Tuesday, November 26, 2013

a very late yolanda-induced rant

Ever since I got out of Tacloban, people would ask me if I'm ok, and I'd say yes. Because really, what else is there to say? Saying no would lead to more questions, and I'd end up recapping what we went through.

But instead of asking me if I'm ok, why not ask me how I'm really faring? Because in reality, I am not. We Yolanda survivors are not ok. We are not fine. But I do know we are strong, because we were able to face the worst storm our country has ever faced, and came out standing, albeit battered and broken.

Try living out a category five-likened typhoon. Try having your house flooded up to the second floor. Try looking out the window and see a pick up float by. Try watching 3 men on a roof pulling another man who was being dragged by the storm surge to safety. Try watching roofs peel from houses. Try watching people loot from stores, and wonder where they'll hit next. Try living out in fear, as looters were getting more aggressive each day. Try fuctioning with almost zero sleep because you're afraid that looters would come in while you were sleeping. Try watching people steal from your house, ransack it, and being powerless to stop it. But that isn't even the worst part. The worst part is not knowing how your friends and relatives are, if they are alive, dead or missing, because there is absolutely no way of communicatung with anyone, unless you meet them accidentally while going around Tacloban.

I consider myself lucky, as my story is not as tragic as most people's were. Yes, we got flooded. Our house was damaged. We had little food and little water, but at least we had a roof over our heads. We had to give up the luxury of bathing daily (disgusting, I know), for we had to save water. Food must be rationed carefully, because we didn't know when we'll be able to buy more (turned out, we won't be able to because looters went thru groceries like ants). We had to sleep in total darkness, because flshlight power had to be conserved, and we dare not leave a candle overnight for fear of starting a fire.

We were blessed to have other people help us. I owe a lot to Alexis' family, for including us in their plans to leave Tacloban. I'm also thankful to friends and families who offered help, who gave us clothes because we left Tacloban with so little stuff. I'm grateful to those who gave us financial assistance to help us with the repairs for our house. I was blessed with a generous employer, for Maybank gave me the biggest assistance, ever. I'm also thankful for my family in Bacolod, and Canada, who sacrificed the income they would have gotten from the branded clothes they were supposed to be selling. Ultimately, the best part for me is not getting out of the warzone. The best part is knowing that people care.

Tacloban is a nice place. It may not be that famous and well-known, but I do love it. It is a big city, but it has a small-town vibe. You go around downtown, and chances are you'd bump into someone you know. There's minimal traffic, and every place is accessible either by walking or by public transpo. Our province, Leyte, have different tourist destinations. And if you'd prefer beaches, you can just cross over to our neighboring island, Samar.

That's why walking around downtown after the typhoon is just heartbreaking. Most of the houses were damaged. Electric posts were down. Cars lay on top of the other. Debris was everywhere.

I was just lucky that I never saw dead bodies, at least not until we were on our way to the airport 3 days later.

Our government received a lot of negative feedback. And I agree with most of them. I do not blame the local government, however. They tried. And they were victims, themselves. I wouldn't even blame them if they left the city, for I know they have the means to do so. And yet, they stayed. Maybe because it's their obligation, but I believed they stayed (yes, they left to secure their families and children, but they went back) out of love for the place they call home.

Our national government, however, could've done more. But what happened? Military came in too late, and even when they arrived, they were unable to stop the rampant looting. The president came in the first day, handed out several bottles of water (for photo ops, maybe), walked out when someone asked for Martial Law, and left. Mar Roxas was there, and guess what he was doing when we saw him on our way to the airport? He was in the middle of the road, directing traffic (or causing it, more likely). I mean, really. What was he doing there? He has men to do that, why do it himself? Photo ops, again, Mr. Aspiring President 2016?

And I won't even mention the Korina-Anderson debacle, for that would surely be an even longer rant. Let me just say that I'm on Anderson's side, and his comment on how strong we Fiipinos are touched me and brought tears to my eyes when I read it on the newspaper.

