Saturday, November 30, 2013

Why Yolanda should happen to us and the lessons we should never forget

Before you cry foul over the blog title, please allow me to share my piece. For one, I am deeply saddened by the devastation of the storm and I have been fervently praying to the Lord not to let us experience the same. The harrowing ordeal of the people of Visayas during the morning of 8th of November is going to be written in history books as one of the worst disasters in the world. So allow me to say that there is a reason Yolanda should happen to us, no matter how painful it is.

It should happen not because we are full of sins and we deserve some sort of retribution but because we need a huge slap on our face that will remind us that tragedy as massive as this will happen, wreak havoc and bring deaths to our hapless nation. Our geographical location instantly puts us in the danger zone, our country is unluckily situated in a part of the world where typhoons are made and brewed. Our archipelagic nature adds to the fact that our fate lies on our preparedness to handle the inevitable transits of super typhoons. Therefore I believe that Yolanda is a tragic calamity that should be experienced by the Filipinos in order to prepare us for the advent of more devastating typhoons that are about to visit the Philippines in the years to come.

Yolanda painfully reminded us the vulnerability of our nation, the sad fate of our politics and the lack of knowledge of the true character and temperament of storms. Somehow it showed us the repercussions of our complacency, that although we are visited by over 20 typhoons every year, we can always withstand it. But unfortunately, Yolanda gave us a hurtful and painful blow to our knees and we were all shocked by the impact of its wrath.

Yolanda opened the window that revealed the sheer lack of our leader's political will. It gave us a sad reminder that dirty politics still plays a role in the cycle of relief-rebuild-rehabilitation. The local government unit has been crippled and rendered useless. They were cramming for clues on how to address the burgeoning problems of logistics, supply chain, relief supplies and transport, food shortages and handling of casualties. It was a crisis of epic proportion and the LGUs couldn't handle it.

Yolanda showed to the world the sad reality that although Philippines is gaining significant economic growth, poverty remains to be a formidable foe and the trickling-down effect of the recent economic gains are not yet realized by its populace. You would see in the satellite images in CNN how densely populated the coastline areas in Samar are. The poorly-built structures of houses, the density and the closeness to the sea are recipe for disaster. There were little to no possible evacuation centers. In this moment of despair, convention centers and coliseums could be a plausible refuge. But where are they? Although I have seen some in the news, they were all ravaged by the storms too, roofs were torn apart; rains were coming inside through open windows.

If I remember it correctly, when hurricane Katrina struck the US, people were evacuated in sports centers and convention areas. They were safe inside the sturdy refuge of coliseums while the hurricane is wreaking havoc outside. And the casualty was very less.

Storm is inevitable, but we can lessen the damage and the death toll for sure.

It is time for the government to carefully plan a groundbreaking solution in order for us to be prepared for the next storm surges and super typhoons. A storm as huge as Yolanda could certainly happen again and if our country would still experience the same ordeal, I think it would be an embarrassment.

Let Yolanda be a reminder to our politicians to be more of a leader than a servant in this time of crisis. May Yolanda be a lesson that should be tattooed on our mind henceforth. Rehabilitation should commence immediately, and it should be more sustainable. Rebuilding of houses should not be a make-shift and temporary. The government must establish laws and privileges in order to provide emergency funds to help people of Visayas to make sturdier homes and to elevate and relocate their houses immediately. They should tap the expertise of urban planners and engineers on how to re-build their communities. People in coastline should consider moving out of the zone or if not possible, at least open the possibility of putting up emergency measures that will educate and inform them of necessary actions to be done in times of calamities.

It is rewarding and elating to hear notes from other countries praising our resiliency and faith during these trying times, but it also reflects the weakness of our culture. Our physical strength and resiliency could help us but preparedness and fortitude will bring out the best in the Filipino people.