"Pangaasi Yo, Apo"

By in


The picture above was taken from the Facebook album of Danny Durante, whom I assume is a Baguio resident.  The place looks to be like Cresencia Village, which can give a completely SFW portrait of things I can’t bear to imagine.  For those living in the lowlands, this is what a landslide looks like.  It carries away homes… and indeed, it carries away lives.  It’s like an avalanche without snow, yet as cold and unforgiving as anyone could imagine it.

As I write this, I’m fresh off a drinking session at Cubao X in the effort to forget.  I want to forget about things I don’t want to – and I cannot in good conscience – write about stories I heard today, like that of the taxi driver.  The taxi I rode in was driven by a driver from Cagayan who lives in Marikina.  His words tore at me like I would pieces of paper when I fold paper cranes:

“Pangaasi yo, Apo.”

It’s one of those Ilocano phrases that are only said in desperation, where the ever self-reliant Northerner would never ask for help or charity beyond the courtesies of being a good neighbor, unless absolutely necessary.  Adversity may strip down the human being into helplessness, yet there is an unarticulated beyond that cannot be phrased in any language.  The raw humanity of suffering, sickness, and death that could leave any witness to it emotionally scarred.  “Pangaasi yo, Apo” speaks to that level of desperation, desolation, and destitution: the appeal to mercy, the willingness to be subservient for a chance at life.

My friend Bigenya is much more fluent in Ilocano than I am.  She writes:

Makasangit nak, ading.  Nagrigat la ngarud iti biag idiay ayantayon, kastoy pay lang mapasamak.

Roughly translated: “I’m moved to tears, my young friend.  Life is hard enough for us where we’re from, and this happens.”

I’ve seen the lay of the land in our Christmas trips to my father’s hometown in La Union, and I’ve seen his brothers and nephews look over the parched soil that bear what remains of corn stalks, as his nephews carry the bundles of kamote muro for us to take home.  I can only imagine that once-arid land turned into giant puddles of mud unfit to grow anything on.  Even weeds would die from drowning or from blight.

True enough, the people should take the blame.  Development and encroachment has disrespected and desecrated the mountains and the spirits that dwell in it, not to mention make the soil unstable.  Yet the loss of life and property can be too much to bear.  Especially for people too far from relief operations, where roads are too damaged or submerged for trucks to get through.  People who need blankets, food, shelter, and a way out of that mess.

Perhaps it’s the frustration of and about everything that builds up inside me to keep me awake.  The frustration that comes with being unable to contact my sister.  The frustration that comes with being unable to contact my friends.  The frustration that comes with years of underdevelopment and neglect.  The frustration that comes with being unable to help because the relief centers were closed for the night.  The frustration that comes with calamities happening all the time, in different places and in different scales, yet treated differently, as if dealing with apples and oranges.

The frustration that comes with being unable to come back home.

The taxi driver dropped me off near the apartment, and I was stuck with a story that right now, I cannot tell.  I propped myself up a lamp post, weak-kneed from the harrowing story of starving children and flooded fields.  I lit a cigarette and thought of Christmas lights that will never be lit, of dinner tables that will never be filled, and lives that will be anything but complete.

With all the clarity I can muster from a night of drinking, I looked up the stars and the half-moon, looking for an explanation for the devastation that befell the place I called home.

“Pangaasi yo, Apo,” I mouthed out loud, as I stubbed out my cigarette butt and walked up to my apartment.

15 comments on “"Pangaasi Yo, Apo"”

    • des conlu
    • October 11, 2009

    I hear you.

  1. Reply

    this is powerful. i’m not surprised no one has left a comment yet.

    i cannot begin to imagine what they are going through. i dare not. there is no explanation. i do not have the words.

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    • A
    • October 11, 2009

    I’m a native from Pangasinan, but am currently studying in Manila for college.
    I found myself busy trying to see every picture there was when Ondoy hit Metro Manila. But when Pepeng stormed up north, I can’t find it in me to look at the pictures. Pictures of the small city I call home caked with mud, and the livelihoods of most of us back there destroyed.
    The provinces where I belong to has only so small to start with and everything is gone now. The farmers and the fishermen will have to do everything from square one. You desperately look around and you have no idea where to start.

  3. Reply

    Des: Thanks a lot. 🙂

    A: We’ll get through this, all of these adversities shall pass. If there’s anything I believe in, it’s the resiliency of the human spirit.

    Deejay: It’s my honor, I’m a big fan of GTM. 🙂 It’s difficult to capture the suffering, but I was born and raised in Baguio, and I figured I owe it to my hometown.

    • joy cadorna
    • October 11, 2009

    Ada asi ni Apo…

    • imom
    • October 11, 2009

    I am a Baguio girl reluctantly living in Metro Manila. These are just too close to the heart, and i find it difficult to finish the blog entry i started yesterday.
    These too shall pass.

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    • Mark
    • October 13, 2009

    Although I was born and raised in Manila, La Union was as much a part of my youth as it is today. Aringay is my second home, my place away from the hustle and bustle of Manila.

    It frustrates me that the concern for the North is not as much as when Ondoy flooded Manila streets.

    But yeah, maybe it’s donor fatigue. Yet I can’t help but feel that the Manileños are more worried about tripling vegetable prices than helping their fellow Filipinos.


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    • FB
    • October 16, 2009

    i grew up in benguet and have long been based here in metro manila. i feel insignificant in the face of the magnitude of the tragedy.

    • Jane
    • October 17, 2009

    “But yeah, maybe it’s donor fatigue”

    it’s manila-centrism. Just look at twitter and blogs. It’s a poor excuse for manila-centrism. California had been ravaged this year by wildfires9and they were wildfires after wildfires) yet people who help don’t choose which places do they help. Help came from all over the state and as well as from financially-bankrupt states and states as far as the east coast(CA is bigger than the Philippines, imagine how far the east coast is). If Americans can help each other without complaining, why can’t the Filipinos who are supposedly used to being hit by typhoons after typhoons. maybe, the think that we claim as bayanihan spirit is merely a facade…just to feel condifent even if we know this isn’t true

    • jayan
    • October 21, 2009

    napalabas nanu nga aldawen ngem dadduma kailian haan da pay ammo no kasanu agrugi manen… anyan sigi lang kailian kaya tayo ikarigatan tayo agrugi manen….

  6. Reply

    The trials and tribulations we Filipinos have to endure may be great, but it is simply by the hand of generosity and cooperation that we can continue with our own existence.

  7. Reply

    thanks for sharing my photo.. iLang taon na nakaLipas at ngaung taon Lang inaayos ang part na gumuho..

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