The week that was: Tragedy and Inspiration

The strongest typhoon that ever made a landfall in recorded history hit Central Visayas in the Philippines on November 8. The massive destruction was not known until the day after as it was still ramming everything in its path the following day.

So strong was the natural calamity that whole communities, towns and cities had only rubbles visible with many dead bodies littering the streets when the catastrophe subsided. A few structures were spared by the 305-kilometer-per-hour super typhoon Yolanda (international name Haiyan) but walls or roofs were either partially damaged or partly blown by the gusty wind.

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In Moscow, Russia on November 9, Miss Philippines Ariella Arida was competing with 85 other girls in the Miss Universe 2013 Pageant. Host Tony Roberts said that the show was dedicated to the Philippines and Vietnam (where Haiyan was headed to after Central Visayas).

Although Ariella did not get the crown, her third runner-up finish to Miss Venezuela Gabriela Isler was enough to give weary Filipinos pride and inspiration. Her placement in the Top 5 continued the streak started by Venus Raj in 2010 when she placed fourth runner-up, followed by Shamcey Supsup as third runner-up in 2011 and Janine Tugonon as first runner-up in 2012.

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The following day, Sunday, Nonito Donaire knocked out Vic Darchinyan on the ninth round of their 10-round featherweight non-title bout in Corpus  Christi, Texas. The win boosted the spirit of Filipinos not directly affected by the super typhoon but were sad and gloomy of what happened to their countrymen in the Visayas. Days earlier, Rubilen Amit was declared Women’s 10 Ball World Champion.

The photos, videos and stories of survival of Haiyan’s fury could melt anybody’s heart. This writer, for one, not only cried but wailed, every time a clip was shown on TV or a photo or video was posted on Facebook.

Where was God?

As more than 90% of Filipinos are Christians, the faithful asked, where was God during those times? Didn’t He hear the prayers? Didn’t He hear the pleas? Didn’t He see the agony of His people?

Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte was reported to have said, teary-eyed, “I do not mean to be… God must have been somewhere else or he forgot that there is a planet called Earth.”

He returned to his city  Monday, November 11, after a quick visit to Tacloban, where he said dead bodies remain unattended on the city streets, four days after Haiyan battered the entire city and nearby places.

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Last month a 7.3 magnitude earthquake shook adjacent Bohol  island that destroyed centuries-old churches and many infrastructures. Even the world renowned Chocolate Hills were not spared.

Just as the Boholanos were trying to rebuild their lives, the Leytenos or Warays were afflicted far even greater. The havoc wrought by the super typhoon is even worse compared to the tsunami that hit Indonesia, Thailand and other countries in 2004. Metro Manila had its share of calamity this year when Typhoon Maring flooded the national capital region for three days last August.

Plagues like that of Egypt in Moses’ time?

This brings us to ask, is God giving the Philippines plagues like it was in Egypt during the time of Moses until the President (equivalent of Pharaoh) let go of the people from the bondage of corruption in government?

This is not an isolated thought because we can count the plagues that the Philippines had got inflicted with so far–plague of Martial Law and the Marcoses, Baguio and Dagupan earthquake, Mount Pinatubo eruption, the deadly typhoons (Uring, Ruping, Kadiang, Rosing, Loleng, Winnie, Reming, Frank, Pedring, Pepeng, Juan, Sendong, Pablo), the fish kill in Pangasinan and Batangas, the floods in Laguna and Cavite, the leptospirosis and dengue outbreaks, the war in Zamboanga, the deadly earthquake in Bohol and now super typhoon Yolanda.

President Aquino  has the power to free Filipinos from the bondage of corruption. People elected him because of the promise of renewed inspiration, hope and change. He may not be the most intelligent leader as he could not even grasp the real meaning of the people’s sentiments, but his candidacy was a blessing. Otherwise, plunder-convict Joseph Estrada could have regained the reins of government.

His election as President gave the nation a shimmering hope for the future. At last, here is an honest President with no extra espousal baggage. But into the middle of his term, his administration has been rocked by one scandal after another–not just the pork barrel issue but the funds readily available for his disposal, including allegation of bribery to make sure that Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona was impeached. Lest we forget, he has his kaibigan, kamag-aralan, kabarilan at kamag-anakan (friends, classmates/schoolmates, shooting buddies and relatives) just like the first Aquino presidency.

Bribery–done before, during or after (whether payback is made days, months or years later)–is corruption to the very core.

