Tuesday, May 7, 2013
Monday, August 23, 2010
It was shocking to say the least.
We thought we have seen it before. A hostage crisis that inevitably attracts international media attention. Oh yes---the world saw us again very clearly on the map! SIKAT!!!NAKS!!!
In 2007, we had one. The world took notice. We were on the headlines again as CNN, BBC and the rest of the international TV networks flashed the events unfolding at the center of Metro Manila.
It was also a tensed situation but ended especially so since it involved 30-pre-school children held hostage by a troubled civil engineer who owns the school where the kids are enrolled in kindergarten.
It took 10 hours of negotiation to end that hostage crisis. While it involved pre-school children, it was clear from the very beginning that there was no threat on the part of the hostage taker to kill any of the hostages.
This one was clearly a different case.
I was at the Office of the Chief of the Philippine National Police this morning when the news broke about a hostage taking happening at the Quirino Grandstand in Manila.
Immediately, the Chief of the PNP was informed about it and instructions were relayed down the line, command responsibilities, an unwritten code in the service.
The hostage-taker:Former Senior Police Inspector Rolando Mendoza, 55 years old and the victims included 20 Hongkong nationals, including children, traveling as a group on tour in the Philippines.
Joseph Tung, executive director of the Travel Industry Council of Hong Kong, said the tourists on the bus were aged between four and 72. They were on a three-day tour and were scheduled to return to Hong Kong today on a night flight.
An entire nation was glued to their TV sets, internet TV and radio to monitor the events unfolding, the drama, the action---scenes that eclipsed all running tele-dramas on primetime television.
But it's not just any drama or action. It's real life and we all witnessed it live!
Mendoza boarded the bus in Manila’s historic tourist district in the morning and then released nine people throughout the day as he demanded that he get his job back and be allowed to speak to the media.
Around 5:20 p.m. Philippine time, a shot was heard from inside the hijacked bus. And more shots were heard after that especially towards past 7:30 in the evening.
But it took some more time before the assault was ordered and the Special Action Forces made their move. Should I even care make a commentary on that when any tom, dick and harry saw what happened and what never happened? What actions were taken and what action were not taken?
Mendoza was a decorated police officer and was even awarded as one of the Top 10 Police Officers in the country in 1986.
He was discharged in 2008 for his alleged involvement in drug-related crimes and extortion, according to his police records because of the virtue of command responsibility. His dismissal was a case that underwent hearing at the Office of the Ombudsman.
“He wants to be reinstated in the service,” Manila district police chief Superintendent Rodolfo Magtibay said but can any officer of government just decide on that especially so if the means he did to call attention to his case was something that was not only illegal but placed the entire nation in shame.
He knew he would never be reinstated. He knew that the brown envelope from Manila Vice Mayor Iskho Moreno meant nothing. He was never really on a mind-set to negotiate. He meant to kill and cause damage that will have a lasting effect on the country that he thought abandoned and betrayed him.
His intention to kill, be killed and even end his own life was very clear and was in fact reiterated by the bus driver that he freed.
In one of the messages that he posted on the bus, it read:“Big mistake for big wrong decision”, apparently in reference to his sacking.
And so he thought---the country he served must pay!
In the end---hostages killed. Foreign nationals, tourists who chose the Philippines as the place to visit and unwind. Many of these tourists---at least four of them as of latest unofficial count---will be coming home in boxes---dead. All their cherished memories of the three days past gone in oblivion, replaced by a tragic ending that appeared unimaginable.
This one act spoke volumes about real stories about the police and those who served past and present and even those wanting to be police officers. Ironic as it sounds, it's really true that some police officers who retired end up victims of the very law and order and the justice system that they pledged to serve and uphold as law enforces.
But this was something internal to the Philippines.
What is even more frightening is how the world sees us after this tragic incident.
Tourism for one is now in limbo. What tourism slogan and campaign program can salvage the image that was created by this incident? WOW Philippines RELOADED?
But you know what?
I am worried about something else, something that is more lasting and bigger in terms of problems, scenarios that can be considered an after effect of this incident.
Hongkong is now under China again---that we must all remember and we knew China's positioning now in terms of world power and influence.
