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What did we learn from Ondoy, one year hence?
While the rest of us forgets, our blogger remembers it clearly, and learns that: dogs float, the transistor radio is king, calamities simply skim off our cultural radar.
Published on: Sep 20, 2010 - 9:22am

We Pinoys don't seem to be so good at remembering. Especially when it comes to calamities. Sure, it's understandable: we celebrate Christmas like sailors on malt liquor and meth. But volcanic eruptions, floods, earthquakes, and fires, we're not too nuts about recollecting. And why should we, right? What's the use of evoking the images of ugliness past?

It's a few days before the first anniversary of what seemed like the worst--next to the Arroyo presidency--disaster to hit us in recent memory. But, with the exception of a few Pasig and Marikina residents who plan on a symbolic tree-planting along the riverbanks, we don't really have much going in terms of remembering Ondoy. I think we should. Doing so shows how cognizant we are of the devastation and what it truly means--or at least we think, but that's better than going on as if nothing happened. To remember means to accept that things will never be the same again, that changes must be made about the way we live our lives. I remember, and here's what I learned:

Government can't save you. It's not that the people in government are bad or incompetent. Maybe they're just too busy saving other people elsewhere. That's right. They must be saving someone else. Just not you. The sooner you accept this, the easier life will be.

But friends will rush to your aid. And all it takes is just one text message, just before the phone lines get messed up. Some of them--like Gang Badoy--are brilliant enough to know that after the clean, dry clothes, and hot tower, people are going to want a BIG drink. I.e. a liter of Scotch whisky, several boxes of beer, and enough cigarettes to send Noynoy Aquino to an early grave. Throw in a nice packet of sleeping pills and sedatives and you've got a nice, dry, little party inside your head--and everyone's invited. Friends like Leni will bring a large platter of her husband Wilbert's special caldereta. Goo-goo will cook a tray of adobo (so good your other visitors will want to partake of it, too). Erwin Romulo will wisely offer a wallet-ful of documentary DVDs (which you can't really watch till the electricity comes back).

There is nothing like alcohol to help deal with the absurd. You've carried everything--important furniture and appliances and pets--to safety. Now you're in a state of relative protection and dryness. You wait for the water to subside. You wait. And wait. And wait. There is much water outside, but you are thirsty. What's a man to do? Tranquilizers and anti-depressants don't count as they completely distort your sensory perceptions and impair your motor skills, which you'll need when the ugly part comes: cleaning up shit the day after.

Transistor radio is king. In times of crisis, it laughs in the face of your iPhone, iPod, iPad, and all the other overpriced i's that Steve Jobs could ever think of. All you need is a pair of AA batteries. Now, pray that there are enough supplies at 7-Eleven.

Be thankful for what you still have. You can bitch about that busted Mac laptop, that new flat screen TV, those shelves and shelves of antique books, those shoes, old photographs from childhood, that car. But at least you still have a house. And that you're still alive. At least you're not balancing on detritus sweeping away on the Marikina River. At least you don't have to fall in line for clean water. At least you have money for clean water. I could recite an entire litany of personal woes--but mostly they're nothing a mechanic, a carpenter, and a trip to the mall couldn't fix (except maybe for rare vinyl LPs and books the sight of which is enough to make a grown nerd cry). Compared to the residents of Provident Village, Pasig, and Rizal, what happened to Bignay St. in Project 2, Quezon City was a picnic.

Pets can float. Dogs, in fact, are better swimmers than all of us. I don't really know about cats. Maybe their Imperial Highnesses can take care of themselves. But why would you want to wait for such situation to happen? Transfer Bantay and Muning to higher ground at the first threat of flooding. Well, Muning can take care of herself, with her fierce sense of independence and her nine lives.

We never really learn our lesson. They say it's a coping mechanism. That our refusal to seriously commit anything to memory is a way of avoiding pain. This, we're really good at especially when we whip out our secret weapon: gallows humor, or comedy that makes light of death and other morbidly serious matters. Makes sense, but does little to stop the same anguish from ever happening again. Calamities and harrowing incidents seem to simply skim off our cultural radar. After a couple of months, they just float away into a distant haze. Even our literature--whatever that means--does not really provide significant documentation on natural disasters (maybe even man-made). That's because most of our novels and short stories have are populated by sad middle-class characters in graduate-school writing programs. We're a land of typhoons, but being concerned with the weather doesn't really seem to be part of our culture. Sure, we have weather reports on the primetime news. But do you think people really understand Kim Atienza? Or do you think people just wait for him to show another exotic animal? PAGASA has expressed intention to reconsider the technical, if occult, terms it uses for forecasting (whether English or Filipino), which sounds as if they never changed since the days of Amado Pineda. Ah, PAGASA, whom the president will blame for inaccurate weather predictions. But that's like yelling at the maid over how filthy your house is without even giving her a broom. Who cares about a clean government, the respect for human rights, social justice and all that crap if everything can be wiped out by just one big-ass rainfall?


