I’ve been slipping in my work in-between checking up on the Typhoon Haiyan relief operations on social media. I can’t really focus now as the gravity of the situation is becoming clearer and clearer to me as the hours go by. I cannot completely comprehend the full extent of what just happened and what Typhoon Haiyan has done to my country. Entire towns and cities were literally blown out of the map. Entire towns and cities are no longer there; just ruins and a few solid houses remain and it’s nothing but debris and survivors walking the streets looking for food, water, shelter, and loved ones, people who they have not seen or heard from in days.
The horrors of it all is beyond my imagination. I don’t know why the earlier storms that have come — Sendong, Milenyo, Ondoy, and the others — have been easier to understand and I could grasp at the intricacies of what was lost. This one is just unbelievable in its wake. I suppose because when the flood waters subsided with those earlier storms, a lot of those people were able to return to their lives and soldier on. I know some of them have still not returned home, but it was something that I could understand. The picture is clearer to me than what transpired here over the last week.
Typhoon Haiyan completely and totally obliterated hundreds of thousands of people’s way of life. Completely. They have nothing to return to. It is not just a matter of waiting for the water to subside and picking up the pieces. The pieces have been shattered and decimated into thousands of tiny bits that cannot be picked up again and used. There is nothing for these people to return to and there is no coming back from this.
I write an article here and follow-up work e-mails there and then I take another fifteen or twenty minutes to check on my Facebook newsfeed to figure out what’s going on with the situation on site.
As you read articles and status updates, your heart bleeds with the clear view of the destruction and loss; and sometimes it becomes so full because there are beautiful moments of actual grace and unbridled humanity, generosity, and kindness. I see people who post articles and photos on their Facebook walls, saying that they are crying, and I believe them because I want to cry too.
But as the emotions run high, we see people criticising and blaming the government and their response. We have people who are lambasting the critics for their negativity and what they consider as a hindrance to the relief effort. And there are people who are criticising the people who go on as if everything was normal on their social media. There are a lot of angry people — emotions are overflowing and running high — and brothers are fighting against brothers in an attempt to grasp that which just happened, which in my opinion, cannot be understood so easily.
We all have our ways with dealing with what we have just encountered. Others want to help and that’s unbelievably generous and kind and amazing. I am in awe. Really. Others want to criticise, and they should, because this has happened before, maybe not on this scale or magnitude, but it has happened and we still find ourselves grasping at straws and trying to deal with it. The response time is not as fast as we would like; and maybe it is true that they are moving as fast as humanly possible when faced with such a tragedy, but the way they answer and deal with the press release is just disappointing. When we want leadership and authority, what we see instead is a man who is arguing over the exact number of casualties and blaming the “unpreparedness” of the local government. What we want to see is a leader and we don’t see one. And I think, as a nation, we have a right to demand for that.
And then there are those who are living their lives as if everything was just an ordinary day; and I’m okay with that too. That’s what the “hide” button is for on Facebook. I am having trouble dealing with the whole situation and I can safely say that probably everybody is; and just doing your job and living your life as if nothing has happened can be a way to survive — it is a means with which to be grateful that they are still alive and unaffected by this tragedy. I’ll grant them that much and let them be.
The ones who I want to suffer and I whose heads I want to roll are those who are taking advantage of this situation to further their agendas. Already I’ve seen several attempts to mislead people and to cause divisiveness and sow confusion and that pisses me off. A report on a held German volunteer medical group and supplies by the Bureau of Customs circulated over Facebook and when I did some fact checking, I discovered it was a hoax (or an misunderstanding of the situation) that led people to point fingers and play the blame game. I’m not against the blame game; but if you are going to point fingers, make sure they are for the right reasons.
I’m all for accountability and for criticism; just make sure that you are on the right and that your facts are straight and your source is solid. Check and then double check before you post anything online and you react; especially for the critics, because while I believe in criticism and the demand for what is right, you cannot act on the fly when there are so many people who are just sowing the seeds of confusion and dissent for the sake of their own agenda. We have to be smarter than this. People will take advantage of our stress and emotions; let’s not be victims.
What has happened is inconceivable to a whole lot of us. Let us take a deep breath and then do what we can or what we are able.
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