So Much Ranting… don’t add to that
First of all, I want to thank Cebu Pacific Air for accommodating me on the flight to Tacloban. Cebu Pacific has done a great job for the benefit of Yolanda Typhoon Survivors (You can read their Pasko Ni Juan sa Tacloban). Kudos!
It is too easy to pass the blame to the national and local government because of their incompetencies. There’s so much ranting and bad news in social media sites. It seems that everyone is an expert when it comes to what to do or what should’ve been done. Amidst all of these, some of the people of Visayas and Northern Palawan are still without access to electricity, food and most still leave inside tents provided by USAID. Still others chose to migrate to either Cebu and Manila making Tacloban city a ghost town at night. Creepy!
“It is too easy to pass the blame to the national and local government because of their incompetencies.”
Experiencing Tacloban and Leyte first-hand
I went into Tacloban City (the hardest hit by Typhoon Haiyan and with the most casualties) to see for myself the destruction brought by what weather experts says, “the strongest yet in the 21st century” Typhoon Yolanda. I definitely agree because it has defaced Tacloban City and the surrounding towns of Palo and Tanauan making it hard for me to recognize the place anymore. Landmarks were in ruins, Tacloban is a wasteland. One of the parish priests who came with us during the medical mission quipped, “it looks like a world war just ended.” I traveled south and west and just saw the vastness of devastation brought by this super typhoon- coconut trees uprooted if not without leaves, houses and communities buried to the ground, roads were just cleaned up so transportation can function, government buildings all destroyed making it hard for any coordination, it was back to basics for everyone- no electricity and its hard to buy food.
“it has defaced Tacloban City and the surrounding towns of Palo and Tanauan making it hard for me to recognize the place anymore. Landmarks were in ruins, Tacloban is a wasteland”
I also went to to volunteer and find good news to share. The reality is that its hard to find positive things. But I will try:
- I saw lots of foreign aid and workers. I joined the team of local doctors from Iloilo and Bacolod #TeamBanggi
- There are so many food and relief goods, problem is that those are not delivered to far-away towns and barrios. They say there are no transportation.
- Small stores are starting to open and local transportation now operational.
- Locals saw MMDA did a great job with cleaning Tacloban City.
- Cellphone signal are back in Tacloban and you can now access Facebook via data usage.
- Transportation is back too, major and secondary roads are now open.
So what will I do now? Instead of adding fumes to the blame game and the negativity around I chose to suggest what I think should be done and what is needed right now. I chose to be PROACTIVE.
pro-ac-tive. (adj). controlling a situation by making things happen or by preparing for possible future problems.
synonyms: farseeing, foreseeing, forethoughtful, forward-looking, provident and visionary
This has been a product of my traveling around the Philippines for the past decade and the many experiences I had with relief operations and medical missions in disaster-wrought areas.
1. Good leader with f*ckin awesome management skills.
Tacloban airport is a complete mess. I wonder how those in command handle stress and chaos there. There were far too many foreign and local aids and relief that people ask how come these don’t reach even the nearest barrangays? Its difficult to pin-point who is in-charge? DILG? DOH? LGU? DSWD? There is so much politicking around leaving private groups without a choice but to give their donations personally. I can’t answer the question of “why are there so many kids on the roads asking for food and water when there are tons and tons of bottled water and sacks of rice in relief centers?” Ask a local volunteer who is in-charge of everything and you get the idea (more of this on #2). Everyone wants to be seen on TV but no one leads on the streets, no one wants to be down and put on dirty clothes. And can we add transparency here (more on #4)? Billions and billions of dollars are donated and many more are coming in. I wonder who benefits in all of these?
2. Efficient Command Center.
There should be a command center, well I believe there is one already but what I mean is an efficient functioning command center that volunteers, NGOs and departments go. If this town needs medicines, the command center should be able to provide it asap. When private groups arrive, the command center would be able to deploy the group and not waste time. If a foreign aid comes, then the command center knows what areas should be prioritized. This cuts time and delivers help where it is actually needed. The command center should also provide transparent report and real-time updates online. This would take away all doubts and encourage trust and accountability (see #3). Now I wonder what Yolanda Task Force do?
3. Transparency and Selflessness.
I kept on hearing “Spams being changed with Sardines” and “durable tents being replaced with local ones.” I saw the news that Thailand gave tons of rice but I have tasted the relief and its NFA. Saan napunta? I wonder where honesty and selflessness went in these troubled times. We are doomed to be situated in one of the most disaster-prone areas in the world. Double-doomed to have leaders who only think of themselves. Some of the government officials/staff even chose to leave Tacloban after the typhoon and stayed in Manila leaving their posts. Now, can someone provide us an accounting of donations and expenses?
4. Typhoon and Earthquake-proof Rebuilding.
I believe the first that needs to be built are schools hospitals, and health centers. They should learn from the Iglesia Ni Cristo engineering and architecture because of all the buildings I saw only the INCs were sparred by this typhoon. Even in the recent Bohol and Cebu quake, INC buildings stood strong. But this doesn’t mean that they are the true church it just says that superior materials last longer than contracted ones that were usually over-priced for the benefit of the one in power. I know there is no such thing as typhoon and earthquake-proof but what I owls like are thoughtful and proactive building. It would also be wise to build on the safest place possible noting that the Philippines are always visited by typhoons and sits on the Pacific Ring of Fire.
Why schools and hospitals should be built first? Because they are the ones we often use when calamity strikes. So you have to build them with the best material and the best engineering technology possible.
5. Counter Climate Change.
Climate change, Global warming or whatever you want to call it, we should be respecting nature’s call of taking care of the environment we live in. This would make us think twice of giving bottled waters or relief packed on plastic bags. If we heed nature’s call maybe its time to
stop limit mining and logging and start living as simple as possible.
6. Some random additions.
-Heed Project Noah’s Advice
-It’s time to burry the electric lines under the ground.
-Make the roads wider, this would help a lot in relief operation as it would lighten the traffic. Same goes with airports
-Time to get back to the basics. Teach the young to use the waterpump or plant rice/vegetables and fish for food.
-Make all households disaster-prepared: medicine kit, survival kit, etc.
-I know you are an expert in your own right. Please add something to the list of practical things to do in case this kind of disaster happens again.
What I learned about this recent disaster?
Among many things, I learned that one must not measure life and success on the job he has, the house he built, the car he drives and the land he owns or the money he has because these are temporal things, can be gone in just a day. In disasters like this, only the intangible matters- family, friendship, good name, honesty, hope and love. If you have these you are a success.