Posts Tagged ‘sendong’

pop goes the world: learning lessons

POP GOES THE WORLD  By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today,  5 January 2012, Thursday

Learning Lessons

How was your new year celebration? I hope none of you lost any fingers/were burned or injured/choked on firecracker smoke last New Year’s Eve. Despite all the warnings by the Department of Health on firecracker safety, there were still 739 revelry-related injuries listed as of Tuesday, with at least two deaths- a 9-year-old boy in Cabanatuan City and a months-old infant.

Not to mention the diverted/cancelled airplane flights because of the “smog” over the city that reduced visibility. Great, we’re about the only country that can create air pollution from excessive firecracker use. I bet they could see the smog cloud from space. Astronauts: “Hey, I can’t see the Philippines. They must be having a party!”

Firecracker smog over Manila on New Year’s Day 2012. Image here

While I see how letting off fireworks and lighting sparklers and Roman candles can be fun – it’s a tradition that goes back decades, and there’s that satisfaction obtained by the pyromaniac in all of us – it’s still a risky activity and expensive as well. Exploding fireworks is like burning money. Might as well have made a bonfire of all those peso bills.

Here’s one deterrent, or at least a warning to play safe – a story my former brother-in-law, a physician, used to tell us every holiday season. Back when he was a medical student at the University of the Philippines and pulled New Year’s Eve duty at the Philippine General Hospital, they never used anesthesia when stitching up wounds and debriding burns. “Para madala sila,” he said. Did it work? He shrugged. “We’d still have a lot of patients each year. No one really learns their lesson.”

Here’s another lesson we haven’t learned – how to take care of the environment. The flash flood in Cagayan de Oro and Iligan was a freak accident caused, in part, by the lack of watersheds. How had their forest cover, which used to spread over 35,000 hectares two decades ago, shrunk to 2,000? Illegal logging played a nasty part in that, among other things.

One of the last significant things I did in 2011 was tag along on a December 28 trip to Iligan and Cagayan de Oro with a team from a government aid agency. There we visited government hospitals and evacuation centers, and saw for ourselves just how much misery and devastation the incident wrought.

A wake for a perished Sendong victim is held at an evacuation center in Macasandig, Cagayan de Oro City. 28 Dec 2011

Despite the rebuilding going on, mud still covered the streets of many residential areas, especially the hardest hit barangays. Entire subdivisions looked like ghost towns – mud had mounded as high as the bottom sills of windows, with what look like seaweed improbably twined around metal window panes. The glass in the panes had, of course, shattered during the height of the storm.

Weeds strangle windows; mud covers floors to knee-height. 28 Dec 2011, Iligan City.

Stories abound. A woman clung to a post for a total of seven hours before the floods subsided. A child drifted by, borne on the water, and grabbed her, a safe harbor. Two hours into their ordeal, continuously buffeted by the elements, the child said, in a voice of infinite weariness, “Pagod na ako. Bibitaw nalang ako.”Huwag, mamamatay ka!” screamed the woman, and clung tighter to the child. (They both lived.)

Humor is a feature of some stories, a typical coping mechanism of a people often battered by tragedy. People sat on their roofs, “kinakabayo”, a survivor said, clinging on to the V of the roof triangle for their lives. Occasionally other people would drift by and grasp whatever solid structure they could. One such man asked for permission from the homeowners perched on the roof. “Pare, pasensiya na. Pwedeng dito muna ako?” The homeowners laughed through their tears and hauled him up to the safer perch beside them. Another man who owned no cars saw a vehicle washed up in his garage the day after Sendong. “Pare!” he told a neighbor in high excitement. “May kotse na ako!”

An element of the supernatural tinges other narratives. One woman in a home relatively undamaged by the storm was unnerved when, the day after, around twenty children dressed in white pounded on her window begging to be let in. She turned to ask her husband what to do. When she turned back a few seconds later, all the children were gone.

Cagayan de Oro and Iligan will never forget Sendong and the horror and heartache it dealt. Now the residents of those areas are asking, what brought this about? Apart from the illegal logging, there’s also climate change; the typhoon belt is said to have moved from its regular path, affecting Northern Mindanao, a location that used to be untouched by monsoons.

Outside Gregorio Lluch Memorial Hospital in Iligan, a man studies lists of admitted flood victims and posters of missing persons. Most of the missing are children. Posters often list several children, all from one family. 28 Dec 2011.

Other residents claim that Cagayan de Oro’s mayor, a man called “the laziest mayor” by another paper for his frequent absence from city board meetings, is also culpable, his neglect having led to a lack of preparation for emergencies and subsequent poor response.

There are other whispers, of how a thousand or more Maranaws were brought to the area to vote for that politico, and being allowed to reside on the riverbank. Their ramshackle homes resting on an unstable foundation, these were among the first to be swept away when the river flooded its banks.

Youths dig into mud in Iligan, salvaging scrap metal after Sendong. 28 Dec 2011

Someone obviously didn’t learn the lesson about putting personal agenda aside in order to industriously and honorably fulfill duties as an elected public servant. And who are those somebodies who operate as illegal loggers? Those who don’t understand how climate change is already affecting our country in the most drastic ways? Those who still do not believe it is important to care for the environment?

Ten days after Sendong, a residential street in Cagayan is still almost impassable. 28 Dec 2011 

My New Year’s wish is simple – for people to learn their lessons and apply them to their daily lives, at home and work. When we stop living in ignorance and willful disregard of others and the world we live in, only then can we develop our potential.