This is a Crazy Planets is available in newsstands, bookstores and supermarkets nationwide for only P195. For more information, click here.

Artwork by Warren Espejo.

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  • dosapatidotcom
    Excellent Words Onyok
    Nov 26 2012 @ 02:42am     Reply  
  • nhalauxehoi
    Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People?
    Sep 28 2012 @ 05:22pm     Reply  
  • Ondoy Victim
    Nice reminder Lourd!
    Aug 08 2012 @ 12:46pm     Reply  
  • nhalauxehoi
    Who cares indeed? Bravo Lourd, you help us never to forget.
    Mar 09 2012 @ 03:24pm     Reply  
  • dich vu seo
    Tks i'm dich vu seo , im from ca , heard from you !
    Feb 23 2012 @ 11:05am     Reply  
  • jani
    great writing & thumbs-up on the humour.rnanywhere else can we read about the mullings of the author?rnam an instant FAN!!!!
    Feb 08 2011 @ 06:03pm     Reply  
  • Tj Suarez
    I agree on the last part. We never really learn our lessons.
    Sep 26 2010 @ 05:47pm     Reply  
    That our refusal to seriously commit anything to memory is a way of avoiding pain. rnExcellent information here cause in my language, there are not much good source like this. This interesting post made me smile. Maybe if you throw in a couple of pictures it will make the whole thing more interesting. rnsim so dep rntim viec rnchup hinh rndich vu seorn
    Sep 25 2010 @ 12:02pm     Reply  
  • MongPanot
    Basahin ninyo yung column ni Rigoberto Tiglao sa Phil.Daily Inquirer ngayon.It explains kung bakit ganoon tayo ngayon...
    Sep 23 2010 @ 09:14pm     Reply  
  • lelong
    Siguro selective anmesia lang mga pre. Lagi nating inaalala lalo na ang mga matatanda, kung paano ang buhay noon, kung gaano tayo katanyag sa southeast asia dahil sa maunlad nating estado noon. Para na nga tayong baliw eh, we keep on insisting we are still great by citing example from the past that's long gone, and it creates false pride. Iba ng ang issue ngayon, sa totoo lang laos na tayong bansa and unless we accept that fact, there will be no change of some sort. And this same attitude is the reason why we selectively forget the bad things that happen recently like ondoy. we selectively forget kaya hindi natutugunan yung mga bagay na ganyan.
    Sep 23 2010 @ 02:21pm     Reply  
  • marcky
    hindi naman nakakalimot ang lahat. may mga kilala akong nagpaayos ng mga bahay nila para maging "Ondoy-proof". kami sa bahay, laging may stock ng sardinas, maling at baterya para sa mga ganyang krisis. kayo talaga, laging sinasabing "ang mga Pinoy talaga, di na natuto/ang bilis lumimot/etc" sana wag mag-generalize.
    Sep 22 2010 @ 11:53am     Reply  
  • Alopecia
    @ Suzy Santos,..kabayan tama ka ibang bagyo ang dala ng bagong administrasyon. Hay,wala pa halos 100 araw si P-Noy grabeng kontrobersiya na ang hinarap ng kanyang administrasyon.rnMahaba pa ang lalakbayi n ng kasalukuyang administrasyon.Pero sana lahat ng bagyo ay makayanan natin at huwag nating makalimutan ang aral na dapat nating matutunan. Katulad sa Hong Thai Hostage Taking. rnrnTo quote Arnold Clavio: Lord,ikaw na po ang bahala.
    Sep 22 2010 @ 05:30am     Reply  
  • Suzy Santos
    HEY, hindi kayo nag-iisa. Sa New York binagyo na rin, umpisa pa lang nitong taon...di pa naman binaha pero nagkandabagsakan din mga kahoy sa mga kotse, nawalan ng metro ilang oras, at nag brown out sa ibang lugar ng NEW YORK! o ha, First World yan kuno, pero nung nag KATRINA nga eh, wala din silang nagawa, lalo na si Dubya BUSH! Kaya, bangon Pilipinas, ganyan talaga ang buhay - kada taon - may anim na buwan ng bagyo at disaster, bukod dun sa mga man-made disaster na dala ng bagon administrasyon. And that's another story!