I suddenly felt the urge to check again on the last report on the force and military build-up in the Spratley Group of Islands by the Chinese Military Forces. I maybe watching too many movies of these kinds, I should stop before other scenarios crop up.
Or maybe I am just paranoid, I suddenly felt worried about the many Filipinos working in Hongkong right now. Can they still go to that public park that serves as their home away from home after this incident? Maybe I am just paranoid. Maybe I should erase all the scenarios that are cropping up as I place this entry in my blog site.
But who am I kidding? Who are we kidding?
What just happened was not one of those hostage-taking gone wrong.
It was something else.
It will take a lot of effort and political will on the part of the administration to unshake the international impact of the incident that just shocked us all.
Former Senior Police Inspector Rolando Mendoza was ready to die today and he made sure he will be remembered for eternity.#
Saturday, February 13, 2010
It's not that he doesn't want to, in fact every day is hearts day for this man. But on Valentines Day this Marine Officer wishes he could give his wife more than just kisses, flowers and chocolates.
What Major Stephen Cabanlet, a graduate of the Philippine Military Academy Class 96 wishes he could give her is the assurance of a longer and fuller life ahead and while he accepts that life is a gift from God that can just go away in a snap, he is hoping and praying that while he still can, he would do anything to add more years to the life of his beloved wife, Ella.
And by anything includes, this public appeal on behalf of his wife, 36 years old and mother of three still very young children.
In September 19 of 2009, Cabanlet’s wife was diagnosed with Acute Myelogenous Leukemia (AML), a condition that is described as a “cancer of the myeloid line of blood cells, characterized bya rapid growth of abnormal while blood cells that accumulate in the bone marrow and interfere in the production of normal blood cells.” AML is the most common acute leukemia affecting adults.
In the Philippines, many succumbed to the disease not being able to survive because of the costly procedure of chemotherapy.
“It was as unexpected as a typhoon in summer as she never had any signs that she was harboring these killer cells while doing service around the mountains of Cordillera with the mental health team from the hospital. It was a shock as she was very athletic, easy going and has a very positive outlook in life," Cabanlet told this reporter in an exclusive interview.
Ella has already undergone a series of chemotherapy, the first one in October last year, the most painful as she succumbed to sepsis and bleeding.
“I witnessed all of Ella’s strength zapped away by the drugs that supposed to kill the cancer cells. I was told that 80% of those who succumbed to sepsis and bleeding ended up dead but by God’s grace and mercy, she came out of it only after 10-days of being in and out of her wits” Cabanlet said.
The second cycle of chemotherapy yielded encouraging results and Ella got her determination back. The next treatment also yielded positive results that doctors said now she’s ready for Bone Marrow Transplant.
Mentally and emotionally, the promise of the procedure giving her the best chance to live longer revived all the determination and will-power in Ella to fight and survive. There’s one major obstacle though, the costly procedure, one that a soldier’s salary, a Major like him cannot afford: P4,208,100.00 to be exact, as quoted by the Head, blood and marrow transplant center of the St. Lukes Medical Center under Dr. Honorata G. Baylon, M.D.
“With her renewed and closer relationship to our Maker and the promise of the Bone Marrow Transplant she became more determined to fight back. I now hear her talk about the future again, “ Cabanlet said.
As a Marine Officer, Cabanlet survived many battles in Central and Southern Mindanao, against the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILG) but even his lessons in the Art of Warfare in the military academy did not prepare him for what he refers to as the real battle of his life--a battle for family, a battle for love.
Thus, from a soldier fighting for the love of his life, he airs this public appeal for anyone who wishes to help them financially in shouldering the costly procedure of Bone Marrow Transplant. “With all humility, I am making this appeal. Please help me keep the hope burning in my wife’s heart. I need your help. My phone numbers are: 09236505499 and 09088649468.”
Cabanlet’s devotion to his wife may not be the greatest love story ever told, but this one certainly touches the heart, for it is very real and true, selfless and unconditional love. (end)
Thursday, November 26, 2009
Before I share what's on my mind, let me first say something about the picture posted here. To those who are in the know, that's barrett sniper rifle and it's a long distance rifle that should only be in the hands of elite units in the Armed Forces or the Philippine National Police. Gun dealers refer to this kind as "exotic" firearms because of precision and sophistication. Sama na ang price tag siyempre.
