Pepeng On The Horizon

It was barely days since Ondoy came and tore up the floorboards (quite literally) when we caught news of Pepeng on the horizon. We barely had enough time to digest what had gone down, let alone heal. People were (and are) still cooped up in evacuation centers, waiting for food and a chance to start over. I mean, my Gmail background was still cloudy for heaven’s sake.

Pepeng was expected to open up (pardon my French) a shitstorm of terror on Manila, but we were, quite luckily, spared for the most part. But Pepeng, being a typhoon in search of a place to park, sadly and inevitably went elsewhere. It came and stayed for days, hovering over Northern Luzon, which may be in worse shape now than we were in after Ondoy.

There have been landslides in Benguet, claiming the lives of at least 148 people. Crops and plantations are buried under gallons of floodwater. People are, once again, stranded atop their roofs, waiting for rescue. Passages to certain stricken areas, like Pangasinan, are so blocked that delivering relief goods is next to impossible. The death toll is too frightening to even imagine.

And yes, it is moving, seeing trucks picking up rubber boats to send to that area of the Philippines and hearing about organizations in Manila mobilizing as quickly as possible to send goods to Northern Luzon. It is moving to see that the sharing, the love, the goodness born in the Ondoy aftermath didn’t stop at the two-week mark. It has instead become a movement, and people who are part of it are ensuring Pepeng survivors experience the bayanihan spirit as well.

But if I may be so frank, I have to admit that I'm completely heartbroken.

I have hope for things, for this nation, despite many of the terrible things we've seen. We are a good people, a beautiful people, with big hearts and the incredible ability to laugh almost anything off. But it’s as though we’re a country trapped in some cycle of abuse. If it’s not Asian neighbors sticking bayonets into our children or Castillan padres of old devirginizing our young women, it’s shamelessly vulgar and corrupt politicians feasting on our misery or unconscionable land developers looking to make a fast buck. And now, to top it all off, we have Mother Nature playing her own game of Russian roulette. It seems like every lesson we learn comes at the price of something much too great.

And the fact is, even though I do believe in God and I do have faith, any answer to a why in our current situation is something I don’t have. I am looking for answers, but I feel like there isn't any that would ever be good enough. So I am stuck with frustration, anger, sadness, and the awareness that we deserve so much better than this.

Every Pinoy deserves to have a home, to have at least 3 square meals a day, to have a proper bathroom. Every Pinoy deserves to have a good education, to have healthcare that actually allows him to be treated when he is sick. Every Pinoy deserves to have a government that will fight for his being instead of casually robbing him blind. Every Pinoy deserves to have more than his basic physical needs and basic rights, but to have a deep-rooted understanding of who we are as a nation, what we can be, and what exactly it is we deserve. Every Pinoy deserves to have a life; a life bent on more than just surviving, but actually living.

And the strange thing is, even though my heart is positively slashed and pummeled, I still cling to the tiniest speck of hope. (Blame my youth; many before you have done so.)

Once the immediate need for food, water, and a place to sleep have been addressed, we are inevitably faced with the question of how to approach life again. And as much as I would rather the circumstances were different, we have an opportunity here: do we pick up where we left off or do we learn from our mistakes and start fresh? Because oddly enough, in the midst of all this disaster and death, I really do believe somewhere in here stands a clean slate.

Which makes me think: so what if I'm heartbroken. I'm sure you are too. What matters now is what we do with it. I say let's do what we should've done a long time ago and participate. Let us care beyond the relief, let's care until life is brought back into our sleeping nation. This chance may never come again.

So go on. Pull up your socks, Philippines. We have a hell of a lot of work to do.


Original Photo Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.