Monthly Archives: November 2013
I’ve been to a funeral today. It’s for the bestfriend of my 6-year-old brother, a little boy whose cheery smile and energetic antics have grown into me. He had always been a sprightly boy, the first one to crack a laugh over a dumb cartoon stunt in TV, but displayed surprising maturity and patience for his age. His death from pneumonia was a horrific nightmare to all of us. When he died, it’s like a a tiny cheery candle light had been snuffed out and we are left in a deep dark despair and questions. When he died, I felt like I lost a little brother…and I can’t imagine how his own family would cope over this nightmare.
Funerals are such sad affairs and we are no strangers to them but somehow, attending a funeral for a boy who wouldn’t make it to 2nd grade or for a girl whose hair hadn’t grown long to braid it makes the affair infinitely more heartbreaking. Death is something that’s inevitable to mankind and it encompasses all of us but it always strike me as unfair when the one who had his whole life ahead of him is the one who was ‘prematurely’ taken away.
From a parent’s view, it’s like, life granted you your bundle of joy and you tenderly accepted him. Raised him. Tucked him to bed. Nurtured him. Dote on him. Turn your whole life around him. Made dreams for him. Hoped he will grow into a fine, happy young man…but then the unthinkable happens and before you knew it,you found yourself standing beside his body, gently arranging his hair and clothes, lovingly touching his face, whispering tearful goodbyes to his ears and giving him your one last goodnight kiss before they nail shut his coffin.
It’s like the universe played a very mean joke on you and you are unable to fight back. Its form of torture can drive you mad. It knows that nothing is more painful for a parent than to bury their own child.
The same sad scenario is now being shown in our televisions and newspapers right now. Death and hopelessness reeks in the Visayas in the wake of Super Typhoon Yolanda as mad-with-despair parents cradle their dead children in midst of all the mud and try to honor them with a simple, burial site of worn plastic bags and driftwood. I’ve watched an interview of how a mother of three lost all her children during the storm surge but still tried to smile waveringly in front of the camera. I’ve heard the painful story of how a couple lost their son while they were busy helping other people. Or how a mother keeps a tearful search for the bodies of her missing children among the debris seven days after the typhoon.
Rather than why should the good die young, why should the young die young anyway?
I know shit happens and it happens to anyone regardless of age or whatnot. I am still keeping my faith that everything happens for a reason, that it’s some part of a grand plan, but when you witnessed life being snatched away from a little kid, it’s really hard to cope, to believe that this death is for a reason, that this loss is temporary and necessary. It’s such a tempting moment to turn cynical and let your faith be tampered with cold, hard logic that perhaps, God couldn’t care less. It’s tempting to throw it all away, but whenever I’m in the brink of doing it, I eventually realized I couldn’t do it because I would be left alone with nothing but despair and helplessness. My strength comes from faith and hope and I couldn’t change who I am. If I did, I wouldn’t be of use to any life.
When that precious light and source of joy has been taken away from us, we are left in darkness of torment….but we didn’t know, failed to realize at first, that through this ordeal, we are uncovering our own strength. We are shining in our own light of hope. It may be dim at first, but eventually, it will grow brighter and louder, until other people would also find solace in our own light, in our own loss with their own. Those who have lost something precious and stood through it will be a guiding light to all others who are going through the same thing.
Seeking justice for all of this would be pointless…lamenting over the loss again and again is just miserable. It may be very difficult at first, like swallowing a bitter pill, but the only choice we have is to move forward. No, not forget, but to carry on, for as much as we cry for justice for all the painful losses, we are blessed or cursed with the gift to live on.
This open letter more or less reflects my current thoughts on President Aquino. As you may have heard in the news already, the city of Tacloban in Eastern Visayas was one of the most heavily-damaged areas by Super Typhoon Haiyan. Just as the storm cleared, the skies revealed a total destruction of Tacloban City as well as high casualties. The spotlight is thrown into our beloved president and he did the ‘unthinkable’. He ‘blamed’ Tacloban for its inability to survive the storm. Incredible, isn’t it? NOTE: the Translations enclosed in parenthesis are mine.