The pork barrel scam that got exposed by the Napoles whistleblowers was just the tip of the iceberg. The President wanted the Commission On Audit to report mainly for the period 2007-2009 so he could blame his predecessor as he had been doing right at the onset of the campaign up to this day. Maybe he thought he could fool the people into believing that corruption was only rampant during the time of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and he is treading the straight and narrow path of righteousness. But the COA reported that even until 2012 the scam continued.

In 2013, the scam soiled his own hands with the exposé that he has had trillions of pesos at his disposal but the largesse may have ended in the personal funds or favored projects of his friends and associates in government.

He had to interrupt the TV viewing pleasure of Filipinos one evening and declared, “I am not a thief!” There he misread the pulse of the nation again. Just because he was labeled the Pork Barrel King did not mean he’s greedier than Tanda, Sexy and Pogi. It meant that lump sum funds readily available for his disposal is kingly in magnitude. And whatever term he’d call it, like DAP, it’s still pork barrel. Using it without Congress approval is against the Constitution and ground for impeachment.

His working habit puzzles the citizenry whom he calls his bosses. He’s not readily visible during times of calamities or tragedies, that people think he could be sleeping or busy tinkering his computer for whatever reason. Presidential inefficiency and immaturity showed early during the Luneta hostage crisis. It took time for his presence to be felt in Zamboanga. He did not visit the worst-stricken part of Bohol. To boost his image, Malacanang press said he slept in the tent, but later it was reported he stayed in the tent, alright, but actually spent the night in a resort.

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In Leyte, he was reported to have walked out from the disaster meeting, but presidential staff said he left for a short bathroom break. If the reason for his walkout was because he sterlingly declared Leyte was prepared for the disaster, yet it got ravaged by the super typhoon in unthinkable proportions, then he acted like a bratty little general, instead of a strong, determined leader.

Going back to the Egyptian plagues, is President Aquino waiting for the penultimate malady to strike before deciding to release the people from the bondage of corruption?

Ray of sunshine

Ariella arrived home Tuesday and she said she’s happy of her placement in the Miss Universe 2013 Pageant. In fact, her not winning the crown is a blessing in disguise as she can now help her countrymen get up from the disaster that plummeted the nation while she was away.

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Her placement (and that of Donaire’s win) was welcomed by Malacanang. Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte said these two pieces of good news are a much-needed shot in the arm for Filipinos going through so much in the aftermath of the recent calamities.

“We appreciate the efforts to bring a little bit of a smile to the faces of countrymen who are going through so much in the aftermath of the typhoon,” she said.

As reported, Ariella and Nonito had dedicated their efforts to Filipinos affected by Super Typhoon Yolanda, with Donaire also dedicating his fight to the victims of  earthquake last month.

“I think any sort of positive news to us is very welcome at this point,” Valte said as she congratulated the two for bringing honor to the Philippines especially in these trying times.

Before she flew home, Ariella was interviewed on ABS-CBN’s “Umagang Kay Ganda” and said all she wanted was to be in the Top 5.

Sobrang happy ko po kasi sabi ko kay Lord, basta ilagay niya ako sa Top 5 tapos kahit saan na niya ako ilagay. Narinig niya ang prayers ko. ‘Yung panalo kong ito, kahit paano napa-smile ‘yung mga kababayan natin sa Pilipinas (I’m so happy because I asked the Lord to put me in the Top 5 then wherever he’d place me that would be enough. He heard my prayers. In this win,  I was, in my little way, able to bring smile to our countrymen in the Philippines),” she said.

Ariella also added that after Miss Venezuela was proclaimed Miss Universe, she could no longer get near the winner as fellow candidates and the press swarmed over the new queen. Olivia Culpo was just a couple of steps away from her and the immediate past Miss Universe hugged her and said she was rooting for her.

Missosology reported that Ariella stayed the longest after the coronation as she had to talk to and mingle with her fans and supporters. She added, she was overwhelmed by the outpouring of support by Filipinos in Moscow and  Russians saying, “For me you’re number one.”

Thank you, World

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As of this writing, donations and pledges from all over the globe have poured in for the victims of super typhoon Yolanda. Billions of dollars are needed to rehabilitate Tacloban City and other places affected by this tragedy.

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For this, Filipinos are thankful for their generosity, concern and sympathy.

Mabuhay kayo at maraming salamat!

(All photos in this article owned by organizations or persons who posted the same on the Web)

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