Landslides and floods due to strong winds and heavy rains are usual occurence during typhoons late part of every year. A couple of years ago, Typhoons Rolly and Ulysses, in succession, brought incomparable destruction to lives and properties in Catanduanes and other Bicol provinces. After visits of local officials to disaster victims and prominent political figures in planes hovering above and bringing down cash donations with accompanying press photographers, when will homelessness be left unattended for months after tyohoons?
While Local Government Units have lessened the burden on immediate needs with help from the national government coupled with humanitarian missions of civic organizations, more pressing concern is how poor and ordinary families whose residential houses were demolished by natural calamities can find a roof to sleep the soonest time possible.
Living with rationed food for months with barest protection from the heat of the sun and coldness of the night lessens the dignity of a man. A lady reporter who handles research and delivers every thirty - minute newscast in a local radio station has nowhere to reside with her family in Barangay Capilihan, Virac after strong winds and heavy rains razed their house to the ground.
The newsreader, her kid and parents live under tarpaulin- roofed vacant lot with all amenities missing except assistance from kind- hearted and generous citizens whose help in the form of food and water keeps pouring.
Local officials come for visits and inspections with retinue of photo- journalists but how long will immediate remedy to living with extreme discomfort come after typhoons? There are also varied tales of human interest in rural settings and conquest worth emulating like preparedness against perceived tragedy to at least mitigate damages and lessons learned from the non- comformists or those who leave things happen only to blame themselves afterwards.
In Barangay Lictin in the suburb of San Andres poblacion a day before the tragic event, Mang Hulyo, a retired government employee, was busy filling sacks with sand to add weight and strength to the roof of his house with bamboo poles placed above and ropes on opposite ends tied to permanent fixture on the ground.
This traditional and time-honored typhoon guard was taken for a ride by neighbors in comparatively well- built abode, stable and strong, as they thought, to withstand heavy rains and strong winds. In the middle of the night as Rolly ravaged the community, the old man’s neighbors took turns in knocking on his door and seeking shelter in his modest house which stood still and was barely affected contrary to expectations of many who were eventually humbled after their own houses were blown to pieces.
In Barangay Tominawog of the same town, Municipal Postman Simon Manlangit, his wife and young son, anticipating the rise of water as usual occurences during storms, abandoned their house in the middle of a ricefield and barely survived after walking through a dangerously flooded way to his parent’s residence a kilometer away.
As the storm calmed down the day after, the municipal letter carrier hastily returned home and saw traces of boots on muddy path, evidence to the intrusion of thieves in his property who took away valuables and spared the barest minimum. Hundreds of lesser mortals suffered similar fate not of their own making and common to many Catandunganons are blown away homes that left them no choice but bear extreme discomfort of days and nights of living in makeshift houses without amenities except kindness of fellow beings giving food and other needs.
Where do local government units and the town and provincial leaders customarily called “Ama or Father” of a place come in to fulfill their binding in law and conscience roles to serve members of their political families? Vivid example of helplessness are residents of Barangays Alibuag and Datag in San Andres where no house and any structure was left standing after Rolly and Ulysses ravaged the Happy Island.
Local Planning and Development Councils chaired by chief executives should be enlightened of their basic roles or gain the notorious image of the same body together with the so- called Rehabilitation Committee which up to recent times have left residents in evacuation centers many years after the war between government troops and terror- driven groups killed many and destroyed Marawi City.
Worthy of recognition is the Building Back Better project of the Diocese of Virac designed to help typhoon victims construct reinforced concrete houses but how can occupants of structures anywhere feel safe with Governor Joseph Cua saying that he personally witnessed a 40- footer container van loaded with materials blown by Rolly’s winds up over a perimeter fence and landed some 100 meters away?
Sadly, many heads of government agencies and instrumentalities rather than showing competence and empathy to typhoon victims are bringing more frustrations to the people they are tasked to serve and protect.