AN OPEN LETTER TO PHILIPPINE PRESIDENT AQUINO FROM A TACLOBAN SURVIVOR
After being stuck in a dead zone with no comms and internet the past 48 hours ngayon ko lang nababalitaan ang latest antics ng ating kagalang-galang na pangulo.
So take this as one Taclobanon’s OPEN LETTER to His Excellency, Benigno Aquino, President of the Republic of the Philippines.
Gusto ko lang sabihin, NAGHANDA ANG TACLOBAN. IN FACT, most people we encountered who survived, survived precisely because NAGHANDA SILA. People were evacuated, centers were put up, and warnings were issued.
(Tacloban city prepared for Haiyan. In fact, most people we encountered who survived, survived precisely because they prepared for it. People were evacuated, centers were put up, and warnings were issued.)
Ang tanong, bakit madaming namatay? kasi tangina naman pre mas malakas pa ang yolanda sa katrina. Kung ang US nga hindi napigilan ang hagupit ng katrina. This was not something anyone could have prepared for. Isa pa, wala bang nakapagsabi sa yo na nasa tacloban ang SENTRO NG BAGYO?? pano mo maikukumpara ang “casualty count” ng leyte at samar sa ibang probinsiya ng hindi mo rin ikukumpara ang lakas ng tama ng bagyo.
(Question is, why many people died? Because *expletive* Haiyan is much stronger than Katrina. If the US itself was unable to minimize the casualties by Katrina, what more of us? This was not something anyone could have prepared for. One more thing is, did anyone tell you that Tacloban was in the DIRECT PATH OF THE STORM? How dare you compare the ”casualty count” of Leyte and Samar over the rest of the provinces given the magnitude and the direction of the storm.)
Pero alam mo minamahal naming pangulo, di ka naman namin sinisisi, puta bagyo to eh, nature to, alam naming hindi ikaw ang dahilan nito. Isa pa, ang mga waray, hindi magaling sa blame game. ANG IKINAGAGALIT NG MGA TAO NGAYON ETO LANG:
(But you see, our beloved president, we never pin the blame on you. It’s a storm, an act of nature, you’re not the one who spawned it. One more thing is, we Warays have no taste in playing blame games. WHAT ANGERS US IS THIS:)
AT A TIME WHEN PEOPLE ARE DESPERATE FOR A LEADER THAT WILL SEND THEM A MESSAGE TO PICK UP THEIR BROKEN SPIRITS;
AT A TIME WHEN PEOPLE NEEDED ASSURANCES THAT YOU HAVE THEIR BACKS;
THE ONLY THING YOU GAVE THEM, WAS A BIG “FUCK YOU TACLOBAN, THIS IS YOUR FAULT, DON’T BLAME ME.” (Forgive my very liberal paraphrasing)
Tangina naman pre (i hope you don’t mind my audacity to refer to you on friendly terms), hindi naman namin hinihingi na pigilan mo lahat ng bagyo. O kaya na personally ka mamigay ng relief goods. Ang hinihingi lang ng mga tao sa yo, bilang lider ng sambayanang Pilipino, ang maging inspirasyon sa amin.
(DAMMIT, We are not pleading you to throw yourself on the path of the storm and shoo it away. Or we’re not asking you to personally deliver the relief goods. The only thing we’re asking is for you to be THE leader of our people, the one who keeps on inspiring us despite everything we’ve been through)
The best leaders throughout history aren’t remembered because they prevented huge disasters, they are remembered because when disaster inevitably struck, they inspired and rallied the people. I’m not an expert on Philippine history, but isn’t that what your parents did?
I’m sorry Mr. President, but you failed us. You failed the people of Bohol, Cebu, Leyte, Samar, Biliran, Masbate and all the other provinces that had to face the last few disasters.
On a final note, that “casualty count” you so callously keep referring to? That’s not just a number to us. That “casualty count” are family, friends, and neighbors that we will never see again. People we loved and cared about that we will never be able to laugh with or share a drink with.
