Saturday, December 22, 2012

Typhoon Chronicles: A love stronger than ‘Pablo’


DAVAO CITY – He was trained to love his gun as his wife, but the lessons brought by typhoon ‘Pablo’ enlightened him that love for family transcends duty.

Private First Class Ramil Pedrero, 27, is a proud member of Charlie Company, 66th Infantry Battalion, based in Brgy. Andap, New Bataan, Compostela Valley province.
A native of Libungan, North Cotabato, Ramil is married to Jaysyl, 22, to whom he has a one-year-old child named Jasmine.
Ramil’s and Jaysyl’s love blossomed in Diwalwal, Compostela Valley, where the former used to be assigned.
They were married in 2010 and had a child a year later.
Like any other soldier, Ramil had to be away from his family most of the time. They opted to build their home in Libungan where Ramil has relatives to watch over his family.

Due to his duties as a frontline soldier, Ramil only gets to see his family for at least seven days every quarter. After that, long and sleepless nights are spent in the name of duty while enduring a constant heart-sting being away from his loved ones.

While serving in the frontlines away from home, mobile phones served as virtual commune to the family.

 “I am already thankful if for a minute or two, I can hear my angels’ voices. It’s difficult that way but my gun becomes my wife when I’m off to mountains hunting lawless elements,” Ramil shared.

Jaysyl said that it is very challenging to become a soldier’s wife. “It is difficult to raise our child when he is always afar, the fear doesn’t go away,” said Jaysyl.

 She also shared that they both have to make necessary adjustments and sacrifices to defy the challenges coming between them.

 Once in a while, Jaysyl and her daughter flout the eight-hour drive from Libungan to New Bataan just to visit Ramil.

 "We wanted to maintain our bond as a family so we are doing our best to see each other once in a while," said Jaysyl.

The tragedy

In early December, Pedrero's wife and daughter came to spend their short vacation inside the remote Army detachment in Andap village.

 They were quite unaware that the impending disaster was looming in the horizon that fateful day on December 4, 2012.

"We were supposed to spend our Christmas with Ramil. Our plan was to leave for home together during his scheduled leave to attend a wedding ceremony of a close relative back home," said Jaysyl.
The strong rains started early morning that day, dropping large amounts of rainwater that would cause massive flooding.
All of them, including the people in the community around the camp, did not expect that the worst disaster was about to unfold.
At around 6:00am, the soldiers of Charlie Company were alarmed when water level in the small creek located some 200 meters away from their elevated encampment, was steadily rising.
Sensing a possible flooding in the community around the camp, 1st Lt Marvin Deazeta, the Company Commander, alerted them for a preemptive evacuation of the families residing near their camp.
"I was one of those who immediately proceeded to the homes of our friends and gather all the women, children and the elderly. I also let my wife and daughter ride the truck to let them escape the floods," he said.
Their fully packed vehicle was attempting to cross a flooded pathway when they saw  large rocks, trees and mud made their crossing seem impossible.

 The truck driver, Pfc Dan Jerry Sujede, 28, his classmate during basic training,  advised their commander that it was not possible to cross the rampaging flood water filled with debris.

 A few minutes later, at around 7:00am, Pedrero and his companions were shocked to see the floodwaters creeping towards their camp.

"It was like a horror movie that you don't want to see. Suddenly, we knew that we could end up being swept by the floods so we quickly disembarked to carry all our passengers towards the tallest structure inside our camp," he said.
Carrying the women and children, the soldiers brought them to the only safe place they can see.
 He saw that the water had already reached their camp's grounds.
"I was already confused but I knew I had to make decisions. I removed my rifle from my shoulder and embraced my family as we waited the worst thing to happen".
It was only about 15 minutes since he climbed the structure that the building gradually collapsed as large trees pushed it downstream, sending them all towards the murky floodwater.

End of the world
Pedrero was trying to hold his wife and daughter together but they were separated by the strong currents that brought some rocks and tree branches.
"I thought it was already the end of the world because all of the sudden, I lost my most prized 'possessions'. I myself lost consciousness and everything became dark for me," he said.
As if a stroke of luck, Pedrero found himself awake beside a tree branch. Though grimacing in pain, he managed to cling to the tree and crawled his way up to the remaining dryland.

"I tried my best to find my family near the river bank but I couldn't see them. I remained hopeful that they were able to survive so I kept looking," said Pedrero.
Becoming desperate, he approached the houses where there were stranded people on rooftops to ask for help. No one wanted to help him for fear of the raging floodwaters nearby.
"I felt helpless because no one wanted to help me. I couldn't blame them because we were all in a desperate situation. I ended up crying for many hours because I thought they were all dead."


The floods had gradually subsided early in the afternoon when he heard the news about the discovery of a survivor further downstream about 4 kilometers away.
"I was limping due to my injuries but I suddenly gained more hope that my family members might be among the survivors. I walked slowly until I found some people who rescued those who were swept away by the flood," he said.
Hearing that a woman was among those who were fished out of the water, he rushed to her but failed to recognize her right away from a distance.
"She was full of mud and was bloodied in the face. When we both saw each other, it was like a heaven-sent miracle. We embraced each other as if there was no more tomorrow."
Later, they were among the survivors who were transported to New Bataan town where they were met by his superiors.
Their child was never found ever since. His other comrades have pledged to do their best to find her beneath the rubbles and piles of mud that which engulfed the whole Andap village.

Stronger love

Though ‘Pablo’ has devastated large parts of Mindanao, it has also left images of love and compassion that is far stronger and greater.
‘Pablo’ has left people helping each other, clothing and feeding strangers in the spirit of ‘Bayanihan’.
As for Ramil and his wife, they have found a stronger love for each other.
While recuperating together in the same hospital ward, they realized that their renewed love will make them better persons who are ready to face life’s many trials.
Pablo has made them realize their weaknesses as humans, but at the same time allowed them to muster enough strength to gather all the pieces and bring them back together.
For Pedrero, even the killer super-typhoon ‘Pablo’ could not destroy the love for both his family and his military service.

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