This post is an account of life in Talakag when Uguiaban Bridge got washed away by Typhoon Pablo.
We have been expecting Typhoon Pablo as there was so much publicity about it in the papers, radio, TV and the internet. We thought we better prepare for it. We bought extra supplies (i.e. food, mineral water, gas, etc), in case we get trapped in the mountains for some time – like what happened during Typhoon Sendong last year.
And then it started. The rains came Monday night and turned to very heavy downpour by Tuesday, accompanied by strong winds. Bang on time as forecasted. We were concerned that with such amount of rainfall, there’s bound to be landslides somewhere.
By 3:00 pm, the rain stopped. People started to come out of their houses, checking for any damages. We came out onto the streets, as others in the neighbourhood, exchanging stories and experiences.
Then came the shocking news that Uguiaban Bridge has been washed away totally. We saw people’s OMG facial expression of disbelief! There was panic everywhere. Everyone started talking all at the same time. As they say “seeing is believing”. So off to Uguiaban we went to see the damage for ourselves. The whole bridge was gone, washed a few meters downstream and was now lying by the riverbank on the Cagayan de Oro side. The river was still swelling with force. The scene was worrisome. People and vehicles cannot get across anymore. We’re trapped!
Ah but the abandoned old bridge that was built in the late 1950s is still standing. Yeah, we were relieved. In fact, people were able to use it as a footbridge to get across that late afternoon. It’s not too bad after all. How wrong we were! The rain continued throughout the night and as a result, the strong current eroded the ground around the post of the old bridge on the Talakag side. By Wednesday morning, the gap has widened that the safety of the old bridge was now under threat. Oh no!
People were desperate to get across. So a makeshift linkbridge was laid for the day just to cover the gap. This comprised THREE round timber poles laid horizontally – imagine the very ones MORESCO uses for electric poles? You have to be really brave and desperate to get across the other side to walk on those. The faint hearted either crawled their way over, whilst others postponed their crossing to another day. The only consolation we had was that Bukidnon Governor Calingasan visited that day to check the situation and conferred with DPWH people to put in place what’s necessary.
Thursday was an experience! Yeah, I was getting desperate too that I went across to attend to some urgent business in the city – can’t be helped. Fortunately, the DPWH people worked overtime laying some steel platform on the old bridge. The only snag is that it’s a foot high, so we have to use timber planks (flat and wider this time) as a ramp. At least, they were more reliable than the THREE poles used the previous day. By the way, people on each side of the river have to take turns in crossing. And you also have to endure a kilometer hike from the van/jeepney drop-off point by the big Balite tree, walk to the bridge, get across the bridge, then walk on the other side to the van/jeepney pick-up point by the Langaon slip road. The whole Talakag to Cagayan trip actually took me 2 hours in total - this also included the waiting time for the vans/jeepneys which operated on “alas puno” schedule. If you have baggages, the porters were making a living charging 10 pesos per bag or 20 pesos per box. So price increase of goods, etc is inevitable.
Friday and Saturday activities were pretty much the same. DPWH people were working overtime on the steel ramps to make it passable for light vehicles.
Sunday is the big day. People in Talakag were able to see the the Pacquiao-Marquez rematch at the Plaza. This was made possible by Bukidnon 1st District Congressman Paras’ mobile facility which was among the first to get through. YES! The old bridge finally opened for light vehicles to go across. Passengers have to get out and into the vans/jeepneys and the trucks have to unload and load their cargoes at the foot of the bridge before crossing. It’s still inconvenient but hey, look on the bright side. There's a way out and we’re not stranded anymore!