Tragedies bring out the best and, unfortunately, also the worst, in people.
The series of earthquakes in Mindanao, heavily affecting Regions XI and XII, has proven this, yet again, to be true.
The humanitarian crisis that the calamity has caused is tremendous. Data from the Department of Social Welfare and Development, which is still being updated, shows that, as of November 2, 2019, THIRTY FIVE THOUSAND SIX HUNDRED SIXTY ONE (35,661) FAMILIES have been affected in both regions with TWENTY THOUSAND NINE HUNDRED FORTY NINE (20,949) HOUSES have been TOTALLY DAMAGED.
All over social media, there are pictures of people along the road in the most heavily affected area holding up signs asking for food and water. Evacuation centers are badly in need of plastic sheeting materials for temporary shelters, as well as hygiene facilities like portable toilets and running water, for the displaced families.
The pictures have reminded me of similar scenes in Central Luzon right after the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo in June of 1991, in Leyte and nearby provinces after Typhoon Yolanda hit in November of 2013, as well as other natural disasters over the years.
As it was then and as it is now, the human tragedy spurred not only the government and established aid organizations, but even private groups, civic organizations and individuals, into action to help our affected countrymen.
For example, right after the last strong earthquake last Thursday, October 31, 2019, local groups in Davao City, as well as national organizations and private individuals immediately organized relief efforts.
My own Tau Mu Fraternity and Sigma Tau Mu Sorority immediately gathered relief goods, initially for our affected brods and sis, but later for as many affected families as could be helped. I know for a fact that the local Ateneo de Davao Chapter of the Lex Talionis Fraternitas, Lakas Atenista and various Freemasonry lodges have also been organizing relief efforts. So many other groups and individuals have been acting in pursuit of a common goal, to come to the aid of our fellow Filipinos.
Even the Facebook chat groups of my batches in high school and college have been abuzz with organizing similar missions and I’m sure, all other Ateneo de Davao batches have risen to the call of being men and women for others.
In the midst of tragedy, the utter beauty of the spirit of compassion and love for those in need, coming spontaneously from the most unexpected sources can certainly bring tears to one’s eyes.
Unfortunately, the other side of the coin had to rear its ugly head. In the face of the cries and wails of the earthquake victims, many of whom have lost all that they had in the world, some people just could not stop themselves from sprinkling salt on the wounds of the suffering by calling the tragedy an act of divine retribution as if it was their fault that the earthquakes came.
I simply cannot understand what kind of hate must live in the hearts of such persons that would enable them not just to ignore the physical and emotional turmoil that the victims are suffering but to even aggravate it. And for what, just because of differing political views?
This is not about politics, hindi pula’t dilaw ang naglalaban, nor is it about regional rivalries between and among Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao. Far from it, this is about fellow Filipinos who have suffered a natural calamity and who are badly in need of help.
You can criticize the President or the administration all you want, that is your right as a free citizen but to add insult to the great injury suffered by your fellow man is just that, INHUMAN.
Help for the affected victims of Mindanao has come from people and organizations in Luzon and Visayas and, in behalf of the people of Mindanao, I would like to express our gratitude. Countless groups and individuals have sent donations and relief goods and materials from all over the country. May the Almighty bless you for your kindness.
To those who cannot bridle the hate in their hearts, I do not wish to answer hate with hate. I would only respond as many of our brothers and sisters in Mindanao would say “As-Salaam-Alaikum”…… “Peace Be Upon You”…… you certainly need it.