Photo courtesy of Twitter
We sensed a comforting string in President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s vow not to forget – in his words “the uncounted dead” – in yesterday’s 9th anniversary of the furious onslaught of Typhoon Yolanda, among the deadliest to lash the country in its recorded weather bulletin.
The typhoon’s fury affected more than 14 million people across 44 provinces, displaced 4.1 million people, killed more than 6,000 people, and left 1,800 missing.
In addition, Yolanda (international name Haiyan) damaged 1.1 million houses, destroyed 33 million coconut trees (a major source of livelihoods), and disrupted the livelihoods of 5.9 million workers. Overall damage had been estimated at $5.8 billion.
The President was right when he acknowledged how Tacloban residents were continuing to grieve for their loved ones lost during the typhoon’s onslaught.
“In a way, we were told to forget about them. And we will not forget about them. And we cannot forget about them. And I know you do not forget about them. And that is why we continue to commemorate Yolanda and we continue to grieve our dead,” the 65-year-old President said.
“Because we not only grieve the dead that is here, but we also grieve for those who we do not even know how many they are, who they are, and where they are,” he added.
Marcos said the commemoration demonstrated the “strength and courage of Filipinos” amid tragedies, saying Tacloban itself was able to be “built back better.”
“It always gives us hope that even if there are tragedies and disasters in other places, we know the Filipino spirit will never be quelled, the Filipino spirit will always burn bright and bring back normal life to their communities,” he said.
Indeed Filipinos, who live in a typhoon-prone country that deals with 20 typhoons per year on average, have shown resilience and bullheadedness of spirit in standing up to any challenge that confronts them, not the least the unforgiving typhoons.
But perhaps beyond remembering the dead and the bad memory left by the typhoon – and Filipinos are still reeling from the jab made by typhoons Karding and Paeng, the latter making a destructive swathe from Batanes down to Mindanao – we need to weigh up the challenges and see if we have learned a couple of lessons at the very least.
As we stand beside our Yolanda memories, we need to review what lessons we may have learned to help mitigate the catastrophic impact of typhoons, high in the persuasion that we have seen the importance of energy and access to a better source as perhaps the most important lesson we have learned.
We must admit that knowledge and understanding of typhoons can save lives, and minimize economic/infrastructure and agricultural losses – as such the relevant government agencies can prepare in advance and evacuate areas to be affected along the typhoons’ track.
Being prepared can reduce fear, anxiety, and losses that accompany disasters.
As the Philippines is particularly prone to typhoons – with thousands living in coastal communities – and other disasters, emergency preparedness, and disaster risk reduction initiatives will remain essential for the resilience of the Filipinos.
The Philippines should also step up efforts to devote considerable resources to the construction and provision of disaster reduction facilities like river dikes and sea walls, as well as non-structural measures such as warning systems for typhoons, floods, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions, and lahar flows.
We believe that education for disaster preparedness can also provide life-saving and life-sustaining information and skills that protect in particular children and young people during and after emergencies.
Tough against adversities as we are, we should not ignore helpful lessons that underline resilience in our character.