I returned two days later, travelled the almost 300 kilometers to Cateel, Davao Oriental in the company of some telecoms officials from the Smart Communication who were bringing in volunteers from the Telecoms sans Frontieres (TSF) from Bangkok to set up a public calling station in Baganga, Davao Oriental, the town next to Cateel.

Now more prepared for what to see, I also was more prepared to shoot photos.

The devastation remained the same, very little has changed, except that what used to be green tufts of damaged leaves and fruits of coconut trees that remain drooping from up the trunk are now turning brown, as if saying, they too will not survive. What used to be vast sprawling and rolling coconut plantations lie before us, a wasteland — dying and dead.



With vast coconut plantations and residual forests stripped of trees and life, some hardy souls are now burning the remains in order to be able to till the land. Kaingin has never been the cause of forest denudation, the small upland farmers just move in when the land is already stripped.


When I first saw the devastation of Cateel two days ago, I thought the fact that the tops of the coconut trees survived despite having been almost stripped bald means there are many that will survive. When I returned two days later, I realized that the trees will not survive at all, as the green drooping tufts were already starting to turn brown, dead.

DSC_1142aLike matchsticks. These are actually full-grown coconut trees as tall as 50-60 feet, now strewn all over a hill.

DSC_1094aIn some places, the coconut trees are not droopy. Rather, they look petrified, with “hair” standing on ends, stripped to the barest fronds.

DSC_1123aThe scene of destruction is repeated through more than 50 kilometers of concrete road from Boston to Baganga.

DSC_1105aFor towns that can pride itself for its surf and sea, this is indeed tragic. The beauty of the place still stands out in places where the destruction is hidden by the terrain.

DSC_1098aAfter those brief respite, the destruction will again take centerstage.



DSC_1149aYou can travel for hours and the wasteland will remain. This is not a place for the weak these days.

DSC_1109aWhat was once the awesome mansion of Davao Oriental Gov. Cora Malanyaon is now like something a bomb dropped on.

DSC_1112aBut notice the beautiful surf on the rightmost side of the photo. The town could easily be a surfer’s paradise that can turn its nose up on other surfing destinations.

DSC_1126aA longer shot of the only remnant of an old house from inside our vehicle.


DSC_1117aA private school is in the same boat as all other public schools.


DSC_1124aPowerlines are gone.

DSC_1151Broken power lines are everywhere. Hanging from trees, hanging from other lines. Just hanging.

DSC_1133aBoth approaches of Lumao Bridge are rigged with steel sheets as reinforcement because the structure below has already weakened.

DSC_1134aIt is also slumped in the middle thus only light vehicles are allowed to cross it. But vehicle traffic is already regulated right at the longer Taytayan Bridge where the road branches to Baganga and to Comval because the piers of the bridge below are already badly damaged. Relief goods on trucks are moved on boats or manually to the other side where other vehicles wait.

DSC_1099This used to be a beautiful emerald green tropical island now looking all dried up and dying.

DSC_1121This Smart tower survived, but its transmitters did not.

DSC_1129This Globe Telecom tower toppled down on a house. Many other similar towers were toppled, while Smart Communication towers lost their transmitter plates. The big difference between the two — Smart used steel pipes allowing a more aerodynamic design for the same load height. Globe used angle bars. The power of Pablo found even the tight corners offered by angle bars a “handhold” for ripping off steel bars. Thius should become a lesson well learned by all those constructing steel frames.

DSC_1127The desolate-looking plaza is a stark reminder of  what has hit the town.

On this day, we were headed for the next town… Baganga, Davao Oriental, 36 kilometers farther south.


4 thoughts on “Wasteland

    1. Yes. Life is back, although there are very few coconut trees now. Still, it’s very green, you wouldn’t know something bad happened by just looking.

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