Friday, December 28, 2012

Pablo’s Wrath: Tails and Tales

It took me a long time to write about the devastation of Typhoon Pablo because like some of my friends who saw the damage first hand, I (we) are still in denial. I have been telling myself, “This is not Mindanao. This is not happening to our place. We only see it on TV. This could not happen to us."

Last December 8, 2012 we went to Butuan for our class excursion to the national historical archaeological site and we passed by Monkayo. When we were about to enter Compostela Valley, we were warned by Ate Carol Arguillas that the impact of the storm can be seen starting at Mawab. We have to brace ourselves. We have to prepare our eyes and heart, she warned.

I have heard from my former boss that our partner cooperative in Brgy. Baylo, Monkayo called up and told her that they lost all of their agricultural produce especially mangosteen. Other partners in Nabunturan also called telling her, “Among mga tanom ma’am murag gihagpatan nga malunggay (Our plants have been treshed out that of malunggay leaves).”  Those tales of unprecedented destruction is beyond our eyes. Nothing can still prepare us for the scene at the highway, from Mawab to Monkayo- coconut trees toppled like matchsticks, banana plants collapsed, houses crumbling.

My heart broke when I saw HARBEMCO (Highlander’s Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries’ Multipurpose Cooperative)  office and consumer store: roofs flown to nowhere. Nang Nora’s house where I usually stay during fieldwork crushed to the ground. I just can imagine how they felt when they saw all of these. Thoughts of how they’ll be able to stand up after losing 80-90% of their livelihood.  This is a community that depends on agriculture; now all wiped out.

Photos from ADDU AIA 

Collective Consciousness and Disaster Preparedness

Ate Carol of Mindanews have interviewed people if they have prior knowledge of the upcoming storm and if they were able to prepare. Residents from Cateel said there was a mobile car calling out  everyone to prepare for an upcoming storm. There’s even a seminar on disaster preparedness BUT, “Wala man praktis!” (There is no practice).” Or even yet, they don’t have any idea what it meant to have Typhoon signal Number 2 or 3. There is even one who thought Typhoon Signal #1 is the strongest! “Naa man gud dati ma’am na bagyo pero dili man ing-ana kakusog.” (There was a storm before but never with that intensity).

In short, the people have no idea what a super typhoon really looks like since there is no prior experience in that magnitude. Baganga elders said the last recorded super typhoon they experienced is on 1912! Or for instance, in Davao City, it was only last December (on the onset of Typhoon Sendong) that the city experienced to be warned of Typhoon Signal 2 leading to stoppage of barge trips going to the neighboring island of Samal.

Reconfiguring Mindanao

The sad thing is, Mindanao has long been marketed as “typhoon-free” island compared to Luzon and Visayas for the agribusinesses to invest here.  But is Mindanao really typhoon-free like what it claimed?

The Manila Observatory has records saying this is a BIG NO! Based on historical records of typhoons which they presented in one of the conferences (as recounted also by Ate Carol), there are around 7 typhoons that passed Mindanao for the past 10-15 years. In Cagayan de Oro for instance, they even recorded a storm that passed the area every December since late 1920s!

According to Department of Agricutlure (DA) the losses incurred are almost  P26.8 Billion (as of Dec. 18). 
With the vast impact on agriculture-dependent populace, there is a lot of need for rehabilitation. There is probably a lot of reconfiguring for the MIndana 20/20 development plan that Mindanao development Authority (MinDA) made. Mindanao probably will no longer the “Promised Land” or the “Food Basket” and “Typhoon-Free” as its advertising tagline for the island.

The Climate Change Act of 2009 and Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act of 2010 mandated local government units to incorporate on its Local Development Plan its climate change and disaster risk reduction management plans. However, instead of taking it seriously, it is just a stamp, a prerequisite to get the Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA) of local government units (LGUs). Or most cases, a copy and paste (hey you’ll make Sotto proud!) risk management plans. Plans are tested when disaster comes. Look at Davao Oriental. A consistent awardee for "Gawad Kalasag" of the Regional Disaster Risk Reduction and MAnagement Council for several years now but the loophole is just too much that plans without prior practice and community-based planning is just well.....a piece of paper.  (Please read here this eye-opening opinion piece by Ate Nikki dela Rosa published by Philippine Daily Inquirer).
I remember our Crisis Communication class. It is hard to prepare because we don’t have the consciousness of preparation when majority of the population are still at finding food to serve on the table. And it is harder to advocate for disaster preparation when there is no ‘collective experience’ of a disaster. It is excruciatingly hard especially to keep the communication line intact, during disaster. The first 48 hours is very crucial when there is mayhem, a need for a central coordination center is needed.

As what happened to Typhoon Pablo. It was already 4-5 days after the disaster when a coordinating team was set up in DPWH-Panacan. Relief ops went to areas more accessible but what about areas where bridges collapsed and inaccessible even with trucks?

