that he never expected such tragedy to happen to them, especially after they experienced a similar fate of having to evacuate due to a typhoon on the same month in 2021.

In 2021, many residents spent their Christmas and New Year at the evacuation center after the Super Typhoon Odette left a trail of destruction in its wake.

For Saraosas, this tragedy was worse than what they experienced in 2021 because many of them were not able to save any of their items this time around. 

READ: LOOK: Fire razes 300 homes in Lapu-Lapu City


Just like Saraosas, 28-year-old Reyna Truz was also at work when she heard about the fire. Truz is from Consolacion and was renting a room in a boarding house in Lapu Lapu to be closer to her work.

After she recovered from the shock of what happened, she said that she had no choice but to accept that everything she owned were now burned.

When Gladis Canonigo, 24, found out about the fire, her first reaction was to panic and she frantically headed home while praying on the way that her family were out of harm’s way.

She said that she was extremely restless and did not know what to do but was in a hurry to check on her family members.

Canonigo said that she prioritized fetching her young niece who was at elementary school at the time of the incident. 

With a worried heart, she found her niece along with the many students outside of the school after they were evacuated due to the close proximity of the fire.

READ: Cebu City fires: Over 300 incidents, P4-billion worth of damages in 2023

Sad but thankful family members are okay

“Magkaguol gyud intawn kay pag [2021], nabagyo pud. Didto pud mi sa eskwelahan nag-Pasko, nag-New Year. Pait intawon kaayo,” said Canonigo.

(It has really gotten us sad because in [2021], there was also the typhoon. We were staying in the school celebrating Christmas, celebrating New Year. It was really difficult.)

However, she is still thankful that they are all safe and together even after the fire.

While taking shelter at the open court underneath the Marcello Fernan bridge, she shared that they sent her 50-year-old father to her uncle’s house in Barangay Looc because of his frail condition.

Meanwhile, Dennis Labra was asleep inside his house when the blaze started.

As a fire volunteer, he immediately went out to help after making sure that his wife and child were safe from any danger. 

Lapu-Lapu fire victims

Sitio Santa Maria residents take shelter in the evacuation area under the Marcelo Fernan bridge after losing their homes to a fire. | Emmariel Ares

Despair, hope this Christmas

With such a calamity taking place a week before Christmas Day, many residents shared their feelings of being lost and that despair dominated their hearts instead of the warmth of the yuletide season.

While some individuals said that they did not have any plans to celebrate Christmas this year, there were also some who said that they would still celebrate.

READ: To you who mourn at Christmas

Saraosas said that instead of joy and laughter, he would only expect sadness this yuletide season and stress from having to find another place to live in.

Celebrating Christmas

Unlike him though, Canonigo shared that the unfortunate incident would not stop her from celebrating the birth of Jesus as it had always been an important time for their family.

Every year, her family gets together with relatives from Naga City and enjoys a small feast made even better with the warmth of being together. 

They might not have concrete plans on what they would do for Christmas Eve, but Canonigo said that a celebration would be taking place no matter what.

For 61-year-old Isidra Booc, she is determined to attend the Misa de Gallo because she thinks it is an important tradition to show her gratitude to the Lord for the guidance He has provided her family throughout the year.  

“Mangita gyud tag paagi nga maka Simbang Gabi ta,” she said.

(We should always look for a way that we can attend the dawn Masses.)

While some fire victims feel too dejected to express the joy of the holiday season, a significant number of individuals remain optimistic for a jolly Christmas.

But no matter what their plans are, Christmas remains to be a time of healing and renewed strength for the new season to come, especially for those who suffered so much throughout the year.

Lapu-Lapu fire victims this Christmas

Even with an uncertain future, the fire victims are facing their problems with optimism, hoping that good fortune will come their way in the next year. | Emmariel Ares

Christmas wish of fire victims

Another beloved aspect of the Christmas season is the part where individuals get to make a wish for anything they desire as part of the holiday’s tradition of giving and receiving.

For some, mostly kids, their wishlists are prepared months before December to make sure that they indeed get what they asked for. It may not be always necessary for a happy celebration, wishing for something you yearn for provides the feeling of hope.

For many of the fire victims, the top of their Christmas wishlist is occupied by a wish for a chance to start over after the unfortunate incident.

What they desire most on Christmas this year is another chance to not only survive but thrive in the world after they were hit by a tragedy.

“Christmas wish nako nga hinaot naay motabang namo diri. Bisag makatukod mi balik sa among balay,” shared Labra.

(My Christmas wish is that he hoped that somebody would help them there. Even if, it would just be helping them rebuild their own house.)

“Hinaot unta nga tagaan mig hinabang unya makacelebrate gihapon mi bisag ginagmay lang gud,” added Canonigo.

(We hope that we can receive aid and we can celebrate the occasion even if it will only be a small celebration.)

Christmas wish: Blessings, Lord’s guidance

Most importantly, they wished for the Lord to remain by their side and help them recover from the loss that significantly changed their lives.

“Ako lang wish nga tagaan mig kaayuhan bisag ingon ani mi karon before Christmas. Tagaan lang mi sa Ginoo, dili lang mi niya pasagdan,” stated Booc.

(My wish is that we will be given blessings even if we are like this before Christmas. The Lord will give us that and he will not leave us alone.)

With these wishes in mind, these Oponganons are facing their unfortunate fate with a hopeful mindset that their destiny would change for the better in the near future.

Hoping for love, hope, joy this Christmas

Because even with a cheerless Christmas this year, they remain strong and eager for the celebration of God’s ultimate gift: the birth of the savior Jesus Christ.

For whether there is good or bad news in the world, the birth of Jesus is always good news worth celebrating to remind the world of God’s love for humanity.

The fire might have turned their lives upside down, but the residents of Sitio Sta. Maria are holding on to the hope that they too will experience the love, hope, and joy that comes with the much anticipated Christmas holiday. This is their wish this Christmas.

/bmjo, dbs

TAGS: Cebu, Christmas, fire, people, tragedy
Latest Stories
Most Read