Sunday, June 22, 2008

Force Majeure

Typhoon Frank.

More than 800 people still missing and feared dead from the ill-fated ship, MV Princess of the Stars. This is apart from the 598 estimated dead or missing all over the country, out of which is the 143 confirmed dead and over 100 missing in my province of Iloilo alone.

Typhoon Frank is a force majeure alright, an act of God for better or for worse. Still, the sinking of the ship is something that could have been and should have been averted. De Quiros was right, the typhoon was a natural disaster but the sinking of the ship was an unnatural man-made disaster.

PGMA is now receiving condolences from US President Bush when she should be here directing orders on how to speed up the process for the recovery and search of possible survivors. Where is she when her country needs her most? She is in the US of A and is scheduled to hobnob with the Washington elites, including potential new US president, Republican John McCain and Democrat Barack Obama. While she wines and dines there together with her entourage of 59 congressmen, one senator, 10 cabinet members, excluding her family members and the family members of her group, the Visayan region, Iloilo in particular, is battling mud and loss of properties, crops and ultimately income in the wake of the disastrous storm.

The Typhoon Frank lashed out its fury in almost the entire country. From central Philippines, it made its presence felt both in Visayas and Mindanao. Not contented, it hit Manila and neighboring Luzon provinces before finally going out of the Philippine territory. This is the first time ever that a storm displayed a deadly magnitude that reached all three geographical regions of the country. Typically, storms just hit one portion of the country and affect neighboring provinces, but the other regions are mostly spared of its fury. Storms that hit the Visayas region are normally not felt in Manila. But this storm is different because after taking its toll on Iloilo and dumping heavy rains in some parts of Mindanao, it changed its course and rampaged Manila and other Luzon provinces as well. It was everywhere.

This event really makes you realize how deadly climate change can get. We need to accept that doing our share in saving Mother Earth is now a necessity and a not a matter of choice. Ours is a dying planet and if we do not act now, we will die with it. Storms as strong and even stronger than that of Frank will soon become a reality of our daily life.

I heard from some relatives in my hometown of Janiuay, Iloilo that it is the first time their place was ravaged by a flash flood. It was all so sudden and unexpected, they say. As a result, critical bridges were destroyed, and those living near the river were caught unaware by the onslaught of the raging water that some even lost their lives. This also happens to be the first time ever that my rural, sleepy and verdant hometown, the place where I could trace my roots and see hundreds of people bearing my maiden name, made news on national TV. Unfortunately, it was because my town was among the hardest hit of the disaster.

I fully well know the impact of such a storm in my townsfolk livelihood. Just this early June, when I went there for a family event, I saw the early rice seedlings already sprouting from the ground. If nonstop rain brought about by a massive storm flood the ricefield, all that hardwork and capital will go to waste. The farmers, the simple folks in my dirt town baranggay, with faces always ready with their genuine smiles, will scrimp and save and still go hungry for the remainder of the year.

Such is the hard fact of life in the province. You toil the land and hope and pray that no storm or other natural disaster comes your way. And if it does, you just do this process all over again. Yet, this they do happily and contentedly. Surrounded by the riches and beauty of the farmland, they spend most of their time communing with nature, and harvesting and partaking of its seemingly inexhaustible bounty. Regardless of their poverty, they live simple and happy lives.

One day, when I am gray and old, I will spend the remainder of my days in this farmland. And when that day comes, I too, will be able to enjoy the simple and happy life that they have on a daily basis.

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