Are Filipinos ready to face Typhoon Pablo (international code name ‘Bopha’)?

Are the increasingly devastating effects of storms and rising oceans really the ‘environmental issue’ everybody thinks they are? Perhaps the term environmental issue is a misnomer. There is an issue to do with climate change and its effects, alright — but they are all human issues.

After all, how serious is the impact of climate change and the solutions required to mitigate its effects? Perhaps a few trendy coastal districts in the world’s major cities will be rendered unusable and some “informal” communities on floodplains displaced. But on a planetary and geological scale, does all that really matter?

We forget that Homo Sapiens as a species existed only over the last 100,000 to 200,000 years, and its modern “civilised” variant only over the last 10,000 to 15,000 years — not even registering as blips on Mother Earth’s timeline. The sun has enough nuclear fuel to continue shining over the next billion or so years. That’s a long time when one considers that most people (even our most esteemed “experts”) cannot even table a reasonably accurate picture of humanity’s future fifty years hence.

Indeed, anyone who tends a garden knows how even just a month or two of neglect can render any trace of human management almost invisible as weeds take over and shrubs spread. Nature moves on, with or without people. If sea levels rise eventually and render Manila uninhabitable to humans, guess what, vegetation and wildlife will merely fill the void. For that matter, if a gigantic volcano erupts tomorrow and buries Metro Manila in volcanic ash, the area will probably be fertile land for agriculture (and a tourist spot for amateur archeologists) a hundred years later. As Elton John sang in the film The Lion King, “it’s the circle of life.”

Therefore, when we say we undertake initiatives to “save the environment”, what we are really mounting is an effort to keep the environment safe for us. The environment per se does not need saving. If we continue along the trajectory that our current level of industrial activity is taking, the environment will merely evolve or transform into something else — as we are already seeing, most likely something that does not suit our species’ agenda, which is to surivive, say, another one thousand years.

Our species may eventually be fried, but nature will evolve with or without us.

Perhaps Filipinos appreciate this simple truth about our place in the scheme of things more than anyone else. The national philosophy encapsulated in the phrase bahala na (“come what may”) is, ater all, a philosophy of surrender to the vicissitudes wrought by nature.

As the latest super-typhoon Pablo (international code name “Bopha”) approaches the southern Philippine island of Mindanao, at least a few lessons seem to have been learnt…

With the devastation wrought by tropical storm “Sendong” in December 2011 still fresh in the public’s memory, NDRRMC executive director Benito Ramos said the new weather disturbance would dump heavy rains in northern and southern Mindanao, and in several parts of the Visayas region.

He said local government units and regional disaster response officials should immediately order preemptive evacuation in low-lying and mountainous areas along the possible path of the typhoon.

“The task of implementing early evacuation rests on the local government units and their respective disaster response officials. We in the national level may only advise them to prevent (unnecessary loss of lives and properties),” Ramos told the Philippine Daily Inquirer over the phone.

“We always want to be on the side of caution so as to avoid the destruction brought by ‘Sendong’ in Cagayan de Oro City and other areas in Mindanao last year,” he added.

Perhaps. Although the claim to being “always” aspiring to be “on the side of caution” is quite debatable. The Philippines has long been known for its template disasters, where thousands routiinely die under preventable circumstances. In the case of 2011’s Sendong, the last super-typhoon that struck Mindanao that resulted in thousands of needless deaths, I wrote back then…

Indeed, the people of Cagayan de Oro and Iligan are not the victims of Typhoon Sendong per se. They are the victims of systemic factors that made Sendong far deadlier than it should have been. They are victims of our collective inability to learn — a collective character all but reflected by the people we elect to the highest offices of the land.

Perhaps, it does not help either that Mindanao is so far away from Imperial Manila — far away from the president’s comfy palace by the river and the cozy offices of ABS-CBN, and other mega-corporate media outlets — and therefore likely just a footnote on the list of priority scoops the country’s esteemed “journalists” pursue. Specially now that a lot of election cash is sloshing about for the taking, non-Manila stories are not likely to appeal to reporters angling for a bit of Christmas shopping moolah.

Back in 2011 even as Sendong struck Mindanao with deadly force, President Benigno Simeon “BS” Aquino III himself was caught out partying with starlet Valerie Concepcion and was infamously at a loss for presidential words on the tragic scale of the unfolding disaster…

The lack of a formal statement from PNoy about the [Sendong] disaster is a real disappointment for many Filipinos. His Communication staff has been left defending his inaction. It seems like PNoy does not consider tragedies outside Manila as urgent.