The PNP's Special Action Forces procured several pieces of this kind for anti-terrorism purposes.
But guess what? The Ampatuans bought one like this and one powerful mayor in Southern Philippines knew this and I hope he confirms this information because the barrett model seen in this picture was first offered to him at a price of P1.2-million pesos. Namahalan si mayor. And gun dealers knew just where to offer it next, the one person in Mindanao who would not even ask for a discount on buying this kind of firearms.
Binili ang barrett sa halagang inalok, walang tawad-tawad, paid not in check---but in CASH!
Where did I get this story? Sa mga mismong nakakaalam ng transaksiyong naganap.
Now---aside from the "surrender" of Andal Ampatuan Jr. and the "arrest" of policemen involved in the carnage of 57 last Monday in Ampatuan town in Maguindanao---the other photos you'll probably see in all newspapers are the firearms surrendered or confiscated from the Civilian Auxiliary Forces in Maguindanao---all 357 firearms issued accounted for. Wala akong problema sa impormasyong iyon, di ko nga pagdududahan sa katunayan...eh kasi...tignan ang mga tipo ng baril na nakumpiska o isinuko ng mga civilian forces...di ba GARAND lang?
May nag-do-drawing na naman yata.
Now---this is what happens when media unites and when the constitutionally mandated role and function of media in a democratic society is attacked with total disregard and with the highest form of brutality and barbarism: WE DIG MORE. WE INQUIRE MORE. WE INVESTIGATE MORE. WE EXPOSE MORE.
If the intention was to cow the messengers, then the opposite was achieved.
The give justice to November 23-Maguindanao carnage victims --- civilians, lawyers and journalists --- is to continue unearthing everything that they have desperately concealed in the last few years.
Bigla---naalala ko muli si Lintang Bidol (Bedol)...asan na nga kaya siya?
May dapat kayang HUKAYIN kung nasaan na siya ngayon? O baka IBINAON na nga siya sa limot?
No doubt that Maguindanao carnage placed the country on the world map again---recognized for something that placed our ranking on top of Iraq as the most dangerous place on earth for journalists.
The massacre of 57 individuals, relatives of a political clan in the province of Maguindanao, their lawyers and supporters and journalists covering their intention to file for Certificate of Candidacy in next year's election exposed the ugly truth about the country's political system especially in a province like Maguindanao, where warlords are considered allies and partners of government for "peace" and "security". I qualified the statement...especially in Maguindanao because the other ugly truth here is that warlords do not only enjoy demi-god status in that part of the country, in every region, there exists one.
There were many inhuman acts that journalists like myself have witnessed in the last 20-years but nothing compared to this and this I say not because journalists are among those who were brutally killed with no reason at all! The very act itself is beyond any human comprehension. Minsan sa dami ng mga karahasang nakita ng isang mamamahayag, akala niya, hindi na siya magugulat pa. Akala lang pala namin...hanggang sa dumating ang araw na maging ang buong mundo ay nagulantang. Nangyayari pa pala ang ganito sa lugar na tulad ng Pilipinas? Teka, mali ang hanay ng salita: Puwede palang mangyari ang ganitong uri ng kahayupan sa lugar na tulad ng Pilipinas? Teka, ayusin uli natin ang kamada ng mga salita: Pinapayagan palang mangyari ang karumaldumal na krimeng tulad nito sa Pilipinas?
What was shattered in the Maguindanao incident is the very essence of law and order and of governance in this country. Hindi lang sa panahon ni Pangulong Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo nagsimula ang mga private armies at kalakaran ng warlordism sa bansa. Hindi lang ito kahapon nangyari. Dati na, meron na, marami pa.
Huwag na tayong maglokohan, hindi lang sa Maguindanao may private army ang mga pulitiko. Huwag na tayong lumayo, sa Kamaynilaan, meron din, ang tawag nga lang minsan, private security.
