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Wednesday, October 15, 2014

A Year After the Bohol Earthquake Tales of Struggles and Courage Linger

A year after Bohol was struck by a devastating earthquake, Boholanos still tremble at the slightest earth movement, fearing that another huge one is coming on the anniversary of the 7.2-magnitude quake.
“People have not fully recovered from the trauma caused by the earthquake. There are some who still refuse to sleep inside their houses while others panic at the slightest movement,” said Lloyd Peter Lopez, mayor of Loon, the hardest hit municipality.
On the first anniversary of the devastating earthquake that killed more than 200 people, there are survivors who still struggle to get back on their feet, literally, while others were courageous enough to put the nightmarish experience under the rubble of their memories.
Forty-two-year-old Marisa Fuerzas was looking after her aged parents inside their house in Poblacion, Barangay Motonorte, this town, when the earth started moving on the morning of October 15 last year.
Her first instinct told her to run for safety but she chose to stay and covered her bedridden parents with her own body to shield them from the debris that started falling from the roof. Seconds later, the concrete partition of their house fell on her.
“I felt the concrete falling on my back and my entire body went numb followed by a very painful sensation that ran from my back down to my legs and thighs. I slumped into the floor,” Marisa recalled.
A chunk of concrete fell on the face of Marisa’s 80-year-old mother, Eugenia. The old woman died three days later inside the town’s makeshift hospital. Marisa’s father survived.
Marisa was rushed to the hospital but as her neighbors carried her towards the ambulance, she felt the lower part of her body become numb and her back was very painful. In the hospital, the doctors told her she would not be able to walk again.
The news felt more painful than the concrete falling on her back. For one who had been doing errands for her aged parents, being unable to walk was like a curse but she never regretted the decision to protect her parents with he own body.
“Some neighbors and relatives told me that I should just have run away… my parents were too old anyway. If I just left them to die, my conscience would have slowly killed me,” she said. 

A year after the tragic day, Marisa still struggles to walk and tries to get back to her normal life with her husband. She has been doing daily exercises but still has not regained the strength to stand up and walk.
“I’ve been told to undergo a series of therapy but I don’t have the means to pay for it,” the teary-eyed Marisa said. “But I’m still hoping that someday I will be able to stand up and walk again.”
A few meters from where Marisa is now staying is the house of pharmacist Shirley Bongay, 34, who, despite losing her right arm a year ago, manages to keep a positive outlook in life.
At first glance, one would not see any of the struggles that Shirley had undergone when the earthquake rocked Bohol last year. She was all smiles during the interview and she looked much younger than her age.
“It was my decision to have my right arm cut off and the doctor cut it without giving me anesthesia,” Shirley said without blinking.
The pharmacist was on the ground floor of her family’s two-story house when the earth started moving last year. She stood still in the first few seconds, then decided to run towards the main door when the movement intensified..
Just as she reached for the door knob, a concrete column fell on her, pinning her right arm. Shirley struggled to free her arm, to no avail. The pain was getting more excruciating.
It took more than eight hours for her neighbors to free her arm from under the concrete column and as soon as she was free, she noticed that her right arm was numb and cold.
“It felt like touching a cadaver,” Shirley recalled but still managed to give out a smile.
Inside the makeshift hospital in Loon, the doctors told Shirley that her arm needed to be cut off or she would risk getting infection The only problem was that the doctors did not have enough anesthesia and their tools were not sterilized.
“I was holding my lifeless right arm for a few hours. Then I decided to tell the doctors to cut it off even without anesthesia. So one doctor took a medical scissor and removed my right arm,” she said.
The stories of Shirley, who continues to work as a pharmacist in Tagbilaran, and Marisa are just a few of the tales of struggle and courage that the devastating earthquake produced among Boholanos.
Loon’s social worker Ma. Vilma Palacio said some of the survivors still run for safety during aftershocks and others have refused to go back to their houses for fear that sinkholes may have been created by the earthquake and swallow them alive.
Palacio added that some of the town’s residents are afraid that another strong earthquake or a tragedy of similar scale will take place during the first anniversary of the devastating earthquake, 

Meanwhile in Tagbilaran, a church leader has confirmed that Pope Francis has requested that he dine with survivors of the devastating 7.2 earthquake that rocked Bohol last year when the Pope visits Palo in Leyte in January.
Tagbilaran Bishop Leonardo Medroso told Manila Bulletin, however, said that only five of the earthquake survivors will get the once-in-a-lifetime chance to share the dining table with the Pope, along with 25 survivors of the deadly super-typhoon “Yolanda” from Tacloban City.
Bishop Medroso said the church in Tagbilaran has laid out criteria in selecting who to send to Palo to share a meal with the leader of the Roman Catholic Church.
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