In short, if the boss ain’t worried, why should we be worried?

Considering that Filipinos are always gushing about the incomprehensible scale of their God’s “plan” and how infinitessimal their role is in that supposedly glorious scheme of things, perhaps they should just, as John Lennon once invoked, “Let it Be.”

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22 Comments on “Are Filipinos ready to face Typhoon Pablo (international code name ‘Bopha’)?”

  1. Based on what most of local media is presenting about Bopha, I can easily conclude that only a handful of Pinoys are actually prepared for this.

    Disasters are to be expected, but the perennial human reaction would be interesting to watch: people claiming that the government didn’t do enough to prepare; epal-ized politicians coming out of the woodwork to “help” disenfranchised victims with full identity banners (it IS election season, after all); a vast majority of Filipinos preening their collective egos on social media sites about the “resilience” of the Philippines when facing a storm.

    Ugh.

    1. I get that feeling as well. Or maybe Media just don’t find the whole effort to prepare for the storm very newsworthy. They’d rather report on the tragedy in the storm’s aftermath which is more dramatic and sensational for its emo TV audience.

    2. Don’t forget about the twitting chatterati who will boast about how they “did their part.” The problem with disaster preparedness here in the Philippines is the second word.

  2. I really agree with the idea that nature just goes on with or without us humans. Then why do most PSA’s or any environmental group say that the world needs to be “saved”? Is it just out of the sheer humility upon the grand, enigmatic design of the Earth as it seems? Scare tactic? IDK.

    Actually, I’m getting more convinced of that Gaia hypothesis.

    1. The only real ‘resilience’ around here is how Nature will adapt in whatever way it will find to warmer temeratures (or cooler, I mean WHO knows anyway?) — and it will do so not consciously favouring the survival of ANY plant or animal specie, not even humans.

      For people to presume to “save the planet” is the height of foolish anthropocentric thinking.

    2. Paul Devereux in “Revisioning the Earth” (1997) says it clearly; paraphrased it goes like this:

      The Earth is not in need of “saving” as the overwhelming majority of environmentalists believe. If we as humans succeed in destroying the current ecosystem of life forms present in the planet, the Earth won’t care. It has millions of years to put forth new forms of life. Earth’s song will go on without humans. It’s not about “Saving Mother Earth”; it’s about saving the current ecosystem.

  3. The title question IS answered,right here/right now:Of course Filipino’s are prepared:
    A)to call on those who will help in time of disaster!(any guesses who that is?)
    B)the Elite,in their high up in the sky penthouses are ready to not give a damm if the ‘massa’ drown,hey someones gotta do it!
    C)after all the improvements the fearless Filipino leader has made,from high up in the sky,to the failing one-after-another disaster prone crumbling infra-strcture,to be as ‘resilient’ as they were last year(when the same thing happened and thousand+ perished in CDO alone).
    D)to deal with yet another in a never ending,getting worse all the time typhoon that will one day cover the island nation in a sea of water and will one day make the theory of the lost city of ‘Atlantis’ a reality.
    E)after all the improvements made since last year? Piece of cake,bring it!
    Good luck with that.It is gonna be bad.Look out here she comes!

  4. The coming storm is a disaster to our fellowmen, But and OPPORTUNITY to the Politicians. Relief goods, with their faces in the canned goods, noodles with a ribbon, abbreviation of their names and there will be more tarpaulins, fliers, brochures than the actual relief goods itself.

  5. On a micro level I can only contribute by not throwing away my litter on the streets, driving an electric car (if that is better than a fossil fueled car), taking the bike instead of a car more often. Thats what I can do (and lots more) to keep the earth a little bit “healthy”.

    BUT

    if I am a gay person living in a Arabic country, I think its better to move;
    if I live on the slopes or valley of a vulcano that might come to eruption, its better to move away from there;
    If I know that a typhon may hit Cagayan de Oro and I live there and knowing that CdO is a prone location for typhones then its better to move away from CdO for good.

    That is the only way to save myself from becoming a victim that I myself could have prevented.

    Why stay living in a place that is prone to typhones or other catastrophies? Should I pity those who stay there and should I feel sorry for them? No, I dont.