Kung sasabihin sa atin na nabuwag na ang armadong suporta ng mga Ampatuans---tignang mabuti ang mga ihaharap na mga armas na umanoy nakuha sa kanilang mga taga-sunod.
Alam na alam ng mga gun dealers kung anong mga uri ng armas ang naibenta nila sa mga Ampatuans at wala sa mga naibenta nila ang garand. Dati nang nasa Mindanao yan...please lang, do not insult our capacity to comprehend.
Kung sa presentasyon ng mga armas na nakumpiska---may nakita kayong mataas at makabagong uri ng armas na tulad ng nasa larawan---may chance na maniwala akong binubuwag na nga ang puwersa ng mga Ampatuans. Pero hanggang garand pa lang ang ipinapakita....walang maniniwala.
And while I'm at it...kung seryoso talaga ang pamahalaan na buwagin ang mga private armies---bakit kaya di tignan din ang mga malalaking personalidad na may koleksiyon na rin ng mga matataas na kalibre ng armas? Yan ay kung SERYOSO nga ha. Sabi ng isang retired general na kausap ko kanina, "(Blank) is the next big warlord in Mindanao...lalo na kapag nanalo...and no doubt he will win."
Papangalanan ko pa ba? Wag na, baka mabigwasan pa ako ng isang malakas na KALIWA.
The point here is, to fully salvage the shatterred credibility of governance and law enforcement in a place like Maguindanao, the reactionary campaign against private armies should not stop with the Ampatuans alone.
For years, the system of warlordism in this country has been tolerated, patronized and re-engineered and re-invigorated to conform and to comply with political agendas and interests.
Nakatingin na ang buong mundo. In this day and age, why are we allowing this kind of political patronage to exist?
After the condemnation, call for justice, what comes next?
Tignan na natin ang mas malaking larawan na naipamukha at nailantad ng naganap sa Maguindanao. Doon tayo tunay na makapagsisimula.
Monday, November 9, 2009
Every victim has a face. It is with deep pain that I share the picture of this man, respected and loved by many in an island province down South.
The one you see on this blog entry is that of Gabriel "Bong" Canizares, the school principal in Jolo, Sulu beheaded by the Abu Sayyaf Group.
When I arrived home this evening, it took me a while before I opened my computer to join the rest of the ON-LINE world.I did not open my Gmail account at once and instead stayed a few minutes on Facebook before opening my Gmail--and among the messages in my INBOX was from a staff in the Department of Education who e-mailed this picture. I remember inquiring about this, to DepED Secretary Jesli Lapus mid-morning but completely forgotten about it as I went on with my day's schedule.
When I saw his face--I thought he is someone I may have met in the past in the many years that I covered Sulu beginning in the early 90s. I made a mental note to ask my other friends in Sulu like Ed General, Ed Gambali...if he was among those whom we met in some coverage about consultation meetings related to a crisis in Sulu---usually---another case of kidnapping.
But even if he's a total stranger to me---to you---to all of us---the face here that smiles back at us in this picture gives us an idea on how he labored his time and effort in his profession as educator in Sulu.
Lapus in a statement said: The entire DepED family is shocked and grieves with the family of one of our best performing principals, Mr. Gabriel Canizares.A key catalyst in teacher trainings with Synergia in Sulu, he is a great loss to efforts to improve the quality of education of our children in the area. We condemn this heinous act committed against the people of ARMM. Violence creates more sufferings and sabotaging education by harming tachers will have dire consequences in the attainment of peace and progress."
The severed head of 36-year old school principal was recovered at a gas station in Jolo town at around 5 a.m., said Major David Hontiveros, spokesman of the Western Mindanao Command. Canizares was abducted by armed men suspected to be Abu Sayyaf bandits last October 19, eight days after Irish priest Michael Sinnot in Pagadian City last October 11 by armed men suspected to be allied with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
According to AFP spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Romeo Brawner Jr. Canizares’ case was “not a simple kidnap for ransom” incident."Prior to his (Canizares) kidnapping, marami ng threats sa buhay niya. And dun sa sasakyan, siya lang ang dinukot ng mga bandido (there have been a lot of threats to his life. He was the only one taken by the bandits in the vehicle)," Brawner said.
