Monday, November 25, 2013

Five Points I Learned from Haiyan

Almost a month after the strong typhoon Haiyan hit Central Philippines, a lot of key lessons have unraveled as the country faces the challenges of relief and rebuilding, and for some government officials, revival of their tarnished image. From the Facebook and Twitter exchanges, local and international news reports and observations, I will list down below what I think are five things we Filipinos learned about the Haiyan experience: 

5. Climate Change is NOW - This could be a convolution of several factors, but scientists have confirmed that human actions contribute a lot to changing climate. Pretty soon we will see snow in Philippines or dryer summers if we don't give our fair share of helping the environment cool down. Though it is not very obvious considering we know what is happening within our country, we are not a very big contributor to atmosphere's heat-up. Big countries like China, the US, and Russia should help us by helping themselves reduce carbon footprint and other factors contributing to Earth's "perspiration." We are strategically locationed for disaster as the world heats up. We'll see stronger storms if they or we don't act now. 

4. Social media is an effective unifier and, sadly, divider. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram... Thank them for mobilizing the people to quickly respond to calls for rescue, relief and rehabilitation. Big thanks to those widely used hashtags like #yolandaph and #bangonph. They surely helped keep us informed and vigilant. At the same time, social media helped polarize the populace both by call for crticism and support for the current administration. Thanks to the apparent delay in response from both local and national government units, Filipinos in the social-mediaverse have put in writing their frustrations, angst, calls for more help, dismay. People who called for sobriety called the critics "haters," while those "haters" called back at their critics as "blind followers." And of course, our dear "Ambassador" CNN correspondent Anderson Cooper was caught in the crossfire. At the end of word-slinging, there is still these millions of Filipinos not having enough food to eat, less medical supplies and no place to stay. My side in this polarized conversations? I'd still say, let's reserve our criticisms and battle axes for tomorrow, as there is much work to be done to bring Visayas back on their feet. 

3. Power of the media. As expected, the strongest recorded typhoon in history brought about the best and the brightest in the field of journalism. CNN's Anderson Cooper landed in Tacloban much faster than any efforts for rehabilitation and relief arrive Tacloban City. How did he do it? Definitely not how we expected the relief and rescue efforts should have mobilized. But to be fair with our national government, we have to admit that it is in the nature of journalists to be in the middlle of the most burning news, so they will try their best, even in the most difficult, shady way, to be ion the middle of the news as they happen. It's their job. The government's job is to react quickly to disaster, but at the same time, perform a balancing act on who goes where and how. Sadly, it was what Cooper and other journalists saw. That's is precisely what they will report on. I can't blame them for putting a bad reputation to the local and national government. that is just what they saw. That was what they witnessed. And special thanks to Korina Sanchez's word wars with Anderson Cooper, it just painted a more grim picture of the Presidency and its people's lackluster performance.  

2. We desperately need a strategic, well-thought of crisis management plan. I was expecting that Ondoy was a wake-up call for the government to be more proactive in disaster and crisis management. Sadly, we never learn from these tragedies. After Ondoy, came Pablo, Habagat (not a storm but it brought rains and floods), and now Yolanda. When will we wake up?? I think we're still in denial that we are indeed in the forefront of the changing climate. It's time that our Executive and Legislative branches to sit together and agree for a comprehensive disaster and crisis management plan. Since we won't see a resolution for a total elimination of the pork barrel, or PDAF, Congress and the Senate should allot at least half of their funds to buy their districts the needed boats, whistles, flashlights, etc. that could help their people in case another Yolanda strikes. And please, if you want to build basketball courts, make it a good one so people if may evacuate to these places necessary. 

1. We are loved. The outflowing of support for the Philippines is overwhelming. The world conspired to bring us back on our feet. Governments, private institutions, NGOs, even athletes and artists have all pledged and given their time, money and well wishes for the Philippines. It's been a month now and I could still hear over local radio in DC and Virginia calls for help and donations. Everytime I hear the stories of help and support, I can't help but drop a tear of joy. We are loved, Pilipinas. It's time we start loving one another and ourselves. 

Bangon Pilipinas. Kaya Natin 'To. 

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Terrible Two

This is definitely not a good year for my home country, the Philippines. First there was the 7.2 magnitude earthquake in Central Visayas, Bohol and Cebu that struck in the morning of October 15th; then there is this gargantuan category 5 hurricane Haiyan, a.k.a. Yolanda.

There have been a lot of write-ups about these already so all i can say about this for now is I pray that my kababayans back home will surpass these tragedies. You are all in my prayers.

Babangon tayo, Pilipinas.