After typhoon Haiyan (locally named Yolanda) left and made the face of the earth ugly in Eastern Visayas in central Philippine islands on November 8, it also left some ugly stories of looting by the hungry and the seeming unpreparedness of government to handle the whole situation. The local media, CNN and other international media and some netizens were quick to put blame on government. Despite the country’s long experience in handling natural disasters they say that the government had not learned its lesson.
My personal take on the matter is that no level of preparations would be enough in the face of a typhoon of Yolanda’s magnitude. One Hundred Ninety Six miles per hour of wind (315 kph) would simply wipe out anything on its path. The government and the people had simply no idea of how a typhoon of this magnitude would wipe out and flatten entire villages and towns.
If what we had been used to experience in the past was lesson number 1, this is the first subject in a series of lesson 2 for government and the people. With more than 10,000 people estimated to have died, more than 9 million people affected and distribution of relief goods ridiculously slow, the government and the people must learn lesson 2 very well.
But if there is anything the government had not prepared one bit, it was the fact that it has never anticipated how government functionaries, law and order could collapse with the tremendous destruction the super typhoon had inflicted on lives, properties and important facilities. In the worst affected areas such as the cities of Tacloban and Ormoc in the province of Leyte, there was apparent absence of government functionaries to help manage and distribute relief goods and the absence of security forces to maintain law and order. We can never blame the absence of people who are supposed to take charge here. They too are helpless victims of this terrible tragedy.
The whole situation has been aggravated by the difficulty in transporting relief goods especially to areas where roads and trails were blocked by so much piles of debris and some dead animals and humans. With relief goods distribution moving at snail-paced one can expect a lot of people would go hungry. When people had nothing to feed themselves for days they rummage for food by whatever means. And you would imagine the next scenario would only worsen by the day.
The media is replete with stories and footage of sufferings, pain and desperation in the face of people that every time I want to set the television on, I had tended to avoid the tv channels that flash news of this kind. I had cried on many instances seeing all those unimaginable sufferings and despair in people and what little thing I can do to help like sending 200 pesos worth of cell phone load every time to help raise funds for the Philippine Red Cross.
With the extent of damage, sufferings and ugly stories that abound, a small act of selflessness and heroism displayed by some people whose hearts are made of gold are simply reassuring and inspiring. There are several of these but they remain untold stories for as long as sensationalized reporting dominates the media still.
I take respite from these ugly stories and horrible scenes to give notice to one single act of selflessness and heroism exemplified by a female soldier of the Philippine Army. She is Corporal Anjanette Obligado, one of the members of the Army contingent sent to Tacloban City to help maintain law and order.