  6. Actually, while Mindanao is subject to the ITCZ it rarely gets hit by super-typhoons like this one because of the Coriolis force. Just FYI.

    I’ve always hated the phrase “saving the planet”. The concern should be not destroying our immediate environment with pollution. The planet will continue whether we kill ourselves off or not.

    We should expect to hear the usually praises of “resilience” and “helping each other out” which the media will pump-up for the next week or more. GMA and ABS-CBN will crank up their PR machines in order to get more money flowing into their coffers. As for prevention; who cares?

    1. I enjoy your comments sarcasm.the money given to aid people in CDO was not passed out to those who needed it,I know coz I was there.after an initial $826,000.00 was sent by the USA tax-payers the POS mayor emano(that’s right donkey-boy,I just called you a thief! I got ur number buddy!) they had the nerve to pass-out Sardines + Crackers and 1/4 liter bottles of water at City Hall.the should have been buying shrimp dinners for people, giving out gallons of water + sacks of rice and delivering it to those in need. not making people in out-lying areas travel to shitty hall just to get the crap they handed out.When I saw that,the reality of it sank in.Never again will I donate to a charity that aids the Philippines as the money NEVER gets to those who need it.The sleaziness of the people the money has to go thru is just despicable.Big bucks came in to CDO after ‘Sendong’ hit,from people who actually cared enough to send it and what happened to that CA$H is a disgrace.The victims should have been given houses after all that $$$$ came in,BUT NO.

      1. I’v been labeled “un-Filipino” or “antipatiko” for not donating to local charities, for exactly the same reasons you gave.

  7. Filipinos are always prepared to face anything. The issue is facing the typhoon with the least amount of casualties and damage.

  8. What is it with Filipinos? I don’t get it.

    Does handing out measly, inadequate relief goods after a particularly damaging storm make you feel good? I’ve seen TV networks mount relief-goods efforts by asking for massive amounts in donations and manpower volunteers. They are repacked and badged with the TV networks logos. Isn’t that such a big sham? Can’t the concerned agencies take care of all those emergency provisions by themselves? Sure, help is help, but when such things become a way of life, who is to say that the gov’t is doing its job, and media is not taking advantage of a bad situation. For such measly “relief-goods”, people are satisfied and happy with their leaders? Unbelievable. Haven’t they heard of donor fatigue?

    Billions of Pesos are “released” by national officials after each storm, yet nothing seems to have improved. Does spending on “repair” make the government look more efficient and involved? repairing the same problematic thing just means there is no improvement.

    Wouldn’t it make more sense to spend all those billions on infrastructure that prevent floods and mitigate the damage storms bring? Storms will come that is for sure. No one can stop it, but surely the damage it brings can be minimized. I recall figures of P9.0 Billion and P11.0 Billion being “released” during the last two most destructive storms. P20.0 Billion is a lot of money for effective infrastructure. But it isn’t happening.

    One last thing, in all the videos I have seen, bridges were swept away by raging floodwaters. They are usually in the same places. They are all concrete bridges. Can’t Filipinos build proper bridges with the right height and proper approaches? Steel bridges wouldn’t have the same problems as concrete ones. Low concrete bridges act like dams when the river water rises, it’s just the way it is.

    Sure anyone can face storms, the difference is how people are left to face them. Evacuate them early, but where? Poor evac facilities located in the same general area?
    Hand them some “relief-goods” and then say they are okay? Say thank God, they survived and call them resilient, then leave them in the same condition as before until the next destructive storm? Those that didn’t make it are merely tallied as casualties with no one being made responsible for their deaths? Same thing happens in the same places, year-in and year-out. It’s sick.

    Force majeuer doesn’t mean the right things can’t be done. It’s not like all these storms are something radically new.

    I don’t get it.

    1. Wow, I can’t help but wonder if you’re my professor. His initials are J.J.W. and you ‘sound’ just like him. I have to ask, are you him? Haha.

      1. Am not saying!

        OK, if he is 6ft, good-looking and well built…..that wouldn’t be me.

        Happy to know that there is someone out there who shares the same views, and a Professor no less.

        I have a single J in my initials..

        1. Haha, oh well. He’s a great guy anyway. But yeah, that’s what’s awesome here in GRP. A lot of people share your perspective and aren’t afraid to. They don’t quarrel and finger point like the masses, they debate! Great comment btw 😀

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