“Today is our fourth day here in the evacuation center which also marks the first birthday of my second child,” shared Karen Joy Guerrero, 21 years old, whose family was one of the affected in the fire which hit Villa España on Nov. 23, 2019, a Saturday morning.
During the chaos, Karen Joy was able to find her eldest son, four years old, playing outside their house. Later then, they joined her mother and siblings to go to the nearest evacuation center – a covered court near the barangay hall. According to her mother, Angelica, they were all gathered in their home preparing for lunch and discussing about the preparations for upcoming birthday of Karen Joy’ youngest son.
“Some of the people said they saw a smoke coming from one of the houses but no one bothered to check since the owner of the house doesn’t usually stay there during lunch time. It is usually the hottest time of the day,” she said.
“The response from the barangay has been quick. Our purok (community) leaders immediately organized us and instructed to proceed in the evacuation area,” she added.
The Guerrero family was not able to save any personal belongings. The room they were renting was located at the fourth floor which gave them a hard time to carry anything during the evacuation.
“My husband and son-in-law were both at work during the fire. Instead of saving our things, we prioritized to ensure the safety of the children,” said Angelica.
“We always tell them that in times like this to go outside the house and look for a safe place to hide in,” she added.
According to the Bureau of Fire and Protection – National Capital Region, the fire started at 11:44 in the morning and reached fifth alarm few minutes later. The total damage in properties was estimated at P150,000.
“When we have received the report regarding the fire, we have mobilized right away the Barangay Disaster Risk Reduction and Management team, our fire volunteers were also part of the first responders as well as the BFP and ZERT,” said Barangay Councilor Alexis Reynaldo Santos II.
Based on the official count of Quezon City local government’s Social Services Development Department, 346 families or 1,382 individuals had been affected by the blaze. No fatalities had been reported. Here is the breakdown of figures:
Barangay Councilor Santos said that one mother had been slightly injured but was given with needed medical attention. The fire was completely extinguished at 2:30 in the afternoon.
“This has been the fourth time that the same area has been hit by fire. While efforts of the city and barangay are non-stop to prepare the communities in times like this, there are still those some who are either lacks the discipline or awareness that illegal and substandard wiring can cause this kind of disasters,” he added.
Despite the fire, Karen Joy said that their family is very grateful that all of them are safe with basic needs provided in the evacuation center.
“There is a clear system in claiming meals, access to washrooms, among others,” she added.
All families with infants were given the priority to stay in the tents provided by the Quezon City DRRMO.
“We are happy that we have this privacy and sense of security while we are here at the evacuation center. This gives us peace of mind,” said Angelica.
If the owner will allow, the Guerrero family plans to return to their rented house. The family originally lives in Taytay, Rizal but finds it more convenient to stay in Barangay Tatalon since their work and other sources of livelihood are located near the area.
Barangay Tatalon is one of the partner barangays of the first to second phases of the Moving Urban Poor Communities Toward Resilience (Move Up) Project. It is funded by the European Union Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid. It is implemented by Plan International Philippines, Action Against Hunger, CARE and ACCORD.