Monday, December 04, 2006

Killer Storms, Killer Lifestyles

Barely a month earlier, Bicol region was badly hit by super-typhoon “Milenyo.” Survivors have started picking up the pieces and looking forward to the warmth of the Christmas season. Yet instead of the warmth of Christmas, devastation and death returned to Bicol in the form of another storm called “Reming.” The figures of dead, missing and injured are steadily rising each day. Initially, there were about five hundred in all. It is now more than a thousand. Descriptions of the killer rocks and mudflow are daunting. Rocks as big as cars were seen crushing into houses before the mud completed the blow by burying everything which stood in the way of its fury. Milenyo was a killer storm but Reming was even worse. I grew up listening to storm signal number one, two until three. Today’s young generation are listening to a new species of warning, that of the un-precedented levels four and five. I remember terrible storms “Dading” and “Yoling” whose angry winds raged between one hundred fifty to a hundred eighty (150 – 180) kilometers per hour. Reming swept over Southern Luzon at two hundred sixty five (265) kilometers per hour.

Money, of course is being poured into Bicol by the National Government. The President has ordered one billion pesos released for rescue, relief and eventual rehabilitation efforts. This is understandable and expected. It is the least they can do. But while rescue operations, in many parts crudely done with volunteers digging out dead bodies with their hands, the Government in its typically ugly display of indecency intensifies efforts to push Chacha. While fellow countrymen and women struggle to crawl out of the boulders and mud left by a killer storm, the powerful continue to dance to the only music they know and sing the only song they know…self-interest.

In a few days, the Asean will be held in Cebu city. The theme chosen for the summit has already been criticized and challenged by human rights groups. Asean as “One, Caring and Sharing Community” is a theme that glosses over the many human rights violations and killings over the last five years under the Arroyo Administration. The Asean meeting in Cebu City from December 6 to 13 may as well take place in the wake of the tragedy of killer typhoon Reming. Although there is nothing that directly connects a regional political meeting to a natural disaster, there is nothing wrong in pondering the timing. A few days before this meeting takes place, Lance Corporal Daniel Smith is found guilty of raping Nicole.

Two painful events prelude the important Asean meeting. Killer storms and killer passions are equally destructive. With Smith found guilty, Nicole finds some solace and can now move on. But will Nicole be the last victim? I saw the face of Smith on the front page of a newspaper. It was full of fear and uncertainty. I dare ask, as well whether Smith is as much a victim as Nicole? US military personnel will continue to come to engage in military exercises with counterpart Filipino soldiers. Why? Because of the culture and enterprise called “war.” We can also ask whether Reming would be the last killer storm and whether this would have been Bicol’s last tragic brush with a killer storm?

Storms have been a natural and expected feature of the Philippine landscape. But they are becoming deadlier each time. Rape and the various forms of exploitation of Filipinas have been going on from empire to empire, from King Philip to President Bush.

I look at Smith’s face again and could not help ask, aren’t we all in varying ways and degrees guilty of inviting natural disasters and promoting war? What in and about our lifestyles are deadly and continually inviting more disaster, rape and war? These are questions that President Glorial Macapagal Arroyo and her Asean counterparts may ask if they have the honesty, courage and most of all humility to do so!!!

Fr. Roberto P. Reyes
December 4, 2006


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