Wenceslao: Tragic occurrence

Bong O. Wenceslao
·3 min read

THE fire that hit our sitio the other day reminded me of the fire that hit the same sitio more than a decade ago. We have not even fully recovered from the damage that fire wrought on our lives. The house that we built on the ashes of the old one has remained nothing but a shell. Without the resources, we could only make a bit presentable the ground floor. The walls are still missing from the upper floor.

Sitio Kawayan used to be only one sitio at the back of the old TB Pavilion along B. Rodriguez Extension. But population growth necessitated its division into Upper Sitio Kawayan and Lower Sitio Kawayan. The fire hit Upper Kawayan where our house is. It originated in almost the same area where the fire more than a decade ago also started. The difference was it followed a slightly different route and this time spared our house.

I could still remember that long ago fire. We left our son, who was still a baby, sleeping soundly in his crib as we left for work that afternoon. When I reached the SunStar newsroom, I was told about the fire. My wife and I went home, with the baby our main concern. The sight of flames coming out of the windows of our house is still etched in my memory.

We were lucky the fire was stopped before it could engulf our house. Thanks to the firemen who sprayed water on the flames emanating from the house next to ours before they could burn whatever was flammable in our roof. Some of our neighbors learning from the past experience also helped. Some of them built firewalls that prevented the fire from rushing to us this time around.

I am sad for the victims who are living in uncertainty wherever they are now relocating. I remember my former editor-in-chief Pachico Seares telling me to look for a house in a place that is not fire-prone. I heeded that advice, but some of the other members of the family couldn’t. Our main concern was our mother, who is now in her nineties.

Another thing we should be thankful about is that no life was lost during the fire. That was one of my worries in the past. What if a fire hits at night or even at dawn? Good that the Visayan Electric Company or Veco was able to restore electricity in the sitio a few hours after the fire hit. But during actual fires Veco is forced to cut off electricity in the fire-hit area. How could one escape from the flames in such a setting?

I don’t know what the government will do now. The fire once again exposed the vulnerabilities of communities like ours. I remember the efforts to clear the road in our place of obstructions, but after years since the previous fire, the road has gone narrow again. Fire trucks could still not move once these are inside our place. When can condominiums allow our cramped communities to breathe?

The government’s housing plan really needs some reinvention. Communities need to consider the problems that have continued to beset them through the years. If not, fires like what happened to Upper Kawayan in Barangay Sambag 2 will always become a tragic occurrence.