Fire-hit Ermita residents, vendors confront challenge of starting work, biz anew

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Sunday, January 12, 2014

THE fire that hit the Carbon Public Market in Barangay Ermita, Cebu City last Saturday left 530 families homeless.

A report from the Cebu City Government’s Department of Social Welfare and Services (DSWS) said the fire also destroyed 258 structures in Sitio Warwick Barracks.

A total of 2,211 individuals were affected.


Mila Pugoy, of Barangay Ermita, said the displaced families are now housed at the barangay sports complex.

Some are taking shelter at Freedom Park, while others have put up tents where their houses used to be.

“We will determine the number house owners who may be given housing materials,” said Pugoy, a former councilor of Barangay Ermita who now assists DSWS.

This is because many of the fire victims are vendors renting houses or rooms in the area, she said.

The barangay will also organize immunization and feeding activities for the victims.

One of the vendors, 47-year-old Rene Chavez, lost most of her goods. She had been selling in the market for four years. She said she might have to go back to her hometown in Badian to start anew.

“Unsa na lang akong buhaton ani (I don’t know what I will do now),” she said.

She said some of his children are still relying on her.


SFO2 Daniel Relatado Jr., investigator of the Cebu City Fire Department, said they will invite the owner of the house where the fire started and other witnesses tomorrow.

He said they might file charges against whoever is found responsible.

Relatado said they received reports of illegal wire tapping in the area. He said they will look into this.

Several vendors are asking the Cebu City Government to extend help to them so they can start again.

Also, most of them plan to run to lending firms to take out a loan so they can start again their livelihood.

Isidra Pilapil, 50, a fish vendor in the area, said she lost everything, including her hard-earned money, during the fire.

She has been selling fish and other seafood since 1989 and eventually decided to reside in the area.

“Nanglaba ko pagsugod sa kayo, wa na ko makasaka sa taas aron kuhaon akong halin nga kwarta tungod sa kakusog na sa aso (I was doing the laundry when the fire started. I wasn’t able to go up the house to get the my earnings because the smoke was growing),” Pilapil narrated in an interview with Sun.Star Cebu.

Pilapil said she would earn an estimated P17,000 per day in selling some 50 kilos of fish and other seafood products.

Most of her earnings will go immediately to her supplier as a payment for her stocks. An estimate of P2,000 is her profit that will be used to finance their day-to-day living and pay for the rental of her stall.

Pilapil usually gets her stock from a supplier in Pasil Fish Port and pays every other day.

She said starting anew is the most challenging thing.

“Mangutang na lang ko ani aron makapadayon ug paninda (I have to borrow to continue selling),” Pilapil added.

For Joel Tago, 42, a sari-sari store owner, borrowing money for his additional capital to start selling again is an option after the fire.

He said they had no choice since the fire took all his earnings. As of yesterday, Tago had initially started selling again the stocks they have rescued during the fire.

“Nakuha namo ang ubang stocks kay duol man mi sa dalan, pero sagad nabasa ra sad (We were able to get some of the stocks since they were near the road, but mostly these were wet),” he added.


Mayor Rama said he already instructed Raquel Arce, who heads the City’s Market Operations Division, to address the concerns of the vendors.

A portion of the Freedom Park will be given to the fire victims so they can start selling again. But Rama said Arce will make arrangements since there are also vendors in the park.

But for Pilapil and Tago, both said they will choose to remain in their respective stalls and area since they already started building makeshift stores using tarpaulins and tents.

“Dugay na mi sa among pwesto, dinhi na lang una mi maninda kay tugtan ra man siguro mi nga makabalik (We’ve been here for a long time now, we’ll just stay here since they may allow us to do so),” said Tago.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on January 13, 2014.

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