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This is the blog of Ian Rosales Casocot. Filipino writer. Sometime academic. Former backpacker. Twink bait. Hamster lover.

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Wednesday, September 30, 2009

entry arrow11:05 PM | Things We Ask in the Aftermath

Let’s take a little break from our excursion—historically and sociologically—on the Dumaguete night life. It would not have been right if I had devoted this space to something so utterly banal in the context of our suddenly grief-stricken lives. I just cannot bring myself to write further about the topic for now. Not now. Not when too many people—many of them our friends and families—suffer from the rash onset and then the sad and deadly aftermath of Ondoy’s wrath.

But then again, I must also wonder: what else can I say or write? No words can equal the depths of their sufferings or the heights of our sympathies. No words from those of us who are miles removed from the epicenter of woe, mere bystanders to the tragedy, can even attempt to console the ones who were there. I beheld only the horrors from across the divide, through my TV and computer screens. To attempt to say anything runs the risk of sounding out empty words. We can only offer prayers and the generosity of our donations. But to experience the horror and live to talk about it?

“The water was waist deep in Anonas,” my best friend Mark Fabillar told me over chat in Facebook. He had just gotten out of work, and soon found himself battling the increasing levels of water. It was a taste of the Metro he was not prepared for. He had just transplanted himself in Manila after years of relative safety in Dumaguete—he had never seen flood waters that high. “Can you imagine the garbage, the feces, the slicks of oil that were gurgling all around me?” he said. He told me to imagine the smell. He told me to imagine the sheer horror of having to go against the current.

And that was all I could do: imagine.

And to think Mark was one of the luckier ones. He managed to get home in Quezon City safely, where the house he shares with film director Jay Altarejos was blessedly perched on higher grounds. In Marikina and in nearby Rizal province, and in many other places around the Metro, others were not so lucky. The deluge claimed lives and upended the eternal divide between the social classes. As of this writing, the casualties number now above the 200 mark—but the rest of the affected ones, the ones who have been uprooted from their homes, nay, their lives, number in the high thousands.

And, as often the case with things like this, we turn inwards and ask ourselves whatever led to these things happening. The writer/artist Elbert Or emailed me today, and this is what he partly wrote:

But no one is telling me what I really want to know: Why did this happen? How can this be avoided? Is that even possible? What does this mean for all of us? What happens next? Beyond the short term relief and rescue efforts, what can we do next?

He's asking us to participate in a book project for relief efforts towards the Ondoy tragedy, with contributions answering some of those questions.

I'm still asking. And I still have no words.

[photo collage courtesy of ganns dean, who has an interesting post on why you should not volunteer or donate to the recovery efforts]

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