Don’t get me wrong, I do not for a moment presume that you don’t know the pain of loss. I’m sure you do. But, you see, that’s precisely my point. I’m sure you understand, that any human being going through the deepest and darkest grief doesn’t care much that it’s this or that person’s fault. What we need from you right now, Mr. President, is an outstretched hand, not a big middle finger.
Formerly of San Jose, Tacloban City
Current address: N/A
One of the most eloquent letters I’ve ever read….
Credits to the author.
One of the few things I’m proud of my people is we keep each other’s spirits up in times of catastrophes. At the height of Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) and news of devastation streamed in, we keep on saying that “Filipino Spirit is waterproof” or “Bagyo ka lang, Pilipino Kami” just to cope with our fear and anxiety. One of the trending posts that was also widely shared in Facebook is about a CNN comment posted by a CNN reader (which had been initially believed as posted by CNN itself) about that amazing resilience of ours.
The message read as follows:
“Time to get to know the Filipino people….unbelievably resilient….long suffering…good natured, uber friendly, loyal, ingenius (?) and a bunch of survivors.
At the end of the day, the Filipinos will just shake off the dirt from their clothes and go about their business…and SMILE.They do not complain much, they will bear as long as they can.
Maybe this is why they were given the “privilege” of bearing the burden of the strongest typhoon ever recorded
The indomitable human spirit at its finest”
When I first saw this, I thought the writer is being sarcastic (or downright offensive, I mean, why would you consider being hit by the world’s strongest typhoon as a privilege?) but many netizens thought otherwise and they used it to uplift the spirits of each other. I appreciate the intention and the effect it stirred on my fellow Filipinos but this comment raised a few points to nail my mixed feelings on our so-called ‘indomitable human spirit’
For me, resilience is a dandy tool to arm ourselves especially with in times of crisis like this. It’s like a shield, powered by our desire to survive and rise up once again. But like a shield, it keeps us inside. We learned to cope instead to demand. And as long as we remain passive, it’s literally killing us.
How many typhoons, including major category ones, arrived in this country? How many people did Sendong (Intl name: Washi) killed? What about the 1990s major ones like Reming or Yoling? What have we learned from them? From the major earthquakes that struck? Is there any improvement in our part? In the government’s part?
Haiyan is different, you would say. It’s categorized as a super typhoon. High death toll is expected, even rich countries are trembling with fear over Haiyan. For the government’s part, preemptive evacuations were undertaken and LGUs did a good part of spreading the news to their areas….only that our efforts are not enough. LGUs are poorly equipped with communication and transportation devices. Selection of evacuation areas was poorly miscalculated as some of them became heavily damaged by the typhoon. There were no dikes/major structure to stop the storm surge. Some areas cannot be reached even until now because the lines were down and the clearing operations on roads and bridges are slow.
If there’s one thing Haiyan showed us is, at the end of the day, pride in our resiliency wouldn’t change the blatant truth about the high casualties or damages incurred. Haiyan made history in the hall of fame of disasters yesterday, and she sure as hell wouldn’t be the last.
Philippines sits in a hotbed of natural calamities. We are a sitting duck on an active Pacific fault line system, exposed to powerful typhoons which kept getting stronger year after year. One international news site listed us as the “most dangerous place to live on Earth”. Crime and poverty aside, Dan Brown’s metaphor couldn’t get any better: The Gates of Hell are here.
And I think one of our problems is this: They do not complain much, they will bear as long as they can.
As long as they can, in Filipinos’ dictionary, may mean ‘forever’.
It’s because we couldn’t complain. We couldn’t demand long-term reforms from our government. We couldn’t demand of higher disaster protection or sophisticated technology we desperately need in times of disaster. We suffer terribly and mull over the loss. And after the storm passed, we go on our way and move on because we have no choice but to continue our lives…yet we are doing nothing to change it. Our national disaster preparedness plan is still mediocre at its best. When the next storm arrives, we suffer again. It’s a sick cycle we Filipinos are seemed to be content with.
