Itogon women trek a mountain to feed families as men dig for missing

BAGUIO CITY, Philipines – In Itogon, Benguet, while the men are busy digging for missing persons, the women are holding the fort at home. 

On Wednesday, September 19, some Itogon women flocked to the operations and relief center in Barangay Tuding, which is adjacent to the landslide-devastated Barangay Ucab. The center is located in an elementary and high school complex.

Different government agencies for relief operations are present at the center, catering to the likes of 30-year-old Elizabeth Coslengan, who went there to get meals that will feed her family for the next few days. 

"Tumutulong sila doon kaya kami ang umakyat dito…. Mga babae, nandito kami lahat para sa pagkain at tulong, kasi wala na sa amin," Caslengan said.

(The men are helping there, so we went here…. We, women, went here for food and help, because there isn't any left in our community.)

Caslengan, with her companion Jocelyn Panganiban, came from mountainside village Antamok and trekked for almost an hour to reach the center. The two are temporarily living together in a shared house in their community after their houses were damaged by Typhoon Ompong (Mangkhut).

Ompong also triggered landslides in Itogon, leaving at least 46 dead and 60 missing. 

On Wednesday, Caslengan and Panganiban went to the center and waited in a tent with 8 other women from different communities, all of them hoping to get help for their families.

According to Panganiban, they had no choice but to walk to get help. They have nowhere else to turn to, and no job to rely on. Just two days ago, Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu ordered the stop to small-scale mining in the Cordillera Administrative Region.

Caslengan and Panganiban's husbands are both miners.

"Wala nang makain, wala pang bahay, wala pang pera (There's nothing to eat, there's no house, there's no money)," Panganiban said.

Together, Caslengan and Panganiban have a joint household of 14 people to feed. Social workers at the center said a household of 14 deserves at least one sack of rice, medicine supplies, and hygiene kits.

The two said they're ready to carry the goods home. 

"'Pag bumabagyo, 'di ka mahihirapan (When there's a storm, you won't find it hard)," Panganiban said. –

Read more stories from Rappler's coverage of the Itogon landslide:

Rambo Talabong

Rambo Talabong covers security, crime, and the city of Manila for Rappler. He was chosen as a Jaime V. Ongpin Fellow in 2019 for his reporting on President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs.