Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Like a Second Ondoy

The TV was suddenly not an appliance anymore; it was a window, and through it I saw how the world outside the comforts of my home changed after six hours of nonstop rain and how an abused and neglected Mother Nature annihilated social strata.

I witnessed how people—rich and poor—wept and begged for help as they hunched together on their roofs; how cars were pitchpoled like toys by the monstrous waves; how homes were destroyed effortlessly by powerful winds, as though they were just cardboard pop-ups on a turbulent diorama. In that small square, I was given a bird’s eye view of a tragedy that readily drained my energy.

The death toll and damage cost shot up one notch and another as days passed. Heartbreaking stories rose, ones that could rival the most tragic novels I’ve read.”

That was a part of a piece I wrote two years ago entitled Braver Five Minutes Earlier, about the typhoon Ondoy. I had a déjà vu a couple of days ago, when the typhoon Sendong (international name “Washi”) wreaked havoc in the southern part of the archipelago in the thick of the night. The wrath of the pounding rain triggered landslides and caused rivers to swell, waking—and killing—people who were already slumbering in their homes. It was like Ondoy all over again, and the above paragraphs were almost verbatim descriptions of what I felt.

VictimA father breaks down after recovering the remains of his child, who was among hundreds killed by Storm Sendong. (image courtesy of GMA)

I wasn’t assigned to proofread news articles, but I kept tabs on the latest situation: I knew it was worse. The death toll was rising everyday, and as of tonight the latest count was less than two hundred bodies shy of a thousand fatalities. Cagayan de Oro was almost rendered a ghost town after the traitorous assault of the storm. Food and water shortage were to be expected, but what really made my arms go prickly with goose pimples was the coffin shortage. Funeral homes were already refusing to take more bodies, and a mass burial is being organized for the unclaimed/unidentified corpses.

But you know what made it more tormenting? It happened less than ten days before Christmas. There would be no celebration; what 2011 will leave in their hearts was trauma and grief. It was a heartbreaking way to end the year. Let us pray for all the victims.

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