What the press says about us
Long term... the column of JT Gonzales
Every day response system
LOOKING ASKANCE By Joseph T. Gonzales (The Freeman) | Updated October 20, 2013 - 12:00am
It's very easy, when a tragedy strikes, to forget everything else and focus on the immediate.When the rumbling earthquake hit Bohol and Cebu, toppling churches and splitting sidewalks, all I could think of were my friends. Were they in danger? Did anything happen to them? What could I do to help, if at all?
Social media helped both to convey immediate information as well as a sense of the scale. At first, the reactions were personal. By their posts, the Cebuanos were afraid. They were cursing and in shock. But they were not injured, or worse, dying.
They were sharing their experiences, as usual with that unquenchable Filipino humor, posting their stories about how never would they ever sleep in their underwear again, or how they got a split lip from colliding with the door in the haste with which they ran from their beds. There were pictures of cracks in doors, of broken glass, of blood on their foreheads (but with a big smile). After all, they survived.
After the personal, came the sense of community. The inquiries became, what's become of the rest of the world? How did our edifices fare? When the news came trickling in, minute by agonizing minute, of churches and national treasures that had been reduced to rubble, the dismay was palpable, a collective horrified groan uttered. Then came the calls for preservation, how to avoid looting, to be vigilant in protecting.
News from Bohol came much more slowly. They were more isolated, and had less developed info networks. But the loss of lives and damage turned out to be more severe in that island, and Cebuano institutions came forward, with businesses like Islands Souvenirs and University of Cebu marching in to deploy their troops, resources and networks.Which is all well and good.
But this tragedy, because of the instantaneous impact it has had in our lives, might make us forget the daily problems surrounding us. There are the poor, who still needs jobs and food and clothing and shelter. There are the children, who still need safe spaces to play in, educational opportunities to thrive in, and good role models to follow.
There's still the corrupt politicians and the pork barrel system, for crying out loud, who are probably responsible for the crappy disaster response system that we have, that we should not forget. (If you think about it, how many helicopters and spanking new hospitals with modern equipment could we have had in place now if not for the corruption that bled those resources away?)
So we could pour cash and sardines and toilet paper out, and join drives and missions. But hopefully, we keep at the back of our minds that after all these, when we have the roads repaired and the houses restored, when the aftershocks fade away and people sleep safely in their beds without fear of being crushed to death, that there's more to tackle out there. That reality hasn't gone away, that the crushing burden most Filipinos face are still ever present.
For example, there are still foundations out there like Little Bamboo Foundation, a private NGO providing a day care center for impoverished pre-schoolers in the heart of Cebu's poor, that still needs constant infusions to sustain the daily needs of beautiful souls with heartwarming smiles. (And yes, it's not a conduit for pork barrel money.)
So while that heartwarming generosity of spirit is still flush in our systems, let's make sure it wasn't just adrenaline fed, a knee-jerk reaction to a crisis, or a hasty thank you to the gods for allowing us to survive. Hopefully, all that beautiful sense of community doesn't fade, but actually becomes ingrained in our system and is sustained.
The children and their issues and their poverty don't go away and disappear. And neither should we.