The people of Sulu are used to news of violence but this one shocked and angered many according to Jolo municipal mayor Hussin Amin. Who would not be?
It was reported that the non-payment of ransom amounting to P2-million pesos was the reason Canizares was beheaded. That maybe true as far as the parameters of the ASG or other bandits in the area is concerned. But having covered conflict related stories in Mindanao, Sulu in particular for nearly two-decades now--I did not take that reasoning pointblank.
The Philippine National Police too said in a statement that the beheading maybe linked with the arrest of a top MILF commander. The MILF as an organization has long been suspected of providing sanctuary to the ASG, something that they always deny and belie in media. You must have heard Ed Kabalu's statement about this a hundred times. The intelligence report gathered by the PNP about the arrest of an MILF commander and the beheading may also be true given the fact that the ASG has indeed sought protection in areas known to be lairs of the MNLF in the past.
But as I ponder the sad news about the beheading of Canizares---my mind brought me to another possible angle on this story. Just last week, I received an e-mail from a source in Sulu and with that email are attachments of pictures from the swearing in of some 2,000 Civilian Volunteers or CVOs in Sulu, all armed,ready to wage battle side by side with government troops anytime.
In Sulu, these CVOs have another name, unofficial, uttered in whispers:"private army."
They underwent rigorous training on the art of modern and jungle warfare and have been trained to use modern rifles--a bush rifle type, one source told me--a weapon that has yet to see action in the battled tested grounds of Sulu.
But how does one measure the performance of those 2,000 plus armed CVOs or auxiliary force when there's no on going and actual war happening to begin with?
Create one? Is this the answer here?
What incident would be condemnable enough to wage an active war in the field again?--Something like this one? The beheading of Canizares? ---I sure hope the answer is NO!Certainly NOT.
But then again...my mind took me again to another time---stories of the MAGIC-8, civilian forces armed figting side by side with government troops against the Moro National Liberation Front in the early 70s, of the burning of Jolo in 1973---a period referred to in history as Martial Rule.
And then there's this twin bombing again this morning adding to the other two last week in Metro Manila. Some dots connect---and I hope these "dots" do not.
In the meantime--let me set aside these thoughts that popped out of nowhere and instead end by adding my voice in honoring the man---this man,Gabriel "Bong" Canizares, for the service he extended to the students of Sulu.
When I was a hostage for 98-days in Sulu, at least two of those who guarded me begged me to teach them how to read using that old woman's magazine cover (MOD-old size) with Patricia Javier on the cover. When I was released on the morning of April 27, 2002---one of my guards, NOUPAL said, "Magsukol, Kaingatan na ako Magbasa." He said, thank you, I know now how to read.
This thing I knew as TRUTH: In the hearts of many youngsters in Sulu, many yearn for real education. Many of them believe that education is the way to free them from the pains of poverty, violence and discrimination.
We honor the memory of Gabriel "Bong: Canizares because he responded to the yearning of many and showed them that yes---education opens doors and that it is possible and not just something they imagine or dream of acquiring.
This face you see on this page lived a life that was meaningful and selfless in service of other, a true hero every Filipino can be proud of. (END)
Tuesday, November 3, 2009
Let me begin this piece by uttering the lines "Everything happens for a reason"---probably the most abused lines to describe or to justify an occurrence or a non-occurrence. But I cannot help but fall prey to these lines again for it is the law of nature--again, everything really happens for a reason--good or bad, there is always something that explains why it happened or did not happen.
As a first time producer of an independent film, my intention of course is to show the movie at once and showcase the final product, a result of a magical and unforgettable collaboration of hearts and minds of men and women involved in the making of this film. Our aim was to enter the film in different international film festivals and we did the rounds, inexperienced and with a vague idea on how things work in the world of independent films and international film festivals, we simply did what anybody else in the same shoes as ours would do: send entries, wait for the next big opportunity for the film to be noticed in one of the many international film festivals happening all year round in various parts of the world, one after the other, sometimes almost simultaneously. DHL must have made a "small fortune" from me if I would be counting the many entries that I sent.
