In the Philippines, you can’t spell typhoon without a capital T for tragedy


Photo from GMA News Site



1.

My mother’s family is from Tacloban. A few days after the typhoon we had no idea where they were and what has become of them. It wasn’t until last Monday did we know for certain that they were safe. My relatives may have survived the typhoon but my grandmother wasn’t able to survive the aftermath. There was no insulin to be found in the shattered city. She died last Tuesday.

My relatives and I aren’t really close. I grew up believing that the only family that I have are my parents and my brother. However, since receiving the news day by day grief has surprisingly overtaken me. Not just for my grandmother and my relatives who are still trying to survive but for all the victims of the typhoon. We have been reduced to nothing but rotting corpses in body bags. We are reduced to looting and begging the government to come and help. I thought we shouldn’t beg though. We should demand because after all the government should be on top of things. The government should always look out for its people.

It’s almost a week since the typhoon had left Tacloban and nearby areas in shambles. There is still a shortage of food, water and medicine despite the fact that assistance is pouring in from all parts of the globe. PDI reports that Guiuan in Eastern Samar has turned into a “terrifying wasteland where armed men threaten to kill fellow survivors for food.” CNN’s Anderson Cooper bemoans that what is happening in Tacloban is “a demolition, not a construction job... There is no real evidence of organized recovery or relief.” In another report from ABC News, the news organization observed that our government is “paralyzed” by the massive disaster: “Villeamor Airbase - home of the Philippine Air Force and the mainstaging area for relief flights to the disaster zone - seems to be operating at half-speed. There is no thrum of activity, no evidence that there's a real sense of urgency among the Philippine troops...”

Apparently, the government has created its own procedure on how to go about distributing relief goods and mobilizing the volunteers. They have a protocol, I heard on the news, a protocol which is probably not working because it has been six days and we have been seeing no development. If, and that’s a big IF, after the affected areas have gotten back on its feet and I hear President Aquino patronizing the Filipinos about our resilience and harping about the heroism his administration showed in the face of total disaster, I think we should impeach him.

During a press conference, when a reporter asked the cabinet secretary if this disaster would define the presidency, he slyly responded, “I don’t think it is an acid test of this administration. This is an acid test of Filipino people.” I strongly disagree. I think this tragedy is showing how much of a leader President Aquino is. And from the looks of it, his administration’s incompetence should be a lesson for all those who will aspire for presidency. If you can’t handle a situation such as this one might as well give up on your ambition. You’re incompetence just might cause a lot of lives.

Last Friday, we were hit by a major disaster and now six days later we are still helpless because the government’s relief operations are turning into yet another disaster in itself.


From PDI

2.

When I read FB posts such as “Filipinos are stronger than a super typhoon” I go back to what Conrado De Quiros had written on PDI a few days ago. Whenever some officials harp about our strength as a nation, I go to this. When I heard on the news what the cabinet secretary said about Yolanda being an acid test of the Filipino people, I go to this. This is to remind me that too much sickly sentimentality had eaten our brains that we have become a nation of catch phrases and motherhood statements. We post, we quote, and we live by them without necessarily understanding what we mean by them.

Here’s an excerpt of Conrado De Quiros’ piece on PDI:

One is tempted to say that disasters are democratic in that they fall on both the rich and the poor. But that isn’t always true. Supertyphoons and superearthquakes tend to ravage the poor more than the rich: They have flimsier roofs, they do not have the means to move to higher ground, and the higher ground they move on to, such as churches and makeshift shelters, are just as brittle as the ones they left behind.

You are poor, you are far more vulnerable. You are bereft, you will be more bereft.

That thought rankles in your brain at the spectacle of our recently ravaged. We remain, despite our vaunted growth, a country mired in poverty. A hurricane howls over New York, floods overrun Central Europe and turn Prague and neighboring cities into a gigantic pool, a killer earthquake shakes buildings in Tokyo, but you do not see bodies lined up in the streets, children huddled against a gray sky, a sea of faces lost and despairing. You see those scenes in Tacloban, and before that in Ormoc, Cagayan de Oro, and Metro Manila itself, and you are reminded how impoverished we are and how frailer our lives are made by it...

In the past, the bishops, who were never themselves victims, also used to use the word “resilience” each time this country was flattened by earthquakes, landslides, storms, torrential rains, floods, and others—well, the insurance companies call them “acts of God.” The Filipino spirit is resilient, they said, it will survive, it will prevail. Well, there are other words for resilient. Those are vulnerable, frail, insignificant, negligible, forgettable, dismissible, miserable, not really there. Or indeed passivity, acceptance, resignation, getting by, making do, moving on.

What you call resilient, we call forced to good.

Some things we can’t do anything about. Acts of God are one of those, though we can always add our voices, however teeny-weeny, to calling on Kerry’s favorite country to do something about its carbon emissions that are causing the winds to howl and the earth to heave. And we can always, like Dylan Thomas, rage against the dying of the light, even if only as a matter of attitude, even if only as a metaphysical stance. That is what a strong spirit is, a rebellious one.

Other things we can do something about. We can always get angry at the terms of our existence. We can always burn and rave at our vulnerability, at our powerlessness, at our poverty. We can always be as outraged about our deprivation as we have been of late about our corruption. We can always be oppressed by our lot as we have been of late about their plots. We can always refuse to be humored and called resilient, we can always refuse to have our grief waved away by faint comfort, we can always say, “Leave us be, we are hurt and we are angry.”

We can always refuse to be poor, or at least rebel against it. Because the scary part is that this has just begun, the world will get darker from here. The National Economic and Development Authority reckons that though the series of disasters that has befallen us will not affect the figures of our growth, it will affect the number of our poor. More semi-poor will become poor, more poor will become poorer. Which at the very least makes you wonder what the sense is in a growth that is so sticky it refuses to trickle down. And which at the very most makes you aghast at the thought that given that disasters are getting more plentiful and more ferocious, given that catastrophes have become our way of life, or death, how will we fare, who are mostly poor, in the world of tomorrow?

Never mind resilient, we can do with just being less helpless.”



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