In the past three days a raging monsoon has flooded various parts of the Philippines, rendering passageways unpassable, and thousands homeless. Compared to the 2009 Ondoy flooding which brought a large amount of rain (but subsided within the same day), this monsoon had a higher volume of rainfall, with several areas still submerged even after three days. What made this year’s habagat (southwest monsoon) surpass the monsoons of previous years (and 2009’s tropical storm Ondoy) was its enhancement by Typhoon Haikui (currently in Mainland China’s east coast), because, to quote PAGASA meteorologists, these two weather phenomena mated and produced a monster.
Strange weather, these days. Torrential flooding in Manila, a volcanic eruption in New Zealand, and snow in Johannesberg, South Africa. I don’t know if its because we live in the end times. (According to the Bible, the end of the world will have a higher frequency and severity of natural calamities. /major eye rolling from agnostic and atheist friends) But whatever the case, we aren’t absolved from our share of responsibility when situations like these arise. In some way or another, we’ve taken part through direct participation or by passive indifference or a combination of both. The burden of our plight isn’t carried by one but by all.
Below are three things that stuck to me as I processed the past few days:
- Throwing trash just about anywhere, multiplied by inhabitants by the millions, sets the stage for a great disaster. There’s nothing trivial when a small wrapper is haphazardly thrown in a river, and repeated a hundred thousand times. Aside from killing ecosystems and natural habitats, improper waste disposal results to the spread of disease, and the loss of clean resources. What’s keeping something small in your pocket compared to a devastation like this? Whether accompanied by floodwater or by some other natural calamity, what goes around shall, literally, come back around. But accompanied by more shit. (also literally)
- One of the things we can do is commit to a drastic change in lifestyle, specifically the discipline of proper garbage disposal. That’s the simplest thing any responsible individual can do. (and not just here, but anywhere you are.) To clean up after yourself is to show respect to your country, to nature, and to fellow men.
- Another step is to support sustainable, environmental solutions involving garbage such as promoting companies/businesses that use eco-friendly packaging. It made me smile to see how Binalot was using banana leaves to wrap cooked meals (to be sent to countrymen in desperate need of nourishment) and recycled paper bags (from Echo store) to carry the wrapped food. Aside from providing nourishing food to those in dire need, measures like these are good steps in addressing the problem from where it began.
- Waste not, want not.
2. The lack (or nonexistence) of disaster prevention in our urban planning.
- IMHO the purpose of building a structure (or a set of structures) is to provide a secure, safe (against the elements) and nurturing stronghold in as much as it is a venue for the flourishing of culture, business, and community. Unfortunately, it seems as though our capital has been developed to maximize what can be financially profited from a plot of land instead of contributing to a long-term improvement in our quality of living. Living spaces are small and cramped, buildings and houses tighter than a bunch of sardines (without fire breaks to prevent fire from spreading easily from one structure to the next), impermeable concrete pavements that are don’t filter water through or into the ground (hence rainfall now contributes entirely to runoff), etc. This reminds me of the similar fashion in which we go about loading transportation vehicles like jeepneys and boats, by cramming in as much people as possible to maximize profit, even if it exceeds the designated capacity. In the end, is it worth it?
- See recommendations by Arch. Felino ‘Jun’ A. Palafox Jr. of Palafox Associates on Urban Planning, Architecture, and Engineering to Address Hazards: Towards Safer Cities, Towns, and Communities
- Waging War Against Nature: The Folly of Engineering Without Understanding by Francis L. De Los Reyes III, PH.D.
- It’s overwhelming to see just how much needs to be changed, but we can’t afford not to. (we can’t afford not to take small, initial steps) It doesn’t take much to see that a lot of this was actually brought on by us. To quote urban planner Nathaniel Einseidel (Manila’s planning chief from 1979-89), “It’s a lack of appreciation for the benefits of long-term plans. It’s a vicious cycle when the planning, the policies and enforcement are not very well synchronized.” If we lose billions on disaster relief, wouldn’t it be much better to spend those billions on measures that minimize the gravity of the disaster, suffering and loss? Kung magtipid tayo sa mga bagay tulad nito ngayon, babayaran rin natin yan mamaya.
3. We are a people with a lot of heart.
- Times like these allow you realize just how many amazing people are around you. I haven’t experienced calamities in any other country to form a basis of comparison, but from what I’m familiar with, when trouble comes, we’re quick to respond with help.
- **Not exactly supposed to be under this one, but it fits here best: social media has been a great tool for assembling relief. Aside from googledocs spreadsheets containing data of those needing rescuing (and their status), Twitter, Facebook, and other forms of media definitely hastened response time through immediate spreading of the news. It was easy to find ways to help, whether through joining a rescue mission, donating goods and money, or packing and delivering much needed survival resources.
- It doesn’t take much for us to find compassion. Neither does it take much for us to find enough love for a stranger, enough to sacrifice for them. We don’t always do it as some guarantee that if we get stricken the next time, a neighbor will give some form of help. Thousands of unsung heroes give of themselves with no strings attached. I don’t understand how people can be so loving, protective, compassionate, and giving, but as long as we have that going around, we can be relieved that it will be coming back around.
What to donate • Quick ways to donate • Where to donate/volunteer • Relief centers (by location) • Evacuation centers/relief operations • Google crisis response to 2012 Philippine floods • Project NOAH (check for flood maps and other assessments of hazards) • Flood safety rules • Flood Hazards • Red Cross Lifeline/Emergency Kit Guidelines • Safe Drinking Water Guidelines • Have you been in direct contact with floodwater? • Home/natural remedies for people without access to medicine (or people stranded at home) which is also a source for majority of above links. (Thanks, Feanne)
Most pictures have been downloaded from my facebook feed. If you are the owner of the photo, please let me know so that I can properly credit you. | Relief goods picture from Rachelle Que’s instagram.