Disaster zone, all over again. 125,000 families affected by the extreme flooding; over 600,000 people, since a typical Filipino family has 4-6 children.
Seven casualties, so far.
It’s the third day of torrential rains, and the amount of rain that fell on the Luzon area in the last 24 hours was what usually takes an entire month.
Social media networks helped to make rescue operations faster, while evacuation centers were already setup. Since the Ondoy flooding of 2009, catastrophes like this have battered the country every year, during monsoon season.
We just had a typhoon blow through last week. But as soon as it left, a new one, named Maring, lashed out. Today, it sits stubbornly over the country, refusing to leave. All day, and all night, the rain poured, water levels rose, rivers threatened to overflow and dams to break.
After all that this country has been through recently, it feels like Armageddon. Two oil spills, a fatal accident at sea that has already claimed 61 people; gas explosions, bombings in a public mall; calamities, everywhere. In just one week.
Peering out the windows of our house, I am relieved that the waters don’t rise where we live. Situated on a hill, in a well-built residential area, we are in a safe zone. But just outside, flood waters rage like rivers. I’ve been up most of the night nursing my sick son back to health, and the baby has also woken on her usual multiple feeding times. But the fatigue I’ve experienced in the last few days are nothing compared to the tragedy and trauma endured by those thousands of evacuees seeking shelter in centers and trying to keep dry.
My son, at just 3 years old, is so interested in the news updates and the weather. Yesterday, we watched the TV reports together. Streets I used to walk to work; familiar highways I once commuted on, all turned to muddy swamp.
Metro Manila is a sinking cesspool.
This is a country plagued with natural disasters, yes. But I believe the problems are rooted much deeper.
There are serious calamities that could be avoided, but continue year after year, because of corruption, greed, abuse of power by those who hold the purse-strings.The majority of people, for lack of education,place more value in the gossip and lives of celebrities, wanting to emulate them in their dreams, in their Facebook statuses, and the telenovelas they adore praise material things and aesthetic beauty rather than hard work and education to secure a promising future.
Little or no urban planning; no health-care; overgrowth of communities, undisciplined citizens who accept filthy streets and choked traffic. While many live on the streets, there are also long lines of huge SUVs of rich kids, with parked chauffeurs waiting, clogging arteries near schools. Deforestation gives way to landslides, more common disasters. It isn’t Nature’s fault.
Funds meant for the people are stashed away by the millions, wasted on personal excess. The middle-class margin in this country is miniscule. There is the filthy rich, and then the filthy poor.
And the poor will remain so, the displaced will find no stable homes; the affected continue to live their lives in fear. The taxpayers will keep on slaving away day after day, and never see their earnings or contributions improve the lives of their children.
It angers me, as I look out at the rains falling. For those of us who work in the tourism industry, it’s a constant dilemma and personal point of conflict.
Yes, we have a beautiful country; yes, there are kindhearted, wonderful people living here; yes, there are those treasures to be found. But the real problems grow more cankerous every day. They remain unmoving, like the typhoon overhead that refuses to shift. How can we ever improve and progress as a nation? How can we build a better home for our children?
Is there hope for the Philippines?
There is a deep-rooted part of our culture that just “accepts” things. Bahala na, we like to say. There’s nothing we can do about it, and that’s the way it will always be.
In the midst of all this,my thoughts turn to those who are the true heroes–the sacrificial rescue teams on call all day and night; the volunteer technical divers who scour the sunken ship in Cebu, searching for the missing, retrieving bodies, despite bad weather conditions. Those who bond together to get through the night and help all in their path. The mothers and fathers whose spirits may be downcast, after they have lost everything in a matter of hours.
And add to that list, all those who weather the conditions to get to work, who, on this downcast Tuesday, still carry on.
I hope and pray, that for their sakes, and for the sakes of the innocent in this country, the waters will subside and the storm will pass.