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Meditations on Typhoon Haiyan

So last week, Haiyan went through the country. It made a total of six landfalls, and we’re still coming to terms with the possible loss of life and property the storm has left behind. If you want to help out, GIYF, although this link is a good place to start.

For the rest of us still struggling with the aftermath, there are some things I would like to touch on in today’s post. So read on.

The Indomitable Spirit

You’ll notice that I didn’t say “The indomitable Filipino spirit”. I don’t believe in the whole “The Filipino spirit is waterproof” thing, and I choose to be distanced from most of what the Pinoy culture is supposedly all about. But I do believe that people—no matter where they are, and what culture they’re from—can achieve greatness, if they put aside their petty sense of self-entitlement, and work together.

This is what happened in the Philippines last week, from Thursday to Friday. Thanks to the multiple reports of the oncoming storm, I’m glad to say that the country was able to make preparations. We didn’t have to scramble for relief funds this time around. Local and national government units were present in the area to help out those who were in need. Even the media was present in full force, and if you’ve seen the video of that one indomitable little reporter, you’ll know that they weren’t just sitting around on their balls.

This is something that we don’t see in this country every day. This is something we normally expect from a first-world country, not a struggling up-and-coming third world dump like the Philippines. And that made me extremely proud.

Oh Manila, my Manila

I was out and about on the day of the storm, running errands for work. And I couldn’t help but overhear people say how PAGASA made a boo boo once again, since their predictions of when the storm would be felt in the city hadn’t materialized.

Oh Manila.

I can’t help but shake my head at how stupidly insular Manileños can be. If there’s anything recent history has made clear, it’s that if the storm had passed through Manila, we’d be worse off than the Visayan cities hit by Haiyan are. Why is that? Because the majority of the people living here are less than likely to prepare for something like a category 5 storm. Because we’re so used to living on hand-outs from other people that we don’t even think of pulling our own weight. Because, at the end of the day, what happens to your neighbor is not your problem.

Jesus, Metro Manila. PAGASA made a mistake? No, you idiots, YOU GUYS JUST GOT LUCKY. We got lucky. If Manila got hit by a storm surge, how many of those professional squatters d’you think would survive? How many of the millions of jeepney drivers braving the waters just to make a quick buck would survive? And I’ll bet you anything that we’d still keep blaming each other.

I don’t want a disaster like that to happen in this city. I love this city, and most of its people. But sometimes, I think that we need to be hit by a Category 5 in order to set our thinking straight.

And Things Go Back to Normal

You know what the saddest thing is about all this? The fact that after all that solidarity and preparations, the scum of the earth still managed to survive the onslaught of Typhoon Haiyan.

I can’t believe how people in the Tacloban area are stealing the people who took the time to prepare for the disaster, but—and I apologize to a friend who has family who did take time to prepare—I can understand them. Desperate times sometimes do bring out the worst in us. But the people looting the malls for non-essential things like appliances? Dude, you’ve got no reliable power source. What the hell man.

And online, things aren’t better. People—politicians, journalists, and even your common opinionated tao—are slinging mud at each other. It’s like we naturally become degenerates when disaster strikes. And these people aren’t even the ones who were struck by the disaster the most. These are just people on the Internet with an opinion to share, and a stick to shake.


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