DAVAO CITY, Philippines — Yesterday, I woke up from a deep slumber, reinvigorated for the series of holiday parties lined up for the days ahead. As per routine, I rolled over to the left side of my bed to where my laptop was, and clicked on Yahoo PH’s current events. I couldn’t believe my eyes: “Storm floods in south Philippines kills 200” (update: total number of deaths is now at 437). It was the shortest headline that sent shivers down my spine. The southern Philippine cities of Cagayan De Oro and Iligan were being swallowed by a tropical storm so severe that Mindanao has never seen anything like it in the last 25 years.
Just a couple of months ago, my own beloved city of Davao went through a similar ordeal which made national headlines. Body count: 25, injuries: hundred, collateral damage: millions of pesos. That event was particularly close to home, literally, as the houses severely ravaged by flooding were a mere 10 minute walk from our own house. That should’ve been a wake-up call, but for some reason, I never took it to heart. After the frenzy has died down, I went my own usual merry way and never took a look back. It is both embarrassing, and disturbing. I guess, life as we now know it, has a way of making people jaded to the screaming realities of calamity and devastation. Our world has become so engulfed in negativity, we don’t even bat an eyelash to crimes and disasters that have become facts of our existence. Sometimes, even to the point of rendering us incapable of feeling empathy, which is the most unfortunate of all.
Speaking on that note, it surprises me how little posts there are on my Facebook news feed regarding the Cagayan de Oro disaster. Most people seem to be oblivious to the situation at hand, still going on and on about what they’re eating, where they’re going or what they’re buying, and who they’re fucking (or not fucking). Newsflash: The world isn’t just about you.
I do not intend to lecture here for I know how difficult it is to keep our priorities straight in a world where sex scandals or the latest iPhone releases are counted as top billing. So I apologize if I am coming on too harshly. But let us not forget that it is our responsibility as Filipinos, and as humans, to not lose sight of our humanity. When empathy is lost, all is lost.
Tsunamis, typhoons and hurricanes can destroy towns, cities, and even countries — yes. At the rate our earth is deteriorating, devastation of varying degrees is inevitable, but when people lock arms and join together to rebuild the devastation, that is when miracles start to happen. Because the fact is, humans have always had a way of adapting to the trying forces of nature, that is, if we don’t lose our humanity in the process. To borrow an excerpt from William Ernest Henley’s ‘Invictus,’ we are the masters of our fate, we are the captains of our souls.
*photo via skyscrapercity