Every time I would hear a report about a Filipino film being selected or having won in this and that award---I would be filled with joy and excitement for the recognition of a Filipino work of art. When the movie KINATAY won the top awards in this year's CANNES FILM FESTIVAL, I was among those who literally jumped with happiness and pride for I am part of the casts of the film, portraying the role of a reporter along with fellow journalist turned filmmaker Jim Libiran for a brief scene that establishes the kind of life the central character in the film, sees and confronts on his day to day existence.
But to be totally frank about it, while I was genuinely happy with that recognition, there was this nagging thought, restless question begging to be answered: Why was our film not selected? Why is it that no one seemed to be noticing the film we submitted even for exhibition purposes?
We have an award winning director in the person of Cesar Apolinario, a good friend of mine and a fellow journalist who is as passionate and as committed as I am and other journalists turned filmmakers too in translating the realities of life that we witnessed and experienced as journalists in the big screen via independent and small budgeted film productions; the script was very realistic and penned by someone who actually experienced life in that part of Tondo, Melchor Encabo; we have very competent casts of actors and actresses in our film led by the very talented and multi-awarded actor Mark Gil, the Mark Gil of Philippine Cinema; we have a gem in the person of our discovery and central character, Baby, portrayed by Barbie Forteza; the original music was handled by an Urian veteran;---I could go on listing plus factors about the film that only left me to ask that same question over and over again---why? Why does it seem that no one noticed our film?
And then last month, we were finally included as one of the exhibition films for the recently concluded Cinemanila Film Festival and it was there that I got the answers to my questions---in the company local viewers, in the perspective of fellow Filipinos who watched the films with us and voluntarily approached me and Melchor to share their views about the film, PUNTOD.
One comment came from Ms. Liza B. Martinez, Ph.D.Director of the Philippine Deaf Resource Center who said, "you guys had me fooled. I thought that your character Baby is really deaf!" --And then she encouraged us to present our film during the Deaf Awareness Month this November and the next thing I knew, there's this invitation for the exhibition of our film PUNTOD, described by the recognized authority in deaf related studies as "the most realistic portrayal" she has even seen in movies.
And then another unsolicited review, most welcomed and very much appreciated, from a member of the entertainment press, columnist Eric Borromeo who said, "it's not usual to end a movie on a sad note, but that's life, not all have happy endings, what happens is that we simply go on and move on after a seemingly insurmountable pain."
Actress Sheree who essayed the role of Sarah, told me, "Ate Arlyn, salamat po talaga sa pagpili ninyo sa akin ni Direk Cesar at ngayong nakita ko ang kabuuan, masasabi kong ito na ang pinakamakabuluhang pelikulang nagawa ko. Ipagmamalaki ko ang pelikulang ito."
And then there's this stranger, who shook my hand as she spoke to me, "please show this film commercially, it's a very powerful film. Akala mo tungkol lang sa isang pipi at bingi, pero ang totoo, tungkol sa kuwento nating mga Filipino na sa katagalan na ng panahon ng pagkukuwento ng kuwentong ito, ayaw na nating marinig at makita, dahil kinasanayan na natin, kahirapan, pagwawalang bahala, pang-aabuso sa kalikasan. You are depicting the story of many in one film. Sana mapanood ng mga gustong pamunuan tayo." She said a lot, she left me with a calling card and I realized we attracted someone from the academe to watch the film in wide screen, and the delight was strengthened by the fact that she's also teaching aspiring filmmakers.
And then it hit me. While we strive so much to have our film get noticed outside, in the international arena, the audience of the film is really inside the very shores where the movie is set----the Philippines, seen in the eyes of Filipinos looking at themselves, examining the horizon of the immediate future that awaits their decision or indecision, hoping for the one direction that would eventually affirm the dignity and the bravery of Filipinos.
In the movies, you would often hear this, "ang buhay ay parang pelikula", and as journalists and filmmakers, we say this with a twist, "ang pelikula ay parang totoong buhay nga!"---truth in journalism translated to films.
And just as I was convinced that the film is really meant for the local audience, I got a confirmation from organizers of an upcoming festival in San Fransisco, USA, that the film will be among those chosen for film-showing as exhibit films.
