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Wrapped in Grey
Tuesday, October 22, 2013
IN THE land of disasters both natural and man-made, there is a word that describes the inner strength and fortitudinal reserve that allow this unfortunate race to rise above the endless wars, earthquakes, typhoons, landslides, ship collisions, and vehicular accidents that seem to befall this benighted people without let up. Add to this list of calamities, centuries of colonialism and decades of elite rule that have messed up governance and the economy in this land, and a new meaning of the catch phrase "we've got it all for you" is achieved.
Good thing, we, as a people are regarded as resilient, another catch phrase preferred by development workers and academics when they sell their programs and research to foreign funding. Just a little support so that the people, the victims can stand up on their own feet, they appeal. Just a little amount so that they can call from within their gut the fortitude to be resilient once more, they beg. But let us not whip up the word as of yet. Please, not yet.
In Atimonan, Quezon, twenty individuals met their gruesome death. Not in a hail of gunfire as what took place in the same town, and the same road many months ago in what seems to be a sequence in a bloody mafia film ending. This time, they were innocent travelers on a bus going South with their toys and christmas decors and round tins of biscuits for pasalubong. Together, the hard steel and soft bodies lie mangled on the side of the road. Mothers, fathers, and children discarded like trash after the ear-splitting impact of metal versus metal, around them the torn and bloodied silver paper announcing the coming joyous season. How does one look forward to Christmas after this?
Just a few months before a similar gruesome transportation accident occurred on the seas of Cebu just a few kilometers from the shores of Talisay. The same sound of steel hitting steel and then the revving of ship engines in reverse were the final noises heard by the close to two hundred passengers before they plunged to their dark watery graves. How can one look forward to happy departures and safe arrivals after this?
In the City of Zamboanga, civilians -mothers, fathers, and children, were used as human shields by armed men and then fired upon by government forces. They were shouting to the heavens for a ceasefire, while crouched like rats on the ground as bullets and rockets whizzed over their heads. So much for calibrated response when mortars and cannons were used on urban areas that obviously had civilians. A generation is introduced anew to the madness of war, the same war that tore the City and its people of diverse ethnic and religious backgrounds apart a couple of decades ago. The burned-out rubble of their homes will remain smoldering in their hearts as they are made prime for the agitation of the next generation of fighters from both warring camps.
And Bohol. What do we make of this natural force equivalent to thirty-two atom bombs that shook the ground with so much violence as to completely topple homes, bridges and churches? Only now do we see the extent of the destruction that rendered this beautiful place to a wasteland. In some areas, no structure remains standing and it's proud people are reduced to scurrying for the little relief and bottled water that come their way. They now sleep under the stars as the ground underneath them continue to shake in what seems to be an endless movement of frenzy for destruction.
The Filipino is supposed to be flood proof, made with innate bullet-proofing even, and can survive and overcome the most horrific of transportation mishaps where scores die in the most violent manner. And after the earthquake, we have proven ourselves to be shaken, but not stirred as some well-meaning survivors have pointed out. Heck, we even endure the calamity that is our politicians and presidentially-appointed officials who have the gall to award themselves with fat bonuses using the people's money in the context of one national tragedy after another. We have time and time again shown our capacity to rise above these tragedies as a showcase of our resilience. But please not yet.
Before we go back to the arduous task of rebuilding, before the world and our government demand us to be resilient once again, oblivious to the fact that this has been the norm rather than the exception of life in this tragic nation, can we just take a moment and pause to mourn the dead, wail at the madness of it all, and admit that these are painful and trying times to be a Filipino?
Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on October 22, 2013.