I already know the storm, and I am troubled as the sea.
I leap out, and fall back,
and throw myself out, and am absolutely alone
in the great storm.
– Rainer Maria Rilke, A Sense of Something Coming
Rilke knew his weather. It was not an elegy for a storm that’s leaving, as much as it was welcoming a storm that’s coming. The storm never ceases in these parts of the world. And yet, we never really get used to disaster. We never get used to the floods, the winds, and the destruction that come with every storm. There is always that sense of something coming.
For the better part there’s grieving for the loss, and blame for all the losses. Maybe we have freed ourselves enough from the burden and the guilt that comes with calamity that as the Sun rises and hands rise up to volunteer and to donate, so must the finger of blame. The storm is the catharsis of nature, as blaming is the catharsis of humankind. Never mind that Ondoy brought the worst rain to Manila in four decades. Floods are man-made calamities, and it is almost certainly the fault of everyone and anyone who threw a cigarette butt or plastic cup into a storm drain.
There are misgivings and scurples. If it would have happened anywhere else but Metro Manila, then social media and media coverage would not have been mobilized and highlighted this much. If Government officials would have been more efficient, then relief goods would have been delivered more promptly. If we didn’t clog up the rivers, streams, and storm drains, we would never have had a flood of this magnitude. Never mind the amount of rainfall, never mind the strength of the storm.
Perhaps that’s the other storm we cannot avoid: blame. We all want to convince ourselves that there is, at least, a person or a group of persons to be held accountable for the loss of lives and property. The guilt that comes with those losses is not something we all share: nasa huli ang pagsisisi comes with the corollary, nasa huli ang sisihan. Certainly not those who cast the first stone, those who propose solutions, those who hate, those who help, and those who lost something – anything – in a storm nobody saw coming.
Perhaps, that’s the only way we could go on and move on: to take away the weight and burden of all of it from our shoulders.
The worst part of the storm is almost always certainly the aftermath. When there’s no more rain and no more wind, when we can all come together to figure out who caused what, who should be blamed for that. Our finest hour, where we all willingly share and do our part to help the victims, is the calm before that other storm. Like it or not, this will all lead us to a very different high ground… the high horse.
We all have a sense – at least I do – that like Ondoy, that particular storm is something we have never been prepared for. Ever.