    Sep 21 2010 @ 01:13pm     Reply   Hide replies
    • Jesuswasablackman
      But the US has FEMA, the Marines and other organizations that can be mobilized at short notice for immediate disaster relief. In New York, floods are practically nonexistent because of the spacious sewer systems that make for excellent drainage (not to mention a "home" for the likes of ninja turtles and killer crocs) Besides that, newsworthy calamities like Katrina do not come on an annual basis, unlike back home. Most of all, the US has four - I emphasize, FOUR - seasons to choose from, while we over in "Hell" have two - blistering heat and intolerable rain.
      Aug 08 2012 @ 12:11pm     Reply  
  • Matiisin
    Minsan, ang paglimot ay biyaya. Pero, hindi ibig sabihin no'n ay hindi na tayo natuto.Ako, katulad ng napakaraming Pilipino ay natutong mas pahalagahan ang buhay, pamilya, kalikasan, at pananampalataya.
    Sep 21 2010 @ 01:06am     Reply  
  • kapitan29
    Nakakalungkot lang talaga. Tayong mga pinoy hindi nagtatanda. Tingnan nyo si Imelda at ang mga Marcoses, di ba matapos silang isumpa ng mga Pilipino sa EDSA noong 1986, ngayon, balik sila sa pwesto. At hindi malayong sa sususnod e maging presidente na naman ang isa sa kanila.rnrnSa Ondoy at sa mga kalamidad na nagdaan, ano na ba ang naging paghahanda na ng mga tao at ng gobyerno para kung sakaling dum,ating na naman ang ganitong kalamidad e handa tayo. Ayon, dating gawi, Sa bawat buka ng bibig ng bawat isa, may katapat na batikos. Pero wala namang nagagawang maganda. Puro gradstanding lang.rnrnHay, tayong mga pinoy!
    Sep 20 2010 @ 04:54pm     Reply  
  • Jaykee
    We pinoys are experts in "moving on" or bahala na, pwede na yan basta walang hassle or kalimutan na natin yan inom nalang tayo...rnSobrang showbiz na ata government natin kaya kung ano ang uso dun sila.rnIt's just sooooooo disappointing. rnrnWhat I learned from Ondoy is LOVE YOUR NEIGHBORS... In times of calamities kayo-kayong mga magkakapitbahay ang magtutulungan.rnrn
    Sep 20 2010 @ 02:18pm     Reply  
  • Gou
    Lourd, verily, the burning house sutra is the only workable MV in this world:)
    Sep 20 2010 @ 02:15pm     Reply  
  • Inah
    Hello. Imelda + the Marcoses, ZTE, Ampatuan, Alexis Tioseco atbp.! Kinakalimutan lang natin lahat.
    Sep 20 2010 @ 01:39pm     Reply  
  • Mina
    @Inah,..tama! hindi ko nga lng ma-classify if it's a good thing or a bad thing for us Pinoy's or pwede rin na defense mechanism lng ng Pinoy's yun~
    Sep 20 2010 @ 01:35pm     Reply  
  • Inah
    we're bad at remembering bec we'd rather forget. Imbis na dealing eith it, kalimutan na lang. NapakaPinoy hindi ba?
    Sep 20 2010 @ 01:19pm     Reply  
  • Mina
    Yeah, i definitely agree that "We Pinoys don't seem to be so good at remembering." sad,but sometimes it's true. rnLike the Ondoy, i can't believe it's almost a year ago.indeed times flies very quick~
    Sep 20 2010 @ 01:17pm     Reply  
  • Aya
    Ang napakaliit na Bignay St. at ang videoke nina Ava na hindi namamatay pagkatapos bagyuhin (hindi nga pala kami inabot ng baha... pero paglabas namin ng gate, lubog ang dulo ng Bignay. Nasa gitna kami. 'Yung brown na bubong na lang ang nakikita namin...) at ang 7-11 na brownout 'din. May mga natumba mang sanga ng mga punong mangga, wala namang nasaktan. Buhay pa nga ang mga aso sa kalye natin hanggang ngayon.
    Sep 20 2010 @ 12:52pm     Reply  
  • Onyok
    Who cares indeed? Bravo Lourd, you help us never to forget.
    Sep 20 2010 @ 12:40pm     Reply  
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