But while selfishness, intellectual blindness, and sheer hard-headedness prevail in our culture, we’ll remain mired in the mud that Sendong brought down from the hills. And we’ll still have hundreds of people crammed into hospital emergency rooms on January 1.

Happy New Year, by the way.  ***

Phtos 2-6 were taken with an iPhone 4S. In addition, photos 3, 5, and 6 were taken from the window of a moving vehicle.

taste more:

pop goes the world: all i want for christmas

POP GOES THE WORLD  By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today,  22 December 2011, Thursday

All I Want for Christmas

All I want for Christmas is for tropical storm Sendong to never have happened.

But that it has, it’s inspiring to see how the public has pulled together to send aid to the stricken victims in the flooded areas. Technology-boosted communication played a vital role in bringing this about.

The role of social media in mobilizing efforts was crucial in making things happen and happen fast. As the news of the storm’s devastation broke, news and images were being uploaded to Twitter, Facebook, and Youtube within minutes. Public awareness spread quickly, much faster than in the days of when only radio and TV were around to carry news.

Computer-mediated communication also made it convenient and easy for donations to be made. Nowadays, if you can click on a button, you can send money. No excuse for couch potatoes.

By Saturday afternoon, links were created to click for donations to the Philippine Red Cross. One could donate via SMS (automatically deducted from your prepaid load or charged to your postpaid bill) or via credit card; one could also sign up to volunteer. Upon donating, a FB user had the option of wearing a Red Cross “badge” on his profile pic, not only to show that a donation had been made, but also to spread awareness.

Artists also threw their creative support into the mix, coming up with interesting graphic posters that drew attention to important information such as the donation links; these photos were easily “Shared” on FB, making spreading the word more efficient.

The telcos SMART and Globe also had similar “text to donate” mechanisms, offering a range of denominations, from five pesos to as high as one thousand.

Radio host and writer Gang Badoy, who has a strong Twitter presence, called for prominent companies to donate their services. Within a couple of hours, LBC responded, offering to transport gratis donated relief goods – “bottled water, food, blankets, clothes, etc.” – left at any of their branches.

Convenience store 7-Eleven Philippines offered to donate for every “Like” on their FB Page: “On behalf of our fans, we are donating P10 for every new like, up to 1 Million Pesos. You can help by liking our page, and hitting the ‘share’ button.” They came under fire for taking advantage of the situation to generate publicity, but as some other comments went, “At least they’re donating!” The store chain now also accepts donations from the public at any of their branches.

Special interest communities also went on board to raise funds for its members. Writers on FB were sorry to learn that the house of Palanca Award-winning poet, writer, and Mindanao State University-Iligan Institute of Technology professor German Gervacio (Hari Maniwari is his latest novel) was inundated by mud.

University of the Philippines Filipino literature professor Jun Cruz Reyes, who is in contact with German via cellphone, posted on FB:Nalubog sa baha ang bahay ni German Gervacio. Hanggang bewang ang tubig. Warat mga gamit n’ya. Pati computer n’ya, damay, kaya ako na lang ang nag-post para sa kanya. Wala pa rin silang koryente. At wala na rin siyang mababasang libro. Back to square one ang mag-asawa. Tulungan natin s’yang makaahon.”

It horrified me to learn that German’s books were all destroyed and that he had nothing to read. No computer, pens, nor paper? How can he write? I started filling a box with books I think he might find interesting and wondered if LBC would ship it for free. My daughters asked: “But do they have food and water?” Priorities, indeed. But that’s how we writers roll.

The community sprang into action, and donations for German are still being accepted at the UP Likhaan-Institute of Creative Writing office at the Faculty Center building, UP Diliman.

It was German’s 44th birthday yesterday. Instead of celebrating, he is busy setting his house to rights – “Naglilimas na ng putik…Ang problema, walang mapaglagyan dahil mataas din ang putik sa labas”.

He is also helping others less fortunate than himself. More than 100 people in his neighborhood died; the homeless are crammed into a nearby covered basketball court with minimal sanitation facilities and nowhere to cook. No clothes, no shoes, everything gone.

The scene is replicated all over Iligan, Cagayan de Oro, and the other flood deltas inundated by Sendong. Unattended corpses lie piled at mortuaries. The living lack food and water. Many are sick, others fatally ill. The death toll, now at 1,002, is expected to rise. This is no time to point fingers and assign blame; we can do that later. For now, we focus on priorities.

It’s a bleak and somber Christmas for our brothers and sisters in Mindanao. Let’s make it a little better for them – click on that link and donate some load, clean out that closet and drop off the boxes at LBC or 7-11.

Get online and find out how you can help in your own little way. It doesn’t matter if you can’t give a lot – every peso counts, and they’ll add up. Here’s an example: yesterday, soldiers of the Armed Forces of the Philippines offered to give up one day’s subsistence allowance for Sendong victims. That’s about a ninety pesos per soldier. But they are 80,000 strong, so together they have raised a total of P7.2 million. That’s news that warms the heart, and I snap off a salute in their direction.

Spread the holiday cheer with others, and have a meaningful holiday season. *** 

Photo of Dr Gen Asenjo (De La Salle University), JennyO, and German Gervacio at the Palanca Awards Night last 1 Sep 2011.

taste more: