I’ve been going over the Philippine blogosphere today, and majority of the posts that I’ve read tackle the recent calamities that hit our country. As a blogger, I’ve never really thought of coming up with similar blog post topics. And I live within one of the areas heavily affected by the typhoons (notably, typhoon Pepeng)!
I reside in La Trinidad, Benguet—the town where Puguis (Little Kibungan) is located. As you know, the landslides in this area have been one of the most deadly. Another landslide in my hometown occurred at Buyagan, another barrio in La Trinidad. Fatalities were also recorded there. Total deaths from landslides have amounted to 75. Our local paper published photos of all the landslides in our area. Aside from numerous photos, their pages were also filled with various obituaries. Claims like “Victim of the landslide that occurred at Buyagan, La Trinidad, Benguet” took up print space. I saw a picture of both parents and one of two children lost in an instant—the other child is alive and is now facing life, parent- and sibling-less. I’ve also had a former schoolmate who lost his parents and sisters in a landslide. He’s now moving on without his home and immediate family. Loved ones were lost, survivors were left all alone.
I’ve been thinking, why didn’t talk about all these tragedies on my blog? Why didn’t I take photos of the landslides, retrieval operations, and relief operations? I never expressed concern for all of the fatalities. Two United Nations (UN) helicopters openly landed at my university’s open field for two weeks and I never bothered to note them. Although I donated a small amount to victims, I never found time to take part in any relief operations. Is there something wrong with me?
I’ve done a self-evaluation and it seems I was shocked by the calamities, but I never really acknowledged this shock. See, it was on October 8 (Thursday) when we really experienced the strongest rains and winds brought about by Ramil. It was also on this day when all landslides occurred in my hometown. I didn’t go to work on that day ‘cause I really couldn’t make it through all the wind and rain. There was no electricity so I couldn’t email my boss—I just sent him a text message and hoped for the best. Now that I realize it, not going to work on that day was actually a good idea. Apparently, a landslide happened on an area of the highway going to the commercial city. It happened at a time when I would usually be on that part of the highway! Almost 15 vehicles were all covered with mud. If I actually proceeded to work, I might have been a casualty (or fatality) in that instance.
Another reason I could think of why I don’t really talk about the recent calamities is because I find it kind of improper. I can’t get myself to talk about calamity-related deaths, commercial loses, the impact of the devastation, etc. Maybe it will be more constructive to release all pain through poems, illustrations, volunteer work, and others. An alternative would be to talk about these devastations after a period of time has passed. By then, people will have started moving on, smiling, and getting things back to normal. This is why I talk about everything just now.
Philippine skies have been very favorable for the past two days: No overcast, no rains, and no strong winds. It would seem that typhoons and all other weather disturbances have come to pass in order to give us time to prepare for Christmas. For almost a month, our country has gone through a unique phenomenon—three consecutive super typhoons. It started with typhoon Ondoy (international name: Ketsana) which ravaged Metro Manila. Then along came typhoon Pepeng (international name: Melor) which affected much of Northern Luzon. To make things worse, a third typhoon Ramil (international name: Lupit) threatened to enter the Philippine area of responsibility. Thankfully, typhoon Ramil grew weaker and never hit Philippine grounds.
Most people are claiming that this is nature’s revenge for their wrongdoings to the environment. Maybe… But really, if we did take care of the environment, would these tragedies cease to exist? Remember, we are on the route frequently traveled by typhoons—a typhoon belt. Sure, landslides would have been prevented if there were more trees around; floods wouldn’t have occurred if trash didn’t clogged up drainage systems—but why erect a house in hazardous surroundings? Why refuse to evacuate when you have been warned of impending doom? I believe that should the three typhoons had not hit us, we wouldn’t open our minds to the real state of our country. Here are points, ignited by the recent calamities, that should be considered:
Point 1: We have no housing and building regulations.
