imyeyes-banner-sqIn My EyesBy Edward B. Antonio

IN MY EYES: Surviving more Ompongs

Every year, the Philippines encounters numerous typhoons. Flash floods and heavy rains have become ordinary occurrences during rainy season. Over the decades, people have witnessed a series of typhoons that varied in strength, duration and impact. Not all typhoons are bearable, especially those that left misery and devastation due to properties and lives lost.

With the large number of missing people and unrecorded worth of properties damaged every typhoon, the Filipinos have become resilient and stronger as a nation because of these storms.

I’m glad our government officials and the coastal people have learned their lessons.

You see, it’s a different story last time when Ompong came whistling by, fellas.

There were forced evacuations, extra efforts in securing the houses (like tying the roof with ropes and anchoring the ropes to strong foundations), pre-evacuation and early preparation of emergency materials (drinking water, canned goods, radio, flashlight, medicines, noodles etc.)

Except, of course, those hard-headed Itogon (Benguet) victims who were reported to be even ridiculing the authorities who called for preemptive evacuation. The landslide was a bulls’ eye right on top of the bunker as if a guiding hand caused it. I believe this serves as a warning from God as if saying: “Tama na, sobra na ang pang-aabuso sa kalikasan!”

And to think that the Big One has not yet come!

According to a study conducted by the Geneva-based United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR), the Philippines is the fourth most disaster prone country in the world. It also revealed that it is one of the top 10 countries with the most number of people afflicted by such disasters.

One might be asking, “Why is the Philippines so prone to natural disasters?” The National Geographic listed down the possible reasons— from geographic location to economic state— behind the Philippines being the most common subject to typhoons.

Everybody is proud of living in a country like ours, fellas, and I am one of them.

Being a Filipino is something to be proud of, but sometimes it’s something to be ashamed of because people indirectly are the cause of all these miseries brought about by all these strong typhoons, like Ompong.

Here are some reasons that sometimes, it’s so shameful to be called a Filipino:

One is illegal logging. Sometimes, it’s not the rain that kills people during the rage of typhoons, but the landslides. There is no other reason to blame for this but deforestation. Hills that lack trees have fewer roots to keep the land intact. The heavy rains only make situations worse.

Another is rampant mining. Miners destroy the mountains including the trees in them. Mining normally means an operation that involves the physical removal of rock and earth.

Another is corruption. Corruption causes poverty. And because the people are poor, they can not afford to build strong or sturdy houses. Apparently, there could have been a significantly lower death toll if only houses in the country are constructed with materials that can withstand extreme winds and storm surges. But most people along the coastal area can not afford to build a well structured home—which is very essential if you’re living in a typhoon-prone country.

Of course, our geographical location is the primary reason why we are a typhoon-stricken country.

First, our country is situated in the Pacific Earthquake and Volcanic Ring of Fire, meaning, the drifting of crust underneath the Pacific Ocean leads to frequent tsunamis and earthquakes.

Second, because we are situated in the equator, warm weather combined with water encourage tropical cyclones to form. Typhoons start to build up at 28°C (82.4°F) and the Western Pacific is normally at such degrees— hence the recurrent tropical cyclones in the country.

Third, our country is also composed of thousands of islands, hence, a lot of people live in coastal areas. With the Philippines being surrounded by water, around 60% of our population live in low lying, coastal villages. This makes them the most susceptible to storm surges that are common (and deadly) during typhoons.

So, what’s different with Ompong, fellas?

Ompong has opened our eyes that in times or not in times of disasters, we should always be prepared for the worst. If we need to be evacuated, then, we must go. If we need to abandon our houses in order not to endanger our lives, we must do it. If we need to live for a while in the fully-packed evacuation centers like gymnasiums and school buildings, we need to be patient. If we need to humble ourselves for the sake of our safety and the safety of our love ones, then we should be.

Life is a constant struggle with typhoons, fellas, whether these typhoons are literal or symbolic.

The first shield of defense always comes from ourselves and we need to be strong at all times in order to survive. As we continue to live in a country like the Philippines, we need to stand firm over all the challenges that nature gives, for this is the only place we call our very own.

We have survived a lot of Ompongs before, fellas.

We will survive more. #