Wednesday, July 28, 2010


The Upper Disakan River, a river common to the towns of Manukan and Jose Dalman in Zamboanga del Norte in Mindanao, Philippines must have killed more people than any other rivers in the world.

It is a short river of only nearly 15 kilometers from the main water source to the estuary.

It snakes between mountains not a portion of its stream is rapids or cascades or falls.

It runs all through level lands like a canal with either mountains or hills on both sides.

Full time smaller tributary rivers and creeks with waters of their own and waterless brooks collect the rainwater into Upper Disakan River in the rainy months between July and August of each year, making the river a killer.

The highway that links the coastal municipalities of Zamboanga del Norte crosses this river.

Over the years community grew to the size of a little town beside the highway near the river and the bridge that crosses to the other side of the river.

The July, 1991 flood wiped out this community sending belongings such as refrigerators, washing machines and corpse to the sea. A few escaped or weren't home during the flood but hundreds were missing and when some of the bodies drifted ashore, they were beyond recognition. Some bodies of the victims were drifted to neighboring towns. Victims were buried in a mass grave beside the Upper Disakan public cemetery.

Not learning a lesson, the community slowly grew again, this time even bigger. And the local authorities doesn't seem to care. Little businesses were established, a little flea market for fishermen's wives to sell their husband's catch and for farmers to sell their farm products, billiard halls and a few stores.

In August, 2002, at around 7:00 o'clock in the afternoon it started to rain strong and up 4:00 o'clock the rain was still as strong. Before everybody was awake in the neighboring communities, words were passed around that the Upper Disakan River flooded again. By 7:00 o'clock in the morning when onlookers arrived in Upper Disakan, the flood beginning to subside. Looking at the river's main stream, Upper Disakan River was so fearsome the way it carried debris with its current.

The entire community was wiped out by the flood, save for the store that used concrete materials. But a giant red flower dap-dap tree uprooted and carried by the flood slammed into the window of the store, root first. One of the billiard tables was deposited by the flood into a carabao wallow with its 3 pieces of granite surface broken into 7 pieces. The other tables were nowhere to be found. A light truck owned by a businessman in the community was among a mixture of flood debris: an entire bamboo plant, a number of banana plants, a few coconut trunks all complete with its roots, and some logs stalled as debris accumulated. And, hundreds of lives were lost mostly missing never to be found.

Within a few years of that August, 2002 flood, houses are sneaking back into the place although not anymore as many.

And in July 23, 2010, Upper Disakan River flooded again. The rains were only in the mountains and wasn't strong and long enough and the floodwater barely reaching the surface of Upper Disakan Bridge.

But it's only a matter time before the Upper Disakan River will kill people again.

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