Then another surprise came---another international film festival, by invitation only---is asking for a trailer copy of the movie. No final decision yet but the mere fact that they asked for a copy spoke volumes on how thrilling this piece of news was---so thrilling and so exciting that I am still awake at this wee hour of the morning, exhaling and unloading my thoughts and emotions about the film PUNTOD.
Puntod or tomb symbolizes and end but in many ways, as we labored to promote this film in months, we were rewarded with the virtue and lessons learned of having to wait in line with patience, tired, wounded, but never giving up.
Everything happens for a reason I said at the beginning, and now all of us involved in this humble production are delighted in the opening of not just a window, but many doors for our film PUNTOD. (end)
Sunday, September 27, 2009
Nakatitiyak akong hindi ako nag-iisa sa ganitong karanasan. Marami ang sumailalim sa kakaibang damdamin at kalagayan kahapon. Yun bang makakatanggap ka ng text message na humihingi ng saklolo at tulong at gustong-gusto mo mang tumulong, wala kang magawa dahil sa ikaw ay nasa gitna din ng baha at sa hindi na gumagalaw na usad ng trapiko?
I felt so helpless...useless...I am certain many felt the same.
Halos mabiyak ang puso ko sa mga text messages na natanggap ko kahapon. Puputok na ang INBOX ng message ko sa cellular phone sa dami ng text messages. May nasasagot ako, may hindi.
I was worried. Two of my teams were deployed in the field. Yung una, pauwi na from Subic pero stranded na agad pagpasok pa lamang ng papalapit na sa Valenzuela sa NLEX. Yung isa, madaling araw umalis ---4:30 in the morning---umuulan na, pero signal number one lang sabi ng PAG-ASA...parang ambon-ambon pa lang nung madaling araw...lumarga ang team.
Ako naman---may maagang programa sa radyo sa RMN with DEP-ED Secretary Jesli Lapus. Naitakda ko pa nga that morning after the program yung first leg of interview ng mga cadet-reporters ng Net-25 with the secretary. Nauna na akong umalis, susunod sana ako sa Team 2 papuntang Anilao, Batangas. Si Secretary Jesli, naiwan pa sa RMN studio sa Guadalupe sa Makati. May kausap pang mga naghihintay sa kanya na humihingi ng tulong.
Di pa ako nag-almusal---kumain muna sa carenderia sa mismong Guadalupe Market na nasa ibaba. Wala pa ang baha, past 9:30 na. Mabilis akong kumain, saglit lang, sakay na sa service---then go---fly na.
Nang nasa daan na...parang malikmata lang, parang isang kurap lang, agad ang taas na ng tubig baha.
I dialed the land line at home and made sure the kids are okey. Thank God they were in good condition. Nakikinig ng radyo. Trained na ang mga anak ko, kapag may bagyo, AM radio dapat na tumutok. Sabi ng mga anak ko, "Be careful mom...bilisan mong lumampas sa baha, di ka marunong lumangoy!"
Sa hinaba-haba ng pagiging reporter ko, wala pa akong na-cover o nakita kaya na ganito kabilis na pag-akyat ng tubig baha. Ngayon din lang ako nakaranas na ako ay naipit sa baha, na ang dapat na isa sa mga naguulat---ayun at kasama sa mga naipit sa baha. Sa AM radio---marami sa mga kasama sa hanapbuhay ang ganun din ang kapalaran. Mabuti nga't nakapag-report pa sila.
Nagtatawag ako sa phone. Hindi rin matahimik ang phone ko. Isa sa mga tawag na di makalimutan, mula kay Richard na media officer ni Mayor Mon Ilagan ng Cainta, "Arlyn tulong, please, magtawag na kayo ng rubber boats, ang bilis tumaas ng tubig!!!" Tapos agad na nawala. Kasunod text na mula mismo kay Mayor Mon na dating reporter din at malapit na kaibigan. "Friend, tulungan ninyo kami, please."
Tumawag ako kasunod kay Senator Richard Gordon na siya ring Chairman ng Philippine National Red Cross. Busy ang linya niya pero nakalusot ako. "We are doing our best...we are doing our best," sabi ni Gordon. I know that he is really doing just that. Sanay sa disaster management si Gordon, pero sa boses niya, parang dun ko lang narinig sa kanya ang himig na parang wala siyang magawa kahit ano pang pagsisikap niya.