I have nothing against resilience. It is a powerful weapon and I believe nothing in the world can beat the resilience of Filipinos. But it would be as twice as powerful if we go beyond that and actively participate in the solution. Part of it is critically assessing our government’s plans and what our respective cites need before it gets hit by a major disaster. That ningas-cogon attitude should definitely be scrapped. The desire to prevent many deaths and having to use of what we learned from the past disasters to participate in finding a radical, bold solution…Now, That is the indomitable human spirit at its finest.
Now, can you imagine what will happen in the Philippines if we live by that?
That day was the Day of Perfidy; Blood-red hearts and roses accompanied with self-serving desires hidden behind deceptive smiles. Every corner of the university reeks with tangy scent of flowers and pheromones.
You almost missed the first and only class because you came late. I was talking with our friends on the corridor when you walked in with that single stalk of rose you tried so hard to hide behind your back. We saw it and behaving like gradeschool kids, we didn’t let you off easily. We teased and provoked. Our friends are doing it for the fun but I was just curious. Perhaps, I was jealous. But most of all, I was surprised why you bringing a flower meant something to me.
Being friends with you is something I’d always consider as a miracle. You are a one-in-a-million guy who quickly got used to my obnoxious attitude and found a way to push me out of my rock to get me talking non-stop. We’ve always talked easily and we don’t need to hide behind a mask when we face each other. I could probably use a toothpick in front of you and you wouldn’t bat an eye or if you break a wind while sitting next to me, I’d probably laugh with you. Even if I don’t understand half of what you’re saying sometimes, when you talk about charcoal painting or Billie Joe Armstrong, you will segue in a very lame joke we can both relate and then I would still laugh in spite of it and I would begin to care about charcoal painting and Billie Joe and listen to you for once. One smile, one flick of an eyebrow or an eyeroll, we understand each other and simultaneously crack up while the people around us are staring at us as if we’re crazy.
I wonder if most girls with guy bestfriends went through the same thing as I did. Even for once, had they imagined their best friends as someone they end up with? Or is the thought as repulsive as marrying your own brother? Guy friends are there for two things: If they’re not comforting you, they are confusing (without meaning to, of course) you with your feelings. And even if you know so much about each other enough to try the higher level, being great friends doesn’t guarantee that you will be great more-than-friends kind of thing. Stories like that seldom survive once outside books and movies.
That day, on our way home from the group date, you walked with me when the others are gone. You’re still holding that flower, unsure what to do with it on your hands. I joked about you chickening out and wasting P50 for a rose you can’t give to the girl you like. In response, you shoved the flower to me. You gave me that half shy/half messing-around-with-you kind of smile and I can’t help but to smile back.That time, I swear, we were as gooey and awkward as teenagers going out for their first date.
I would always love and immerse in that what-if moment. A moment of crossroads, a glimpse of what-could-have-been if we continued to the path we were too afraid to take. I could have answered your feelings that time with mine but I took a step back. You didn’t stop me and we parted ways, smiling as before, the same people as before. It’s a mutual decision to never cross the line.
I imagine of another world, in another time, the two of us could have been together. Yet for better reason or for worse, in this time and place, we are not. In another life, we are soul mates who can be so perfect for each other and yet perhaps in another, we fell apart and went back as complete strangers. During these quiet, contemplative nights, it always feels so nice to go back to that moment, recall my jumbled thoughts and drive myself crazy by thinking about the solemn smile you gave to me when I left you standing there without saying anything. I would often think of quite a few endings, deliberately better than what actually happened.
Time grew and the fire kindle between us dies. And we are perfectly content with that, because after everything is said and done or, rather left unsaid and left undone, we can still smile and look at each other in the eye. On that day and the future after, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
For my kababayans in Visayas and Mindanao, my thoughts are with you. Keep safe!
Tacloban City, Leyte felt the wrath of Typhoon “Yolanda,” which made landfall in nearby Guiuan, Eastern Samar at 4:40 a.m. Friday.
Umagang Kay Ganda field reporter, Tom Araullo managed to exclusively videotape with his crew the flood waters which quickly rose in Tacloban, Leyte on Friday morning, as a result of “Yolanda’s” landfall in nearby Guiuan, Eastern Samar.
cr. ABS-CBN News/ GMA News