Philippines: Dita Tree saved 36 lives during floods

"Tree of Life"

A 40-fee Dita Tree became a refuge for 36 members of 7 families in Barangay Bagong Silangan (New East Village), Quezon City, Metro Manila as flood waters rose last September 26. The flashflood was caused by a record rainfall unleashed by Typhoon Ketsana which hit the Philippines last September. It was the worst flooding in the country in the past 40 years.

There are only few Dita Trees left in urban Metro Manila. Barangay Bagong Silangan is an urban poor community located in the northeastern part of the country’s capital. More than 30 individuals died in this community during the flooding disaster.

Arkibong Bayan provides more details:

36 members of 7 families climbed up this dita tree as the flood waters was rising and were saved. They stayed on the branches of this tree from 10 AM of Sept. 26 up to 3 AM of the following day when they climbed down with the waters still waist deep because they were cold and hungry for 17 hours. The oldest was 60 years old and the youngest 2 weeks old

Moral lesson: Don't cut trees, they may save your life one day. (In this case, literally.)

Survivors recounted that there were many big snakes which also sought refuge in the Dita Tree.

Aside from the Dita Tree, there was another tree which residents claimed also saved the lives of other villagers

Sabi ng mga taong nakausap namin nung magpunta din kami dun, maliban sa dita tree, may isa pang puno dun na mas manipis pero mataas din. doon daw sumabit yung isang pamilyang nakasakay sa yero. Meron ding 2 month old baby na natangay ng agos sa puno kaya sinungkit din nila.

According to some villagers, there is another tree (slightly smaller than a Dita Tree) which was also used by a family as a temporary refuge. There was also a two-month old baby who was swept by the flood current near the tree. The baby was also saved.


TASK FORCE: children of the storm was able to visit the village and the group also saw the “Tree of Life”

We were also shown what we now call the “Tree of Life”, the Dita tree where 7 families (34 individuals) sought refuge during the flood and were saved from the raging flood waters.

The surviving residents, who were surveying their homes for repairs, talked of how they climbed from roof to roof seeking higher grounds. They recounted how they rescued a 2 month old baby on floating aluminum roofing.

Arkibong Bayan received a comment from a reader who shared a similar story about how a mango tree saved lives during a natural disaster three years ago

During the onslaught of Supertyphoon Reming on November 30, 2006, a mango tree saved 5 lives in Padang, Legazpi City (Bicol Region in Luzon Island). One survivor had two choices: the mango tree or the slab roof of a house. She chose the tree; those on the slab roof were entirely swept away to the sea.

Lesson: Plant a tree. It may save your life

ondoy wrath
ondoy impact

After surviving the deadly flood last September, residents of Barangay Bagong Silangan are facing a bigger challenge: rebuilding their homes and their lives. The community is a changed community. Houses were swept away and many basic infrastructure were damaged.

We were told that before Ondoy (Typhoon Ketsana) the area was congested like any other urban poor area.

Now, only the relatively sturdy homes survived. And the area looks spacious with wide, open spaces — all because the homes had been swept away by rampaging and swirling flood waters.

All photos courtesy of Arkibong Bayan


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