DPWH-Panacan needed a lot volunteers to repack relief goods. Some relief goods coming from the poblacion is brought to their office. Ateneo de Davao University (ADDU) through its University Community Engagement and Advocacy Council (UCEAC) is also undergoing relief operations. There are lots of students and staff available but it is exam week. There are instructors who suspended classes but still majority has to go with their exams and only have an hour or 3 hours to spare. DPWH you see is almost an hour ride from the Davao City Poblacion. Someone from UCEAC suggested that maybe DPWH can put the relief goods especially those coming still from poblacion for repacking at ADDU Annex  but DPWH said they cannot do it because, ‘baka ma Ombudsman kami! (we will be reported to Ombudsman). Holy kamote! This is the time when creativity is needed. Yes, I undertand their apprehension BUT my thought when I heard it was, can’t they put a person to oversee the repacking? Or maybe they can ask Ombudsman to do the repacking instead? (Yes, I am too sarcastic on this). This is the time when bureaucratic rules hinder instead of making it efficient especially when relief goods are needed at the most crucial moment.  Or maybe I’m just too myopic about it. But this is the time when people's trust to the government has to be rebuilt and even regained

Reading and hearing from the news reports of Mindanews and from people, the most common comment is, “Sa amoa na lang idiretso. Ayaw na sa munisipyo kay basig di pa na makaabot sa amoa. (Give it directly to us. Don’t give it to the municipal hall because it might not get to us).” This is serious. The City Government of Davao sent relief goods but it took another 2 days for the municipality to give it not because of lack of volunteers but they have to repack it again and wait for the "mayor's own packaging." Haay naku..Mapa-Pasko man o Bagyo, Epaliticians through and through! 

The people even hated the choppers. Because 1) it reminded them of the war and 2) it went on and on for several days moving around but it never brought food.  There was a shortage of choppers at that time because of course, it was busy bringing those higher ups.

People were mad at the “national” media and organizations getting data but never went back to bring food or any relief goods. People are at the height of getting into riot. Adding to the injury is this insensitive media people glamorizing disaster, this people like Noli de Castro making side comments like,”Mabuti naman kasi wala naming ginagawa ang mga tao diyan. Nakatunganga lang!” (It’s ‘better’ because the people there are not doing anything. Their mouths are just gaping wide).”  Great. Just great Kabayan. 

This is very disheartening when insensitive comments are uncalled for. But as one friend frustratingly said, "Kita-kita na lang magtinabangay." We are strong. We are resilient  The people from Monkayo even managed to smile and say We will get through this. We still hear stories of hope, of love and volunteerism. And that what keeps us stronger. 

Relief operations: rehabilitation and recovery is a long way to go. Rebuilding homes and most of all, psychosocial healing for children and adults alike are much needed. There are still areas underserved and even un-served.

Again, I would like to reiterate my strong call for all local government units to seriously integrate and implement its climate change and disaster risk reduction plans.  And this is high time that the government should be serious even in resettlement program (in different phases) for highly vulnerable areas of flooding and typhoon. Of course, this is easy to write but very difficult to implement. BUT this is not just the work of the government but all of the stakeholders involved, even the private sector. And CLIMATE CHANGE plus unabated Logging ("galahos na ang bukid") is REAL and we need serious solution and implementation of laws. 

And we need to work Together! 

Here are some organizations doing the relief ops and badly need volunteers:

AFRIM (Alternate Forum for Research in Mindanao) Inc. 
Address: Door 7, Six Angels Building, Kamia corner Jasmin Streets, Juna Subdivision, Matina, Davao City. From NCCC mall, take the main road of Juna, turn left and right, it's the pink house.

Please text these numbers : 0905 153 3364 (TM) or 0922 469 0223 (SUN) or call (082) 285 4592 and look for Liezl Bugtay, for more details.

FB Page:

ADDU- UCEAC and COPERS (Center of Psychological Extension and Research Services) 
To help repack good from December 28-30 and January 2 onwards, go to Annex Covered Court Jacinto Street, Davao City (in front of Holy Child School)

For financial donations, here are the  are the details:

Account Name: Ateneo de Davao university
Acct No. 2881-0028-87

Account Name: Ateneo de Davao university
Acct No. 27000-904-26

Fax Deposit Slip to: +63 (82) 221.4737 or +63 (82) 226.4116
Or Email Deposit Slip Details to:, cc:

DSWD Central Operations Center
at DPWH- Depot Panacan
Or call Landline (082) 306- 5624

Peacebuilders’ Community
404-A  Acacia Street
Juna Subdivision
Matina, Davao City 8000
(Near World Palace)
Checking Account Number: 007-547-00228-4
Bank Transit: 03026-0166
International Swift Code: MBTCPHMM
Bank Name: Metropolitan Bank & Trust Company
Bank Address:
MetroBank – Ecoland Branch
Amya 2 Building
Quimpo Highway Cor. Tulip Drive
Matina, Davao City 8000



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