TEXT BY DAX SIMBOL, PHOTOS BY ABS-CBNNEWS.COM CONTRIBUTORS,06/25/2013 7:19 PM
NUEVA ECIJA - More than 500 men, women and children gathered here on Monday in the quiet village of Bibiclat to celebrate the feast of St. John the Baptist using mud, grass and dried banana leaves on their bodies.
The event is the annual “Taong Putik,” where people of all ages honor St. John the Baptist, who is believed to have saved villagers from Japanese soldiers during the Japanese occupation.
On September 26, 2009 tropical storm Ondoy dumped a record amount of rainfall equal to a month’s average.
It was too much even for a tropical country like the Philippines, and the resulting floods inundated almost 80% of Manila and affected 25 other provinces. Of the more than 300 casualties of Ondoy, 52 came from Bgy. Bagong Silangan. Almost an equal number of residents were reported missing and were never found.
Before Ondoy, an area of Bgy. Bagong Silangan known as Greenland had a thriving farming community of 500 families. In President Aquino’s State of the Nation Address, he outlined plans for the relocation of informal settlers living in waterways and other high-risk areas.
Aquino earmarked P5.5-billion to push through with the project. Of the amount, P4 billion will go to the National Housing Authority mostly for housing, community facilities and security.
“If we were to merely relocate these communities without accounting for their basic needs, we would be doing the affected families a great disservice.” - Budget Secretary Butch Abad