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After ‘Pedring’

/ 09:17 PM September 29, 2011

To people still dealing with memories of “Ondoy,” “Pedring” brought unpleasant recollections and new fears. Though the amount of rainwater dumped by Pedring was half that brought by Ondoy two years ago, some communities especially in Marikina went through a reprise of the flooding and evacuation they went through. And in the Manila Bay area, establishments, including the American Embassy, Sofitel Hotel and Museo Pambata, along with the urban poor communities of Baseco and Tondo, found waters brought by the rains and the storm surge spilling over the breakwater and sea wall defenses and causing unprecedented knee-deep floods indoors.

Nina Lim Yuson of Museo Pambata, writing in our TOWNS e-group, recalled the damage done to their office, especially to their computers, and to some exhibit areas. Laura David, a TOWNS sister, replied that as an oceanographer she had no advice to offer but that the Museo transfer some place “safer.”

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There is no denying the lasting impact of climate change, she said; ocean levels will inevitably rise and devastating floods will increase in frequency and cause even greater damage. Of course, this is of little comfort to establishments along Roxas Boulevard and environs, and all those living in the provinces caught in the wide swath of Pedring’s track.

In fact, not only did Pedring bring gale-force winds and lashing rain, it did so over most of Luzon, affecting parts of Bicol, and much of Southern Tagalog, Central and Northern Luzon. In terms of damage to property, loss of life and over-all misery, Pedring joins the ranks of Ondoy, “Milenyo” and “Yoling” that will live on in our memories of trauma and tragedy.

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Faced with a power outage at home and a looming deadline, I joined my husband and daughter, who was reporting for work, on an impromptu “tour” of the metropolis. At the back of my mind, I was also afraid of being left alone at home in case of an Ondoy repeat, and so brought up some valuables and documents (including my passport) to my son’s second-floor room and hastily packed a bag of clothes and toiletries to take with me.

On E. Rodriguez, our way was blocked by a fire truck while firemen and police tried to raise a downed electric pole and fallen wires. On the way to Greenhills, we were diverted once more along Ortigas as police and emergency workers tried to clear the road of fallen wires and part of a wall that gave way due to the strong winds.

My husband and I decided to park ourselves in Greenhills. Many thanks to the accommodating personnel of Casa Reyes where we had lunch. They allowed me to plug in my netbook and phone and to work on my column.

For most of the day, our cell phone lines (Globe) were down, although thankfully my Wi-Fi connection (Smart) still worked. After I sent my column, we received a phone call from my daughter but the connection was spotty. Thinking she was ready to go home, we drove to her office and there found out that she was calling because my editor at the Inquirer, Jorge Aruta, wanted to know if I could send in my column. One of our editorial assistants, Tess Samaniego, happens to know my daughter and so desperate was she that she used this roundabout route to get in touch with me.

But our travels weren’t over yet. When my daughter was finally through with work, we drove to Eastwood where my son works and we had dinner at the food center, fearing that power was still out at home. But we arrived to a home that was, thank God, dry and well-lit. And so went our Pedring adventure.

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For much of the day, we listened to radio commentators and callers giving the public updates on Pedring’s path of destruction. And indeed many of the stories, especially those of parents losing their babies or toddlers to rampaging waters, were heartbreaking.

But there were also many annoying commentaries. Most irksome were reports of government employees complaining that Malacañang had announced “too late” that work had been suspended. The announcement was made about nine in the morning, it seems, and by that time, many employees were already on their way to their offices, battling rain presumably only to find that they would have to retrace their way back as work had been suspended.

“They should have announced it earlier so that we would not have had a hard time,” someone complained on air. Were they schoolchildren who needed to be coddled and looked after? They were thinking adults, after all, and if reporting for work was going to put them in danger, they could very well have stayed home.

Moreover, some of their colleagues, especially soldiers and police, health personnel, emergency workers, weather forecasters, social workers, had no choice but to report for work and were battling high winds and water, and risking their lives to serve the public. What was some inconvenience by comparison?

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Radio commentators were still at it the next morning, chastising Malacañang again for making parents stay up till late at night before announcing that classes would push through except in areas where schools were being used as evacuation centers.

Some private schools, though, on their own initiative announced the suspension of classes while their campuses were still undergoing cleaning.

I thought: Government will never get it right. Suspend classes when the sun comes out and it’ll be accused of acting “too little, too late.” Announce the resumption of classes and it’ll be scolded for being “unthinking” of schoolchildren’s safety.

Can’t we all just think that we’re in this together, and that individually and socially, we need to pull together and hasten our recovery from this latest disaster? Carping and complaining won’t help us any.

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TAGS: disasters, featured columns, Ondoy, opinion, Pedring, typhoons
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