Seven Months After Ondoy

This is the paper I submitted on our CWTS class. The dates and the words used are in accordance to the day I was writing the paper which was on April 26, 2010.

***

This topic popped inside my head never thinking that it has been, literally, Seven months after Ondoy struck the Philippines. Not a word of ‘almost’ or ‘less than’ on saying it really is Seven months, I am writing this article on the same day, like a devout person offering prayers to about 300 people who died from the typhoon’s fury. Abnormally an unhappy monthsary for Filipinos, the 26th of April brings the memories of the saddening past we cannot decide whether to cherish or to let go.

Heavy rain waters began to pour on the morning of September 26, 2009 and awakened me up from sleep. It started smashing our roofs making random offbeat sounds. It never hampered until the afternoon but the fear of a flood remained though we knew Quezon City is on a higher ground. Power was shut off in our area as early as twelve noon so we did not have any source of news aside from our Toshiba laptop whose battery life was almost empty. It did not last any further. The sound of rain outwitted our little voices and the commands of our parents to remain still. Not until mid-afternoon when the telephone rang with my aunt in it. She cried for help, for us to call for emergency because floodwaters were already rising inside their two-storey house in Project 8, Quezon City. Few minutes after, it was my uncle on the phone telling us that his wife had began walking midst floodwaters from her office in Quezon Avenue to their residence in Commonwealth Avenue. Despite his insistence for her to stay in her office, she never let himself be overcome by her husband’s power once more – especially if what was in her mind was her 7-year old son looking for her that day. Some parts of Commonwealth Avenue then have already been filled with floodwaters. And those were the news.

Today is April 26, 2010 and since that day on, many things have changed. It’s different now not only because it is El Niño and not Ondoy. The streets that were once filled with mud and packs of garbage pulled to the sides are now cleared, passable by cars clamoring in traffic. I visited my aunt’s area in San Jose Village, Project 8 and the people were busy once again – busy from work and from getting drunk. By far these are the positive changes, that the Filipinos have regained their strength and optimism after that day of disaster. The downside would be more than worse.

“Tanay is a forgotten town in Rizal province,” an article[1] by Ma. Ceres P. Doyo of inquirer.net said in its opening lines. The town was one of those in Rizal badly hit by the typhoon becoming a ‘ghost town’ afterwards. However, it may appear that it is still one today. Since the onslaught of Ondoy, the victims in the area have not received any help from the local officials. They were the ones digging their own debris. Furthermore, the microfinance groups have persuaded them to pay for their loans for everything that the typhoon destroyed, even telling them not to blame the storm for what has happened. The report also said that some 360 families are still living in a relocation site in Tanay, Rizal.

It is with no doubt that the floodwaters rose quickly because of the garbage stuck in canals and piled unusually in sewers. The disaster shall have taught the Filipinos helping not just the society but also the individuals themselves. This is not the case however. It seems that Ondoy passed by the Filipinos without thinking that it did carry, in any form they might be, lessons on taking good care of the environment. Lately I just heard the news on children plunging into the murky waters of the Manila Bay. They enjoyed the splashes, the waves, and the cool sensation it gave them being in the middle of the scorching summer season. But it was the water that mattered most, and not the array of trashes and hazardous chemicals that swam with them in the Manila Bay.

The September storm saw the similar bay area as it pushed tremendous waves towards the baywalk leaving the garbage, once on its body, onto the lands. But I watched that recent news story done by Mark Salazar on GMA-7 and saw the garbage ‘back to the waves’, I cannot say exactly if they were more or less. But the fact remains, they still hovered on this very day.

The previous night before I wrote this, I phoned my aunt (the one living in San Jose Village) and asked her how is their life now Seven months after the typhoon with a follow-up question, “Have you, even at the least, become an environmentalist clinging on the habit of not throwing trashes on streets?” She laughed and answered, “Hindi! Dun pa rin kami sa creek nagtatapon! E, san pa ba? Wala namang ibang tapunan. (No! We still dump our garbage on the creek! Where else? There is no other place to dump our garbage here.)” She told me that there are collectors who come by regularly to retrieve their garbage so ‘there’s nothing to worry’. The creek overflowed during the typhoon which caused flooding in their area.

There was this question from a survey by The Philippine Star (philstar.com) which read: “After ‘Ondoy’ and ‘Pepeng’, do you believe that most Filipinos now know better about the need to care for the environment?” Some answered, ‘yes, the Filipinos know better’. But some were just honest on saying that ‘we never learn’.

A respondent named Robert Young, Jr. of San Juan said, “Only a day after Ondoy, many residents were back to throwing garbage in the streets. Illegal settlers started reconstructing their homes in esteros. People never learn. Yes, there are environmentalists among us, myself included, but we are not even 0.0001 per cent of the total population. Vehicles continue smoke-belching; people throw garbage just anywhere. It may take another super flood where thousands will be drowned before the public learns and the government takes action.”

From these, I ask another query: “Do the Filipinos deserve to become true environmentalist by heart?” I agree that there are pride shirts being sold in a nearby mall with a statement on caring for the environment, and many people are urged to wear it because of its popularity. But I doubt if there are real ones. Nevertheless, we must still ask ourselves if, by the nature of our people, they could afford to advocate nature if many are bothered on what food to eat, on the house loans still unpaid, and on budgeting their small salary. Who can be a Richard Gutierrez or a Nicanor Perlas while their kids are crying for milk?

***

Seven months after Ondoy, I pray thanking Him that we were spared by the flood. For if we weren’t, we couldn’t have reached for our loved ones; we couldn’t have sorted out unused clothes and unconsumed canned goods, and drive to Sagip Kapamilya and give them away; we couldn’t have packed them, given them, and touched the hands of the people blinded by the misery.

For if we weren’t, we could not have helped. I’m glad we did.


[1] (Doyo, 2010)

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One thought on “Seven Months After Ondoy

  1. it is inevitable we will be hit by another ondoy-like devastation.

    not surprising since we haven’t been doing thinks differently. we’re still too slow in preparing and when we prepare we only focus on steps that will help us deal with potential problems. how about taking steps that prevent problems like flooding from happening in the first place?

    filipinos don’t seem to have an idea what it means to be pro-active.

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