Saturday, December 12, 2009

In the midst of a Storm: Respond, Rescue and Reflect

by Marciano "m-16" A. Paroy Jr.

The recent onslaught of a series of typhoons – including that unbelievable U-turn made by Pepeng – has devastated many of our fellow Filipinos. The images alone that we saw (and continue to see) on our TV screens, computer monitors and on the pages of national dailies are enough to unsettle us and make us think about the effortlessness of Mother Nature to wreck havoc on our lives whenever she wants to.

Life is fragile. That, at least, has been hammered into our judgment again. We strive out into the world and make a lifetime attempt at proving that we can be much more, that we can do much more, not caring to pause for awhile and contemplate about the very fabric of our existence. And so when we find ourselves thrown into a tragedy, we take it a s a jolt that tosses us out of balance – with the sudden protest summed up in a one-syllable word: Why?

There is a reason to everything, we have always told ourselves that. Sort of a mantra that we keep repeating as if it already explains why a certain misfortune took place. For the “devoted,” God has willed it to be so. For the hard line scientist, these catastrophes are a manifestation of the geo-physical upheaval that the earth is continuously undergoing. For the mathematician, these recent phenomena reflect the possibility that earthly life may be snuffed out by such events, and that the calculable odds are great that the ratio between our eventual demise and our survival is narrow, somewhere like 5:1

But people are not numbers. The victims are part of a family with its own story about eking out a living, about how the damaged house was built, about how they have chosen to migrate to a certain place. These are names, not numbers – and behind each name is a story. For the older victims, a story of successes and failures – and how they have managed to stay afloat above such failures. For the children – a story that shall never be lived out, that shall never be written.

Most of us cried. I can say that, without a single speck of a doubt. But we are resilient. Time and time again, we Filipinos have exhibited a different brand of resistance to sad events. We keep falling, yet we keep rising. We keep crying, yet the next day we will be laughing at our very own selves. We keep stumbling, yet others will always go out of their way to give us a hand.

In Tabuk alone, people responded. When downstream Chico River could no longer contain within its river bed the rising water level, residents of Cabaruan, Tabuk and Sucbot, Pinukpuk had to flee their barangays and seek shelter in the hastily prepared evacuation stations at the Laya East Elementary School, Tabuk National High School and Magsaysay Elementary School.

We have heard about accounts of how these unfortunate evacuees were given an immediate help by well-meaning civic groups, community leaders, government officials and other individuals. Like a wellspring of reserved relief and comfort, these people came in droves – proving that we are indeed our brothers’ keepers.

Looking at the images submitted by our ace lensman Elizabeth Busacay, I cannot help but feel the miserable situation that has befallen the residents. It is not that easy to turn your back on your home and take refuge somewhere – with the distressing thought that your house may not be what it was like (or where it used to stand) when you get back once it has been declared that weather conditions had become stable.

We are impressed at the quick outpour of assistance – food (bread, rice, meat, vegetables), clothing and sheets for warmth, materials and utensils for cooking, milk for the children, and even cash from those who did not have the time to rush to the stores that were luckily open.

Just being around, in fact, is a source of great comfort for the evacuees already. It sends out the message that you do have compassion and that you yourself are sad about the situation.
But then one dose not go there to grieve or to curse against the cataclysm. One has to show strength and to be in command of the situation – for if everyone else breaks down, then it would be a roomful of pathetic mourners.

This column then rings out the applauding bells for those who rushed to the evacuation sites – for we have heard that they had all exercised this show of strength even as they expressed their sympathy.

You shall all be remembered by those whom you rescued. In their own little ways in the future – even without your expectations for anything in return – people shall know how to give back.

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