Nine years after ‘Yolanda’

By Herbert Vego

ALMOST nine years have passed since November 8, 2013 when super typhoon Yolanda wiped out thousands of buildings and killed thousands of residents in Leyte and Samar, and in lesser proportions in Iloilo, Aklan, Capiz and Antique.

The tragedy repeated itself in the past three days as typhoon Paeng poured heavy rains that devastated urban centers, rural villages and farms nationwide. As of yesterday, Paeng had killed 45 individuals, according to the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC).

The intense rains have rendered roads and bridges impassable; properties and unharvested crops damaged beyond imagination. In fact, it is now impossible for Ilonggos to travel to Antique because of washed-out bridges.

Adding insult to injury, there’s another typhoon, Queenie, forecasted to enter the Philippine area of responsibility tomorrow, (Tuesday), All Saints Day.

It’s especially depressing for some of us who have yet to regain losses incurred from previous typhoons; who remain homeless and hungry despite the billions of pesos worth of donations that have poured in from both government and non-governmental organizations worldwide.

The area where I live in Iloilo City suffered no flood attack.  But in those hours of seemingly unstoppable night rain, I could not help but stay fearfully awake. I had developed some kind of phobia due to Frank, who damaged my camera and old typewriter beyond repair in June 2008. Frank, incidentally, was the typhoon that drowned Iloilo City with six-foot floods.

Indeed, people who are supposed to rest on their laurels, having retired and are tired of any more work, may suddenly lose everything they have to natural disasters.

One vital lesson that natural disasters like Frank and Yolanda teach us is that both the rich and the poor may lose everything, thus suddenly finding themselves on equal footing. There are even instances when the poor are more comfortable because they are already used to poverty and so have better coping mechanisms.

Another lesson is that we should always prepare for tomorrow’s disaster, even if today’s weather is fine. As much as possible, let us keep our nose above water. It is a “given” that disaster victims with reserve wealth – money in the bank, for instance – recover faster.

Those with no immediate prospect of bouncing back because they have lost everything, including their only source of income, face a blank wall. They could be so desperate as to commit suicide.

Natural disasters like typhoons, floods and earthquakes – inappropriately called “acts of God” – cannot be prevented. But it is within our power to minimize their consequential harm.

Let us not blame certain sectors because of unproven beliefs, like that which postulates that “climate change” is a latter-day man-made phenomenon.

There were already “Yolandas” in the distant past – and in Leyte, too, 125 years earlier. Through the magic of the Internet, I read a similar tragedy published in an Australian newspaper dated January 12, 1898:

“It is estimated that 400 Europeans and 6,000 natives lost their lives, many being drowned by the rush of water, while others were killed by the violence of the wind. Several towns have been swept or blown away.

“The hurricane reached Leyte on October 12, 1897, striking Tacloban, the capital, with terrific force, reducing it to ruins in less than half an hour. The bodies of 120 Europeans have been recovered from the fallen buildings. Four hundred natives were buried in the ruins.”

“Thousands of natives were roaming about the devastated province seeking food and medical attendance. In many cases the corpses were mutilated as though they had fallen in battle, and the expressions of their faces were most agonizing.”

In those days, as in these days, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.”

There is no sure way of tracing the origin of the quotation. But it is oft-quoted because it inspires us into believing that whenever a situation pulls us down, we may rise to overcome the challenge.

Consider that while fires, floods, earthquakes and many other natural disasters are inappropriately called “acts of God,” they are tests to be passed. It’s by passing them that we win the game of life.



PERSONALLY, I believe there is a need to amend the two-decade-old Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA) in order to erase the blame being thrown at the power-distribution utilities (DUs) like MORE Power in Iloilo City and the three Iloilo Electric Cooperatives (ILECOs) in the province.

Based on that law, the DUs double as “collectors” of all the payments for different charges imposed by power suppliers, transmission operators, and government taxes. The DUs merely distribute the power supply generated by power producers and transmitted by the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP).

Because most consumers do not know that, the DUs get the blame for the hiked rates.

The sudden hike in the cost of power stems from the devaluation of the peso against the US dollar, coupled with the ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine, which are among the world’s major sources of coal that fuels most of the power plants.

Basulon ta si Putin for initiating the war eh!