A typhoon-aftermath plea from the frustrated powerless

The world went insane a week ago, and not of the I-don’t-know-what-the-hell-anyone-is-fighting-about sort of insane. It’s the aftermath of a Category 5 storm kind of insane.

It happened not so long ago that you feel as if you can still reach out into the river of Time and snatch at that one pristine day before the madness. To undo devastation, to relive a peace it will take years to rebuild.┬áMaybe that’s the result of being of the generation familiar with Ctrl + Z command, I dunno.

My job requires me to be familiar with every angle of the news down south. I can’t escape it. The TV is on 24/7 and it is most of the time tuned to the coverage in Tacloban, though I wish it would also focus a couple of shots on other places, such as Coron, Guiuan, Boracay, and Cebu to name a few places. But I don’t call the shots here.

This is why, for the last few days, my friends have wondered as to my emotional decisions and verbal comebacks. I’m saturated with news of the devastation. My family has done its part with donations and volunteering at relief ops, but I feel that it isn’t enough. Then again, would anything come close to counting as “enough” in a situation such as this?

But this is not about me. It’s about the storm survivors weeping because of what befell them (and can anyone honestly say they wouldn’t do so in their shoes?). It’s also about so many of those sitting in the safety of their own homes and workplaces – so far away from what is now being called ground zero – not knowing which of the news items are false and which are true. Not knowing means such people cannot better tweak their relief efforts to the needs of the needy.

I don’t know whom to believe and it is maddening, because everyone from CNN anchors to local reporters to politicians big and small to ordinary people volunteering in Leyte to the survivors themselves each have a different view of a situation so massive, I don’t think anyone can begin to wrap their heads around it without needing to sit down and stare at a wall for a while. Not knowing in this case is brought about by everyone saying contradicting things. Everyone saying contradicting things means there is no concerted effort, no organization.

Some would argue that organization should be the last thing on the mind for these people, but maybe, just maybe, if someone in Manila or in any of the affected provinces had a clearly-defined plan and manner of execution, things would start to look a little better.

I have yet to hear of such a person with such a plan. But in the name of fairness, you have to hear them all out and make the best of what you can with what you do know.

I heard this one somewhere, and I will repeat it here. Now, unlike no other moment in history to come before it, the eyes of the world are on the Philippines. Now is the time for the Philippine government to prove that it truly has the interests of the very people it should protect at heart, to show that it is remorseful for all its past mistakes and transgressions.

I don’t mean to grandstand or to point fingers. I have been thinking of how to approach this matter for a while now, and I figured it should be in some manner that will help rather than hinder, just as some posts compel some people to argue in the comments rather than be out helping in any way they can. I still don’t know what that approach should be, but this right here is from my heart, born of six days of monitoring the news.

I won’t pretend to know what they specifically should and shouldn’t do, as I am not there. But people are suffering on so many islands in the Central Visayas, and some survivors are saying that help hasn’t even arrived yet. To the men and women leading my country’s government, particularly to those who could and should be doing better, please take initiative. Please think out of the box. Please organize yourselves. Please go beyond all that red tape and see that the survivors get their food, water, places to sleep and keep warm, and body bags for their dead.

The world is watching. Don’t wait for those of other nations to lead you. You have to lead them. You have to take their criticisms constructively and act in accordance. Show all those down in the Visayas and around the nation that we can lead ourselves and that we are capable of at least propping ourselves up on our elbows.

This will be the last time I post anything here about the matter. It is time not to go into polemics or to call each other names. It is time to do, and do more.

Peace rallies: At the intersection between history, politics, and corruption

In the Philippines, tomorrow is the Million People March Against PDAF (Priority Development Assistance Fund) at Luneta Park. By no small coincidence, this is the very same park in which our National Hero, Jose Rizal, was martyred via firing squad. Many of the provinces, scattered all over the archipelago, are joining in.

The dominant emotion is anger, and perhaps whatever possessed the Les Miserables characters singing “One Day More.”

For those who don’t know, the PDAF, or pork barrel, is the fund allotted to local lawmakers for spending on projects geared toward the betterment of the country.

But recently, quite by accident, a scam involving the suspicious siphoning off of P10 billion worth of those funds was uncovered–and my people, trite as that term may sound, whose discontentment and frustrations have been boiling just beneath the surface for a very long time, are finally arising in anger.

The taxes going into the PDAF could have been used to make so many lives better, but instead, it turns out we’ve been buying luxury cars and new gadgets and house and lots for a handful of senators, congressmen, and the businesswoman allegedly behind the scam, Janet Lim-Napoles.

I’d love to go, actually. I’ve met too many women saving up just to paint their houses; been to too many public schools in want of extra tables, chairs, and textbooks; seen too many kids playing half-naked on railroad tracks and traffic islands; too many farmers hacking at sugarcane under the blazing sun on lands that are not theirs; and recently on the news, witnessed too many people fleeing to the roofs of their houses when the floods come in, just because we do not have an efficient drainage system or they could not afford to live elsewhere. Only the truly self-centered are capable of passing such things every day and remain indifferent…oh, wait, look at our solons…

I’m indignant for these people and at the same time, I would also like to help ensure for all time that I am not helping pay for the opulent lifestyles of our government leaders when I could be trying to build my own life, at the very least.

But understandable familial circumstances and health concerns prevent me from being physically present at the peace rally. I’ll make up for this somehow, in some small way unique to me.

My favorite line from “One Day More”:

Tomorrow we’ll discover what our God in Heaven has in store

May countrymen find that tomorrow, God is with them.

One last note. 330 years under the Spanish, 50 under the Americans, and 3 under the Japanese, and not once did we manage to drive them out without outside help, or at the very least, get them to leave us alone on our terms.

But hey, if we succeed tomorrow, if tomorrow is truly the first step on the long road to ending widespread corruption in the Philippines, then we will have proved to the world, to our solons, and most importantly, to ourselves, these things:

We are not stupid, we have been abused enough, and we will not take this shit lying down.