Landslide in Leyte
By Salvador Cariaga (2-21-06)

I have just arrived from Leyte, where I was able to view from a distance the barrio of Guinsaugon. It was buried up to 100 feet, partly with mud, but mostly with rock and lava-like sand. We were only allowed to go up to the rescuers' camp site, and from that distance there was no hint that a town ever existed there. The farm lands were lush with grass and dark green rice fields. Except for the huge part of a mountain that came sliding off, the scenic community was breathtaking and picturesque.

It is hard to believe that almost a whole community of people disappeared. More than 250 elementary school students and teachers were buried alive during their classes, while over a thousand other townsfolk were at home, walking in the streets, buying and selling in the local market, or working in the fields. The main group of survivors are high school students, simply because their particular school building was located outside the barrio. Over a hundred of them are now orphans. A few college students from nearby colleges also came home to find their houses, family and loved ones... gone. One survivor lost 38 relatives.

I met Meico Bacala and Lerik Pia, both 12 years old and related to each other (see attached picture). Meico's parents and younger brother were all buried alive. Lerick's four brothers and parents are presumed dead as well. His 5-year old sister was one of the early survivors shown on TV. Yesterday, she died from severe injuries. I also visited with Myren Celmar, a college student in Cebu City and also a relative of Meico and Lerik. She came home only to learn that her widowed mother and four sisters are missing. All are believed to be dead.

These three have nowhere to go. They are staying in the St. Bernard refugee center, a local high school. Their studies were interrupted, their lives are shattered. I immediately offered them a scholarship to Sunrise Christian College in Butuan City: Free tuition, board, and lodging. They were too shocked and numbed to think about their future. A group of medical and counseling teams from the churches of Christ (MARCH for CHRIST) will arrive tomorrow, and they will visit with and help the survivors.

This will be a long recovery process for the victims. I expect to be back there again soon. More later.

Salvador Cariaga
Recent Leyte Pictures:
ps. If you wish to come and help with the relief and restoration efforts or wish to help in any ways such as scholarship for the orphans, please contact the following:
*Salvador Cariaga, Coordinator/Editor
*Chito Cusi, MARCH President
*Samson October, Leyte church leader


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