Isa pang text message, mula naman kay Lani na stranded sa Valenzuela, "Ate, rescue...kawawa kami, lalo na mga kasama ko, nakakaawa."
Isa pang text...mula kay Roel naman, " Hindi na kami gumagalaw dito, ano na ba ang nangyayari sa Metro Manila ateng?"
At maya-maya---isang tawag pa sa cellular ko na siya nang tuluyang nagpatulo ng luha ko. "Ate, I am so scared. Please help me. Ngayon lang nangyari sa subdivision namin ito. Tapos naalala ko si Mama, wala ang mga kapatid ko, yung kasama ko sa bahay, inanod ng baha....I am so scared. Wala bang rubber boat? Please keep on calling me ate..."
The person on the other line calls me ate, or older sister. But he's not really my brother in real life. "Ate" is his term of endearment, a mark of our many years of friendship. Parang kapatid ko na siya, sa madaling salita. Kay Joee Guilas galing ang tawag na nagpatulo ng aking luha. " I love you ate..."
"I love you too," I said, "huwag kang mawawalan ng pag-asa, pray ka ha. Pray and remind yourself that you are strong," yun ang sinabi ko, pilit na pinalalakas ang loob niya, sa kabila ng garalgal ko na ring tinig.
Ilan ang kuwentong ganito ang takbo kahapon? Lahat ng tulong gustong ibigay, lahat na kinalampag, binulabog pero walang halos galawan. May mga gumalaw man, di nakararing, ang iba, sila pa nga ang mismong nadisgrasya rin.
Maraming kuwento ang ganito----nangyari sa nakalipas na mahigit na 36 oras mula nang humagupit si Ondoy.
Hanggang ngayon---hindi napuputol ang kuwento ng mga paghihirap na dinaanan ng marami.
Patuloy na tumataas ang bilang ng mga kumpirmadong namatay dahil sa mabigat at napakaraming buhos ng ulang taglay ni Ondoy. Mas marami pa kumpara sa typhoon Katrina, sabi pa ng PAG-ASA at ng NDCC.
Habang nadaragdagan ang mga kuwento ng pinsala at pighati dahil sa iniwang latay ni Ondoy----hindi ko malimutan ang maikling palakpakan na nakita sa briefing ng National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC) sa Kampo Aguinaldo kasama ng pangulo at ang mga miyembro ng gabinete.
Ang aga nilang magsabi na naging maagap sila sa pagtugon, na naging mas mabilis pa sila sa responde kumpara sa nangyari sa typhoon Katrina na humagupit sa Estados Unidos....na in not so many words, "mas magaling sila, mas handa sila, mas tama ang ginawa nila." Palakpakan--yehey!!!
Sana nag-briefing na lang sila ng normal.
Sana nagbigay na lang sila ng datos.
Sana yung kung anong tulong na lang ang ibinigay o ibibigay pa at aasahan ang sinaysay.
Hindi yung ah mas mabilis sila, ah mas handa sila...SABI NILA.
Dahil habang tumatambad ang kabuuang pinsala na iniwan ni Ondoy. Lalong lumilinaw ang tunay na kuwento. Hindi napaghandaan ang bagyong ito.
Nang araw na ibinuhos ni ONDOY ang lahat-lahat --- marami ang nagulantang. Kalikasan ang nagsalita. Mahaba pa ang itatakbo ng kuwentong ito. Pero please lang----wag nang sabihin pa ng mga namumuno na ang bagyong ito---ang pagdating ni Ondoy ay pinaghandaan. That is not clearly the story here.
Pero hindi rin ito ang panahon ng sisihan. Ang punto lang ay wag sabihin ang di naman ginawa dahil lang sa gustong pagtakpan ang kakulangan.
Tandaan natin ang lupit ni Ondoy na naiwan sa atin.
But let us not forget how Ondoy made heroes amongst us.
Ang kahinaan at kawalan ng magagawa ng marami ang siyang nagpalakas naman ng loob ng mas marami.