‘Forces of nature’


Just like the rains and the wind whipped up by the furious combination of the southwest monsoon (habagat) and Tropical Storm “Maring,” (international name “Trami”), the Filipinos’ generosity and sense of sacrifice proved once again to be no less formidable forces of nature. There was simply no stopping the Filipinos, despite the massive rainfall and flooding in Metro Manila, Central Luzon and Northern Luzon, from going out of their way to extend whatever little help they could. Even before Maring’s and the habagat’s rainwater turned into floods, public, private and volunteer groups had set themselves ready to be there for would-be victims however they could. And at the height of the rains and floods, rescue teams made a very reassuring presence where they were needed. When Maring finally left last Thursday, leaving behind hundreds of displaced families in shelters, everybody was helping out in more ways that were uniquely theirs.

Take the “Doctors on Boats” of the Philippine Medical Association (PMA). “In these sad times, if our patients cannot go to their doctors then their doctors will go to them onboard boats,” said PMA president Dr. Leo Olarte. PMA sent some 200 doctors and counselors to help thousands of residents in Metro Manila and nearby provinces who could not easily be reached by land transport or were relocated due to the floods.

Big business—among them the Ayala, First Pacific, Robinsons, San Miguel,  and SM groups of companies—also deployed rescue units, donated huge amounts of relief goods, and even set up temporary shelters and mobile communication centers.

The Catholic Church opened many of its churches to evacuees in  habagat-struck places, even as Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle, archbishop of Manila, called on everybody to work together to help their suffering countrymen. “I hope that in the midst of nature’s scourge, we find a deep connection with each other so that the pain brought about by the loss of home, property and livelihood will be replaced by overwhelming love and concern for others.” The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines led Church efforts in distributing relief goods and medicine to affected families. The Church also called for a special second collection for the benefit of the flood victims in Masses  on Aug. 24 and 25.

As expected, local and national government units went all out in their rescue operations and in sheltering those caught within the devastating Maring-habagat  surge  away from harm. National and local officials were seen out in flood-stricken areas personally surveying the situation and handing out groceries to the victims.

In Laguna, while visiting evacuees, President Aquino assured the habagat victims: “The government is ready in the face of this calamity, and rest assured we have sufficient resources to bring you back to stability soon.”

But he called for cooperation: “Let’s help one another. That is what’s needed at this time… but I repeat the government is here to serve you. It was established for that purpose, and you should expect that.”

To be sure, that residents in the affected areas heeded the calls for evacuation—except for a few unfortunate “holdouts”—helped in reducing the casualty statistics considerably. “We did not take risks anymore. We were trapped on the roofs of our houses last time, when we were taken by surprise,” said Yolanda Angobang, who brought her family to Sto. Domingo Church when their Quezon City barangay was flooded.

Indeed, in the aftermath of Habagat 2013, the displaced families must  not just rely on the kindness of strangers. They have to cooperate and help themselves to build a more promising future.

Still, government needs to improve its disaster risk reduction management. And to lay down new, firmer housing and relocation policies to encourage people to move out of—or to keep them from settling in—danger zones.

There will be more storms, but with government and people joining hands, it is not impossible for that day to come when there will be less flooding, fewer displaced families and zero casualty.

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  • farmerpo

    Yes. Kudos to the Pinoy heart. It was ironic though that while the billions of pesos scam raged thru the air, print and web forums, DSWD was pitching for donations.

  • Weder-Weder Lang

    Forces of nature are Acts of God whose adverse impact can be reduced by planning ahead and making wise decisions. But more than nature and citizens joining hands, politics has a way of getting in the way and exacerbating what is already a daunting problem. The Great Inundation of 2013 in parts of Luzon could have been mitigated. And this is what PDI took great pains not to mention:

    “When PNoy’s administration took over in 2010, the plan to dredge Laguna de Bay was arbitrarily scrapped. The Belgian government was shocked. The companies that have mobilized financing for this urgent project have sought international arbitration. The very costly proceedings have commenced, causing our government large amounts of money in legal fees. If we lose the arbitration case, the Republic will end up compensating the foreign companies in the billions without any dredging ever happening.” (Submerged by Alex Magno in Philstar 22-Aug-2013)

    If anything, this is a classic example of how a bad political decision can lead to catastrophic consequences to lives, limbs and livelihoods. As if torrential downpours are not bad enough, a politicking president made it even worse. Now that Daang Matuwid’s credibility is under water, swamped by silt and mud, PNoy is slowly drowning in this man-made calamity of his own making. Let’s just hope that he doesn’t get to drag the rest of the country down with him.

    • Mamang Pulis

      ..At ang obvious na tanong : bakit na scrap?

      kasi _____________[ fill inthe blanks ]

  • Fulpol

    by spirit, Pilipinos can easily conquer the devastation effect of nature… there is resiliency.. the high spirit of survival..

    but there is the depressive effect every time the forces of nature strike.. damaged properties.. time to rebuild again.. the rebuilt is not finished, another disaster struck them again.. more depressive effect..

    “this is life all there is”.. just to survive.. depressing after depressing, they already stopped dreaming of getting a good life like of Janet Lim-Napoles..

  • angie1875

    Much better to see if we are prepared or how we have minimized or fixed the flood problems.It just seems to be getting worse each time.

  • carlcid

    Whatever these are, they could well be taken as ominous signs that point to an inauspicious second half of PNoy’s term. Floods, bombings, non-performing government agencies, bribery and pork barrel scandals, declining capital markets, a deteriorating peso, and a creeping realization that things have not changed for the better, are among the portents of things to come.

    PNoy’s mother also had a disastrous second half to her term. It was marked by volcanic eruptions, floods, earthquakes, coups, political infighting, rolling blackouts that crippled the economy and the creeping realization that things had changed for the worse.

  • tra6Gpeche

    Yes, helping one another during and after the calamities is great and praiseworthy. However, everyone knows that this calamity always comes many times every year. Can’t the government think of something to lessen the impact of the typhoons and flooding to the hapless Filipino people? Yes, we need the money. How about using a big portion of the pork barrel of Mr. Aquino, the Senators and the Congressmen. And the rest is used to build classrooms in the remote areas and help subsidize the needs of the farmers in the provinces. Never, never give the peoples’ money to the money-hungry politicians including Mr. Aquino! Otherwise, corruption and scam will always plunge the Filipino, as a whole, into sickening poverty and hopelessness.

  • pilipino_ako6

    The government’s handling of calamities has improved a lot under PNoy’s term. This is a fact. Remember when government responders couldn’t use the rescue boats because the outboard motors were the wrong size? They were just an excuse to make anomalous purchases and not for use. Often the government was caught flat footed and ineffective to respond to storms and floods. Many more lives were lost. Either there are still those who have really short memories or others just choose to forget them.

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