We may be acutely aware of the damage in terms of missing workmates, chic bosses who show up at the office in shorts and slippers because they lost “everything”, postponed events, or sources who cancel interviews because they have to tend to their damaged homes or missing families.
We can also be aware of the extent of the disaster in how we gave away clothes and food to relief centers and taking part (or at least, seeing) various relief efforts that take place within our workplaces or communities.
I go out to lunch at my office’s neighboring building and I always pass by army trucks filled with McDonald’s buns (with a corresponding tarpaulin announcing where the goodies are from. Way to go, Ronald.), boxes of medicines, orange-clad volunteers, or small plastic bags filled with food and clothes – the basic necessities.
I’m sure almost everyone has a story to tell about how the typhoon affected their lives in some way.
What struck me most, however, were the disparities.
We volunteered to set up a donations collection point at the Army Gym the evening the storm hit and distributed fliers to army communities, asking them to donate whatever they could. Of course, there were doors slammed in our faces and endless hours of waiting for boxes that didn’t come.
As hundreds of text messages came in about distress calls and families who haven’t eaten still stuck on the roofs of their homes, asking me to relay this to media, people were playing golf at Camp Aguinaldo.
While people were out there risking life and limb to rescue stranded individuals or improvising rescue methods with surfboards and whatnot, people were partying and getting drunk.
While their constituents were suffering, we heard of midnight deals letting a certain government official off the hook from her graft case, 2010 candidates going on meetings to clinch political support from their would-be enemies, and a President rushing off to Mindanao to inaugurate a private guest house.
Basically, there were places where life went on as usual, as if half of the city weren’t submerged in muck, as if there weren’t people dying or getting injured, as if babies weren’t dying in their parents’ arms or diabetics slipping into comas, and as if there weren’t people who went sleepless, trying to help those in need.
Maybe they’re not consciously trying to turn a deaf ear to the clamor in the media for help and saviors. Maybe they deal with the tragedy by tuning it out. Maybe they’re simply apathetic, or have different priorities in life.
This is always a problem, in rallying people to a cause. There are bound to be people who don’t do anything – even just in their own communities (the “in your own little way” thing) or addressing higher systemic issues.
We can’t judge or fathom why, and we can’t expect them always to put their lives on hold and consider the lives of others.
But you hope at least, sometime soon, these people get a wake-up call. Maybe if their houses were destroyed too, if their lives were at risk, if their creature comforts were on the line – they’d know that life, sometimes, doesn’t go on as usual – and shouldn’t.
HOW YOU CAN HELP TYPHOON ONDOY VICTIMS. Creative SPAM food, why not? Click here.
Photos from YouTube.