Let Us Save Them From Shameful Things

I cannot imagine what it was like, what it has been like, for the regions slaughtered by the super typhoon.

Watching the news, listening to the stories of people gone and gone missing…it all sounds like a bad dream–

– the man seen carrying the lifeless body of his 6-year-old daughter, drowned by the water that rose too fast inside an evacuation center.

– the teenaged boy standing over his father’s dead body atop a mound of rubble, unable to carry the body on his own, waiting for kind passers-by to help him.

– the news reporter who breaks down upon recounting the moment she thought was the end, as the ceiling of the cathedral under which they had sought shelter was peeling and collapsing right before their eyes.

– the mother, herself injured and in a daze, explaining that she had been holding her daughter’s hand when a surge of water violently tore them apart.

– the woman, distraught, trying to get a message to relatives in Manila: I’m the only one left. Mother, father, my husband, my children, they’re all dead. Tell (—) he has no children anymore. No need to come here, everyone is gone.

– the airport’s head of security, lamenting that he was able to save 2 fellow guards at his post, but was not home to save his 2 youngest children. His eldest son is still missing.

Even the newscasters, usually criticized for their shameless sensationalizing, seem almost speechless. This is something else, this is unlike anything we’ve ever seen before.

And something else we haven’t really seen before: looting. Through every calamity, we Filipinos surprise even ourselves in the way we come together to the aid of our brethren, in the way only we Filipinos can (just like a commercial says, there is no English translation for the word bayanihan). Sure some politicians take advantage of the crisis to herald their “generosity,” but other inappropriate behavior is rarely seen in the general population.

Photo by EPA/Francis Malasig

Until now.

Tormented typhoon victims scour for food

With no home, no food, no water, no shelter, and no access for relief good distribution, it is every man for himself, for his family.

This excerpt from the above article sent chills down my spine:

Wearing nothing but a pair of red basketball trousers, the father-of-four and village councillor apologized for his shabby appearance and for stealing from the dead.

“I am a decent person. But if you have not eaten in 3 days, you do shameful things to survive,” Gualberto told AFP as he dug canned goods from the debris and flies swarmed over the bodies.

Others, as you may have heard in the news, have taken to more drastic measures–looting supermarkets, restaurants and malls for food, water and medicines. Some seem ready to forgive the looting of basic necessities, but cry foul when they see some of the survivors arise from the chaos carrying electronic appliances (TV sets, washing machines, airconditioning units), restaurant equipment, even remote-controlled toys.

Sure, it’s wrong (not to mention, it doesn’t make sense–a lot of good electronic appliances will do you in a makeshift shelter with no electricity). But I cannot say they are merely taking advantage of the situation because I wasn’t there, I don’t know what they’ve been through. I haven’t lost everything and everyone–go ahead and expect me to behave with dignity and patience and respect. But if you’re the only one left in your family, if you have no way of knowing that people are doing their best to get relief goods to you, if all you see around you is chaos and destruction…

Like Gualberto said: You do shameful things to survive.

This is a very deep wound, that will surely take a long time to heal. Go out there, make like St. Francis, and be an instrument of peace. Let us exhaust all means to save our brothers and sisters from starvation, devastation, and desperation.



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