Fire in Isla Verde


A few weeks before I arrived in Mindinao, there was a fire in Isla Verde, an impoverished part of Davao City where a Catholic Filipinos, Muslim Filipinos and a large population of the Badjao live. The Badjao are considered somewhat like gypsies are: as beggars, sometimes viewed with suspicion and prejudice, not incorporated into the full life of the rest of the surrounding community. The fire destroyed a great swath of homes and businesses, and each of the three different populations — Catholic, Muslim and Badjao — were housed separately in temporary locations afterward.

The story went out that Davao City fire fighters came in to fight the fire. A Badjao family asked one fire fighter to defend their home from flames. He said he had to fight the fire elsewhere — so they killed him. The fire fighters then withdrew, waiting for the police to come, and the fire raged out of control.

I do not know if this story is true. In fact, it reminds me of the story told about the Great Fire of 1871 in Chicago, where an Irish family was blamed for allowing their cow to kick over lantern in their barn. Is that what actually happened or was that story partly based on prejudice against the Irish?

Difficult to say, years later.

In any case, because of my knowledge of this fire, I felt it was a particular honor to be able to serve a Badjao family at our birth center recently. The birth center sends out a team to do prenatal appointments in Isla Verde, on a weekly basis, and so mothers from there come to the center when they are ready to give birth. Thank you, God, for Analise and family! Please bless them and settle them happily in a new home.


About Jane Beal

I’m a poet. When I was fifteen, I got my first regularly paying job as an optician, so I developed the habit of looking at things closely, through different lenses, and from different perspectives. I later became a professor and a midwife. So I like to share what I’ve learned with others in ways that are creative and meaningful, and I know how to care for pregnant mothers and welcome babies with love, which I’ve done in far-flung places like Chicago, Denver, San Francisco, Uganda, and the Philippines. I haven’t lost my faith in God despite everything I’ve seen – the opposite, rather – I am in awe of the Creator. I like zumba dancing and birdwatching. I love music. All of this (and more) goes into the poetry. Poetry bears witness to everything that matters in life.

2 responses »

  1. I was on the seen from beginning to end and did not see any of the firefighters injured. While it was a chaotic, everyone was working together. The fire department did they best they could and arrived on the scene promptly. The issue was the narrow streets leading to the area of the fire and the wind blowing away from them. There was no way to gain access to the other side to get ahead of the flames so there was not anything else that could have been done to prevent this from reaching the point that it did. There were several rumors of a stabbing involving a fire fighter, but the Mayor confirmed that there were no injuries among firefighters that night. This was the first account that I heard that it involved a Badjao. The Badjao are one of the most kind and gentle tribes in the world and would find this to be impossible to believe.

    Please keep all those affected in your prayers. While there were no deaths during the night of the fire, there have since been 15 deaths in the Badjao community alone during their stay in a crowded refugee camp. Most of these deaths involved children under 2 years of age.

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