I don’t know how to write this post. It’s just too difficult to hear the stories of friends and family who have lost everything from Typhoon Ondoy. It’s too difficult to watch news reports of people high above their rooftops, with all their possessions destroyed, their lives ruined, their spirits sagging like anything would in strong winds and powerful storms. My own story for this storm is to be stuck for 18 hours in the office. That’s nothing, compared to the unlucky folks in evacuation centers and the homes of the generous friends and relatives living in higher ground. They’re drenched, cold, sick, with literally nothing but the clothes on their backs.
Yesterday was an unfortunate day. A tragedy, a disaster. There are pictures of trucks and entire homes submerged in floodwaters, stories of stranded commuters who right now sleep in the cold floors of shopping malls. Pumpboats – not buses – ply the streets of Manila. Fields and paddies have been wrecked in Eastern Luzon. This is not a simple wet-spell, but a raging river of destruction.
They talk about moving to high ground when a storm approaches. I think it’s not just about clambering up a roof or moving to a hilly section of town, but about taking a high ground to help others. In the midst of disaster, where every instinct should work for our own personal survival, we find ourselves helping. We donate, inform, we take in a friend or a neighbor who lost everything. Disaster, as it seems, does not bring out the worst in us as much as it brings out the best in us.
There are those without homes. There are those without food or warm clothing. There are those who have lost what they have saved up years for. There are those who have lost their lives. Just like that, in a day, everything is over. Is it the garbage in the gutters? Global warming? The slow response of rescue teams? Denuded forests? Maybe, but for some, the storm was just too much to bear.
In the coming days, there will be a blame game. There will be people who will criticize every aspect of this storm, from emergency response to storm prevention to flood control to geopolitical inequalities and everything else in between. Do those things matter? Indeed they do, but what matters today is that we’re safe. We are alive, and we are able to help. There’s still a lot to do after all of this, but for now, there is the quiet calm after the storm. The worst, at least for now, is over.
In “Norwegian Wood,” Haruki Murakami writes that if you’re in pitch blackness, all you can do is sit tight until your eyes get used to the dark. As you close your eyes, you can only hope, and pray if you believe. There’s always room for it, after all; when you flood a parched patch of land, the leaves grow back. Smells linger, yet they eventually get washed away. When the worst of nature floods, the best of humankind surfaces. Whether it’s a text message, a phone call, a bag of relief goods, or for many of us, an open door to safety.
Where it ends, it must begin. We are all able to see a tomorrow.
I don’t know how to write this post. We can only hope that this never happens again.