Donations are pouring in, both in cash and in kind, but where do they go? I have friends who never left Tacloban, and they tell me that relief goods are not being distributed properly.

I saw pictures on Facebook, where the noodles were repacked with the yellow ribbon (the symbol of the Aquino administration), and a pack of relief goods bearing our VP's name in bold letters. Gentlemen, this is not the time to promote your name or political party. People are in dire need, children are starving. Save your campaigning for the elections. If you showed compassion, true service to your country, then let that speak for itself. I'm sure when the time comes people would remember you for that.

And please stop holding foreign donations at customs, and subjecting them to tax. Those are donations, for God's sake.

It's shameful. The whole world is watching our government's corruption and inadequacy. To quote what I read on Facebook, "I'm proud to be Filipino, but I'm ashamed of our government."

Now, I didn't write this to bash our government, to attract attention, or to gain pity. I'm ranting because I can't believe how inconsiderate and tactless some people are (and if you're reading this I hope this not-so-subtle hint hits you right in the face). I'm ranting because I can't unload on my friends, because they have problems of their own. I'm ranting because 18 days (did I count right?) after Yolanda, I'm still feeling as lost and as unsettled as ever.

I just wanted to lock myself in my room, and do nothing but sleep and cry. I got the flu a day before Yolanda, which worsened because I got wet both from the flood and the rain. I'm glad my voice is back, but despite the antibiotics and meds I took, my cough just won't go away. My body still aches, and I don't know if it was because of the flu, or the heavy stuffs I carried up to our rooftop. I still have bruises, some have already healed and faded, but I still have a big dark one on my knee that still hurts (should I be worried?). My cuts have healed to, and I shall consider them as battle scars.

I just want to rest, to do nothing, to let my mind and body heal. But I never had that luxury. I was lucky our company reassigned us here temporarily, so even if my body was complaining, I went back to work a week after Yolanda. You might think a week of rest is enough, but I wasn't able to rest those days, for there were many things we had to do, still.

So, work it is. Because our store was hit hard. And our tenants were hit hard. There are so many repairs to be done, and money is tight. And even if I don't want to work, I needed the steady income it would give me.
I'm just lucky my company is generous, and my department heads are all understanding, compassionate, and just plain awesome.

This is not purely ranting, however. Despite all my complaints, I am still able to wake up and thank the Lord everyday.

I am alive. My parents are alive. My parents saw firsthand how much I love them, and how much I want us to be together (got very hysterical when my Dad told me he'd be staying in Tacloban all by himself while my Mom and I evacuates to Manila). No one in my immediate family was harmed. Our helpers and their families are ok. My closest friends and their families are all accounted for. No one I know intimately has died or is missing. We were able to get out of Tacloban before everything went crazy. We still have a house to get back to (it needs a lot of repairs, but we'll cross that bridge later). My dogs are being taken care of. I found out who truly cares for us. My bookshelves and my books were all intact (this may seem petty to you guys, but I have a lot of books and my collection cost me a lot of money over the years). And the list goes on and on.

I'll be flying back to Tacloban with my Dad tomorrow (thank you Ma'am Sue, Sir Joel, and Ma'am Fides for granting my leave request on such short notice) to check on our house, and do partial clean-up.

I want to go home, permanently. I hate Manila, no offense to those who live here (but I don't hate it when I'm only here for my usual vacations). I hate the traffic, I hate the rush hour. I hate how it takes 1 hour to reach a place that's supposedly only 15 minutes away. I hate how congested this place is. And this is very shallow of me, but I hate going around the malls, seeing something I like, and not being able to buy it because our money is being set aside for the more important matters.

It is my fervent wish to be able to spend Christmas at home, but even now I can see that it would be a tough wish to fulfill.

I'm hopeful, though. For a lot of things. For Tacloban to emerge from this destruction, stronger and better. For the people to move on, and use this experience to pave their way to success. For us to be able to finally go home and get on with our lives. :)

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UPDATE: I'm sorry for the multiply typos, but I composed this using my smartphone, and typing a really long-ass post is difficult to proof read on such small screen.

1 comment:

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