By: Alex P. Vidal
“In all natural disasters through time, man needs to attach meaning to tragedy, no matter how random and inexplicable the event is.” – Nathaniel Philbrick
IN a tragedy, it is easy to shrug off the pain and melancholy if we lost only the material things such as cash or expensive valuables, which can still be replaced.
But if it involves the death of loved ones, their “untimely” passing in a horrific manner, it’s difficult to come to terms and accept what happened.
It jolts the entire community.
This is what many Ilonggos are going through nowadays following the death of 31 passengers who drowned when their motorboats capsized after being whipped by strong winds and big waves August 3 off Guimaras and Iloilo strait.
The motorboats Chi-Chi and Jenny Vince, carrying a total of 90 passengers, flipped over in sudden gusts of wind and powerful waves, according to the Philippine Coast Guard.
It’s the waste of many promising lives that makes the situation horrendous.
Those dead bodies recovered underneath the motorboats that turned upside down and washed away in Dumangas shore could be our own relatives–or even you and me.
The number of casualties itself is shocking.
Some of the dead were trapped inside the motorboats that even if they were good swimmers, there was no chance they could survive.
We haven’t heard of a sea mishap of such magnitude that occurred anywhere in Western Visayas for a very long time.
The distance between Guimaras and Iloilo is supposed to be the “safest” for sea travelers since it takes them only about 15 to 20 minutes to cross from one island to another vice versa via a pumpboat.
Except if the weather is really bad and the visibility is zero, even an ordinary person can use a banca and paddle his way to cross the strait.
Swimmer Martin Soriano of Carles, Iloilo and Rudy Fernandez of Ajuy, Iloilo could even cross Guimaras and Iloilo and back.
We remember the late former Iloilo City Mayor Mansueto “Mansing” Malabor for his simplicity and unparalleled dedication in his job in the three terms that he served the Ilonggos: first term 1992-1995; second term 1995-1998; third and last term 1998-2001.
He was the only Iloilo City mayor who signed important papers handed to him even if he was inside the public market after office hours.
He was the only Iloilo City mayor who sat down with ordinary people and spent time with them in the coffee shops every morning (former Mayor Jose “Joe III” Espinosa III is also regularly seen in the Madge coffee shop in La Paz Public Market in the morning but he chooses his crowd).
He was the only Iloilo City mayor who did not have a wanderlust (his predecessor, Mayor Jerry Treñas, traveled a lot as part of his responsibilities and obligations as president of League of Cities of the Philippines during the time of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo).
Mayor Malabor never filed a single libel case against any critical journalist because, according to him, “deretso man nila ina nga mag atake sa akon ang importante wala kita may gina himu nga sala (it’s their right to criticize me; the most important is I am not doing anything wrong).”
He was the only Iloilo City mayor who built mini-gymnasiums in almost all of the 180 barangays.
He was not a perfect city mayor; he had weaknesses like the late Manila City Mayor Arsenio “Arsenic” Lacson, but Mayor Malabor was undeniably one of the best that served Iloilo City.
Even after he has retired from politics, he continued to serve the hoi polloi in whatever means.
Rest in peace, Mayor Mansing Malabor.
(The author, who is now based in New York City, used to be the editor of two local dailies in Iloilo)