BY SATURNINO P. JAVIER, MD, FPCP, FPCC, FACC
The second half of 2013 may well go down in Philippine history with a record three disasters in a row. While other nations confront a calamity for several or more years, the Philippines unfortunately had to grapple with three disasters in just a few months – two natural and one man-made.
In October, a magnitude 7.2 earthquake struck the Visayas, with the epicenter in Bohol, and affecting the neighboring cities of Cebu and Davao. The quake, which was the deadliest to hit the Philippines in more than 20 years, is said to have released the energy equivalent to more than 32 Hiroshima bombs. It killed more than 200 people and displaced nearly a million people.
Less than a month later, while the dust had just begun to settle in the Visayas, a monster super typhoon – Yolanda (international code name Haiyan) hit the island province of Leyte, badly affecting Tacloban and Eastern Samar, killing more than 5,000 people and causing unimaginable and unspeakable destruction of lives, limbs and properties. Touted as a Category 5 storm and given an unprecedented Signal 4 which is the highest storm signal issued by the Philippine weather bureau, the typhoon was labeled as the strongest ever recorded and reported to make landfall. Yolanda undeniably lived up to all weather forecasters’ hype.
Just hours before the super typhoon struck, the Philippines reeled from another super storm – the man-made calamity of a national scandal woven by Janet Napoles. As she sat on the witness stand during the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee hearing on the pork barrel scandal, she unleashed powerful torrents of “I don’t know, I cannot recall and I invoke my right against self incrimination”. In the end, she wrought havoc on the collective psyche of a nation which tried to make sense of how this Basilan undergraduate was able to dupe the Filipino people of ten billion pesos allegedly.
Napoles’s dumbfounding silence on the stand provided the eerie calm before the storm Yolanda. She essentially was the front-act for the super typhoon.
With two natural calamities and one man-made disaster, the world once again witnessed the much vaunted Filipino resilience. The entire humanity saw the indomitable Filipino spirit that goads all Filipinos – calamity survivors or not – through their daily lives.
The interaction of these three calamities cannot be lost on any intrepid observer. While the relief operations for the quake victims had yet to be completed, the super typhoon derailed all these efforts and mobilized the most massive relief operations ever to be staged for a Philippine disaster – engaging the services of governments and countries around the world.
Ironically, it takes Mother Nature to come to seemingly protect a man-made disaster whipped by Napoles as Yolanda takes the nation’s attention away from that which Nature has nothing to do about – although one wonders how much of human nature propels and fuels greed and avarice among Napoles and her accomplices. As she gets sidelined and shielded from public fury in the aftermath of Yolanda’s devastation in the Visayas, Napoles gets a break from media headlines and national attention. Yet, she and the ‘monster’ of all scams that she is involved with is an economic disaster where the alleged amount behind the large scale pillage of the national economy would certainly bring about a huge impact on the rehabilitation of the quake and typhoon-ravaged areas of the Philippines.
With massive local and international aid pouring in, the relief operations will slowly but certainly bring back the damaged cities and provinces back on their feet, and shall once again prove to all and sundry the grit and strength that Filipinos are made of. Call them imperturbable, sturdy and iron-clad. (As CNN reporters repeatedly emphasized, they do not and cannot fathom where Filipinos draw their strength from.)
One wonders – when will we, as a nation get the relief (and closure) from Napoles, her coddlers and benefactors? This country has had disasters far too many. We need the collective respite from any other disaster. Heavens spare us from typhoon “Tanda”, “Sexy” or “Pogi”.
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