Or, we have but we are just not properly informed. And if there really are, these aren’t actually or fully implemented. With the dynamic geographical structure of our country, local governments should form rules and regulations that cover building and housing. For instance, a local law that prohibits housing projects above and under identified dangerous sloping land formations. This will decrease the number of deaths caused by landslides. Another would be the regulation of factories and residences being built near bodies of water. This will prevent water contamination and/or pollution that can clog water systems and eventually cause floods. By having strictly implemented building laws, Philippine society would be protected from Acts of GOD, Acts of Nature, environmental tragedies, whatever you call it.
I think building and housing laws (if they exist) are not being practiced to give a chance for our growing population to secure shelter. Which brings me to…
Point 2: Our land is overpopulated.
I swear on it. I have seen pictures of Baguio City from the past and in the present. Before, Baguio mountains were full of trees and no houses were in sight. It was simply beautiful! But now, everything is filled with residential structures. Trees are slowly being cut down to give way to housing. If ever you visit Baguio City for the first time, you might be disheartened by what you will see. There are just too much people now! It’s not that I’m against life and reproduction, but we should be responsible reproducers! (I’m not trying to be funny here…) If all people do is fool around with everyone and give off continuous offspring, I shudder to think what will become of our ecology.
Think about it—a large population also indicates larger amount of trash. Why, for the past days, Baguio City is unable to solve its trash problem. While I walk to my office, I have noticed piles of garbage accumulating in all corners of the city. Sure, there are some trucks picking up the trash, but not all of the garbage is taken. I’ve been thinking, “Where do these garbage trucks keep the trash (since, as far as I know, there is no new identified landfill yet)?
Point 3: Most of Philippine society is not properly behaved.
This is not to put down Filipino self-esteem. I used “not properly behaved” because if I used any other more offensive term, I would be insulting my countrymen. But can you deny it? Filipinos throw trash everywhere, instead of in trash bins. Philippine organizations (mostly the business sector) putting up establishments that destroy natural ecology. Pinoys having no regard for where they build their homes. Hard-headed Filipinos who insist in staying or returning to their homes when they are located in high-risk areas.
Of course, the government should be addressing the needs of Philippine society, like housing, waste management, and rehabilitation, but society shouldn’t rely entirely on the government. In the first place, it was society’s decision that brought them to where they are. Why should the government take the blame for their constituents’ actions?
Every time I hear the people wail on national television, “Sana tulungan kami ng gobyerno!” (We’re hoping the government will help us!) or “Nananawagan po kami kay presidente (name of Philippine president)!” [We are appealing to President (name of Philippine President)!], I can’t help but frown in disgust. Typical Pinoy behavior. These people should be taught that when they encounter problems, they must utilize their resources to face these. And when I say resources, I mean, their minds! Poverty should not be a reason to allow yourself to experience difficulties. “But it’s not their choice to be poor,” you might say. Well, it’s not their choice but they have the option to change their circumstances.
Another thing, most Pinoys don’ really learn from their mistakes. Sure, before the arrival of typhoon Ramil, people got themselves ready. But keep in mind that even before these current typhoons, other typhoons have hit our country. Didn’t we learn from these past typhoons? *sigh!*
Point 4: There is still hope.
Despite all the negativity, the typhoons have brought out something good in us Pinoys. We stick together and help all those in need. After the first typhoon hit, people started organizing relief operations for Metro Manila. Donations from all over came pouring in. Even my hometown donated in cash and in kind for their kababayans (countrymen) in the lowlands. When we were the ones who to be affected in the second typhoon, donations came up here in the highlands. Truly, we still possess that bayanihan (heroism) and pagkaka-isa (unity) spirit.
And that’s my take on everything that has happened in the past few weeks. Tragedies can actually be avoided, if people only thought things out well. If you’ll notice, the tragedies aren’t actually effects of environmental or climate change; they’re actually repercussions of our decisions. If you erect a house anywhere without thinking, that might bring on a painful experience to you. If you decide to throw your garbage anywhere, that will solicit a later effect. If you cut down a tree, that’ll have a later effect. Don’t blame the environment; don’t blame GOD. No one is responsible, but us. The environment is not pushing us; we are just punishing ourselves for our mistakes.
Keep moving forward, everyone!
Credit is due to ate Dene Anne for the snapshots, which were found on her Friendster profile page. Congratulations to their team on their successful relief operations!