Surely, the Philippines hasn’t rebounded from the ravage of the Zamboanga stand off and the calamities that came, one after the other, but why is it, that the Vhong Navarro argumentum ad misericordiam hogging all forms of media while minimal attention is given to those in the South of the Philippines who are still living in tents and make shift homes? One person’s problem has become a national concern that major networks would rather sell this than headline the lament of the Yolanda survivors during the 12,000 strong protest march in Tacloban of January 24, 2014.
It is disturbing that reports on the dismal abuse of dignity is confined online. It seems that it is of no national concern that “sex tents” sprouted at the relocation site of those displaced by the MNLF-Military standoff in Zamboanga and that even years after Typhoon Pablo struck, survivors are still living in tents and bunk houses at Compostela Valley.
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Beyond the damp and muddy living conditions during downpours and the oven-like heat during noons, the country’s Tent Cities that are supposed to offer temporary shelter to many survivors of war and calamities have become a humanitarian disaster and has left many of the displaced with deplorable living conditions.
The gravity of one survivor story to another, be it one from war or calamity, pulls at a new low but their recovery is relegated as a side story.
While the rest of the country has been buzzing about showbiz controversy, there were those in the South who braved the night of the Lunar New Year with another landfall while another typhoon, in Basyang, struck with a storm signal # 2. While emotional and psychological wounds are still bleeding incessantly, the survivors are but last month’s headline for mainstream media.
For the tens of thousands of survivors from Leyte, Samar and Iloilo who lost their homes, every storm is Yolanda all over again. Memories of being swooped by the strong winds and the ordeal of saving their friends and families from being engulfed and carried away by the raging sea water that came with the rising flood, haunt.
Salty flood water was ingested by most and the worst of those who suffered were the little children. Those who survived Yolanda, endured days of severe vomitting and painful diarrhea. The fortunate ones healed, others died due to dehydration for lack of immediate medical care. Their parents and relatives forever scarred by the negligence of those who professed or were mandated to help.
I met many of the young survivors and their families while serving at Operation Salubong’s Children’s Activity Area at the Villamor Airbase Grandstand.
Three of those young Leyte survivors are the children of Lyn from Tacloban and Irish of Palo. Knowing the kids gave me the chance to know their families.
My respect and admiration grows, the more that I get to know these Yolanda survivors from Tacloban and Palo, Leyte.
I would like you to know them, not for their resiliency, that has become quite ubiquitous in the Filipino culture, but as a reminder in these times where SUPERFICIALITY takes precedence over substance.
Mommy Lyn and her husband who is a Philippine Air Force soldier formerly based in Tacloban want to help in rebuilding their city as soon as the injured soldier fully recovers. Their plan was made depsite the compromise of leaving their two pre-school children under the care of Lyn’s mother at their new home in Cavite that was awarded to them by the Air Force.
Makes me wonder, as to how many would rather be a part of a rehabilitation, with compromises at that, when there is already a new chapter elsewhere that can easily be written?
The family of Irish, on the other hand, were among the first to leave the devastation in Visayas via C-130 but they were also among the very first who went back to Palo, Leyte.
Irish did so to answer the call of duty as a Public School Teacher regardless if she had to single-handedly care for her 2 year old child
since her husband was blessed with a job in Manila during their 3 week relocation at the capital.
For over two months now, the mother and daughter along with other survivors in Palo have been enduring the uncomfortable heat during noon time and the leaking evacuation shelter during the constant rain.
At night time, there is darkness since electrical power service has only resumed in selected areas which their politicians deem
Eric is the cousin of Irish, who was a fisherman in Palo prior to Yolanda. He was also among the firsts who made the Exodus from Leyte but opted to leave Manila via C-130 as soon as the opportunity presented itself. He would rather risk going back to nothing and hack it at the seaside of Palo, than be a TAMBAY and a LEECH in the city, where no opportunities for a fisherman like him abound.
Eric is currently sustaining himself through “pamamasada” of a tricycle.
Thanks to the kindness and trust of friends based in Canada and Australia, financial assistance was sent directly to the families on December 2013 and on January 2014. Lyn used their share as pocket money to go back to Tacloban while Eric and Irish pooled in theirs to rebuild the devastated home of the father of Irish, a widower who has been depressed and traumatized after his home literally crashed upon him.
Through the remittances and the GSIS loan that Irish received, the Php 50,000.00 total, built a humble home for her father. A home that not only made an old man smile but has also sheltered other survivors during that Lunar New Year’s landfall.
Recall that Eric is a fisherman turned “mamamasada” while Irish is a working mom of a 2 year old who both lost their belongings and their homes, yet they are capable of exemplary GENEROSITY, a generosity so scarce from people who have a good access to life’s amenities.
Note worthy also, is how these survivors from Palo were unyielding to accept any further financial assistance until I have received PROOF of how the previous remittances were spent! True to their word, they made the effort to borrow a mobile phone with a camera, buy the memory card that had the before-and-after photos of the house and even spent for the courier! All that just to show how the funds were spent.
What RARE TRANSPARENCY, a transparency absent from those mandated to deliver it!
Like that of the home awarded to a wounded soldier and his family and the transparency well complemented with bayanihan, I pain to see more structures that afford opportunities for more survivors to fully recover . Such not only heals physical and emotional wounds but also that of the lasting psychological injury of a people ravaged not just by war and calamity but worse prostituted by corruption.
But my country have seen too much of those who have lived large and have left so less for those who need so much.
It is said that DISASTERS CREATE OPPORTUNITIES, and worse OPPORTUNISTS, at that.
I know that we are to see more of them while many of my “kababayans” are recovering at a turtle’s pace. There had been too many who have unabashedly and apathetically conformed to a system that have shackled the likes of Lyn, Irish and Eric to a standard that they do not deserve.
I have yet to see if my people have learned any from the miasma of the Napoles corruption, the chaos of Zamboanga and the debilitating trauma of Bohol, Samar, Iloilo and Leyte.
Now is the best opportunity to make it.
Or would this present another opportunity to again
“break it” while the country is hypnotized by yet another reality teledrama.
Mike is the author of “Minsan may Isang Puta”, an allegory which has been circulating since 2004 and with over 50,000 likes and shares in social media alone. It won a film grant in 2010 to be included in the multi-narrative Indie film “Ganap na Babae” (International title: Garden of Eve). The teaser, reviews and commentaries are here. The movie was honored as Cinemalaya 2010’s opening film and has won international and local recognition.
The royalties from the initial 150 copies of Mike’s first sole-authored book, The Dove Files, went to a Project Malasakit scholar who graduated Cum Laude in April 2013, the rest was also paid forward to baby Mark who underwent a liver transplant in March 2013.
Part of the royalties of the “Minsan may Isang Puta” book at Barnes and Noble Online goes to support the education of a young Yolanda survivor taking up B.S. Accounting at U.P. Tacloban.