Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Of Disasters and Being a Traveler

Disasters are getting into my system like they never did in previous years. Oh my. This, I guess, is one unpleasant consequence of having visited so many places in this country.

I have claimed pride (and even honor) at having been to each and every town or city of so many provinces – and that includes, Surigao, Agusan, Misamis, Negros, Cebu, etc. Prouder still as I went to see them not because of a job I needed to do, but because I was just a roamer who wanted to see them. ‘Local Tourists’ as the industry call us.

But today, it looks like I’m reluctantly claiming an unwanted feeling no one ever dreams of experiencing. That genuine heavy feeling for the loss of lives in those towns that I have visited. It just gets rather too personal at times that I also feel helpless like the disaster victims themselves. I think it is human nature that I feel more for those people who I think I may have said hi or hello to, one time or another. I feel their pain at seeing those houses, roads and buildings now in ruins, while during my trips those were fine and beautiful structures. Like that department store in San Carlos? Well, I stood smoking right where those shreds of glass are now scattered. What if I was there when it happened? Simba ko!

Could those adults and children killed by the earthquake-caused landslides have been people I rode with on jeeps and buses? Could those missing families have been the same guys who smiled at me during my walks in their markets, churches or other public places? I just stay wondering, yet I feel bad so many notches deeper than if I have not been to those places, I think. That boulevard by the sea gave me a beautiful view as my bus smoothly zoomed through. Now its littered with not only cracks but crumbled concrete and big gaps caused by mother nature. How will my Ceres bus zoom through again? With 11 mangled bridges and counting? Oh my...

I thought I would have forgotten the Surigao and Agusan floods, the loss of too many human lives in CDO and Iligan, some at places where I happily strolled by or had meals or snacks at. I thought the sorry feeling would soon be gone. But now we have Bindoy, Ayungon, Tayasan, Jimalalud, La Libertad, Guihulngan and many other wonderful places. There goes mother earth again!

But what can I do? I am just a hapless weekend roamer without the riches of a philanthropist. Even if I was, how will money resurrect the unfortunate who have perished? I am certain there must be something I can do, to not join them wallow in their sorrow. Yes, they’re all in my prayers… but is that enough?

There must be at least one thing that I can do… to feel happy and to make those who are still alive happy and move on with their lives. Whatever it is… I am now in search… Any suggestions?

By virtue of previous current (and probably future) work (aka profession) I have been used to thinking for others. That’s what I do now as a consultant anyway, right? But I realize, at times like these, I do not have the objective capacity to think for me myself and I. That’s profoundly absurd, so I’m thinking still…

Anyway, if at all this will start me being happy, so I can later ‘infect’ those in sorrow with the happiness, I prefer to switch to that mode above – thinking for others. And based on my roams and various eventualities, I do have observations that lead me to suggest the following…

Wouldn’t it be possible for organizations and entities civil or private to conflux as one umbrella unit, at least, during disaster emergencies? If they did this, it would help a lot. Example: if these media organizations, communications giants and government departments or units were one, it would have been easier to immediately point places that need urgent attention. As of now, locals, their governments and those who want to help are just dependent on what they can do as themselves and what they can hear from which source they prefer or are used to. Why is it, barangays up the hills of La Libertad or Guihulngan have not seen enough help yet – even just to flick a few things on a landslide that is supposed to have goaded almost the whole populace in its path? Its been more than 30 hours hence. Are we that incapable a country? No way! But how come even just convincing those who remain alive, to come down home from the boondocks also seem to an equally grueling challenge? Can't blame them though. The recent past has taught us not to easily believe whoever - especially their... ah whoever!

The media organizations also just depend on who they want to ask, so they can decide where they want to go. Its their choice if they want to listen to an LGU, the NDRRMC, the PHIVOLCS, the Army, PAGASA, the wailing relatives etc., Same case with these local and national entities, its their choice who they want to listen to for facts and figures. A mere body count (which is a useless after-the-fact pronouncement anyway) are already being broadcasted or printed and they can have as many as 3 or 4 versions. We know their reasons, right? But if one of these officers or reporters heard a man on the highway shouting for help that his whole barangay has been buried, it takes time for everyone to hesitate and/or finally decide if they want to believe or shun him.

Hmm speaking of shouting… you have heard about that ‘megaphone man’ who went a riding all over Cebu asking everyone to hie off to the mountains, right? His ‘effect’ could have been averted if the telcos were on an emergency mode and broadcasted txt brigades about the situation in Cebu – before everyone downtown ridiculously panicked like hell! Bless that man by the way, he says he was just concerned hehe. It appears the source of all the information was the usual rush of seawater that came ashore due to some fastcraft that just passed by the area. Entawon!

Now now... Granting they wanted to (which I doubt), where would these telcos have gotten the "official" txt brigade announcement? From the NDRRMC who themselves were helpless? From Malacanang that also just depends on NDRRMC? From PHILVOLCS that does not probably even know where Pasil really is nor has a view of the actual sea? From the newsmen who are not government therefore not "official"? Gosh! But clearly, if all these groups are organized to the extent of having documented roles to perform during disasters, they should be an admirable force to depend on.

Even the help from these media foundations are not at all optimized. If ‘kapuso’ went that way, ‘kapamilya’ goes this way, just to be different. Even if in between them, the next barangay might be the one that is in dire need of immediate help – all because of ‘trying to be different’ and two paragraphs above. Why not make them move as one great force since they have one great pursuit, to help. Let them use just one broadcaster at one area. It raises my eyebrows that ALL these TV networks must still send their reporters from Manila when they have many local reporters - who are initially used, but eventually replaced when the Manila-based bigshots arrive. Why? Are they any better when they can't even pronounce Guihulngan?! Oh, let them share just one helicopter to cover things. Let them help collect data, instead of waiting for the “official count” that must come from a local official who himself probably needs help too or is busier with other bigger things during the disaster. Spread the local and Manila based reporters as far as possible instead of making the locals mere substitutes or fillers-in. With the knowledge on which parts really needs them, they can then quickly move in to reach those most in need. Just during the disaster folks. You can do it, am sure, just during a disaster, at least!

Hmm, there I go! I feel a little better having said something. It’s a start I believe, but I am still searching for answers on… what can I practically do?

There must be something…


  1. how about volunteer at kapamilya or kapuso foundation? let's go!

  2. kaya dapat pag traveler ka always ready k in any moment.