What can tame the furious wrath of Ulysses?
No one has put it more aptly than Charles Dickens who once wrote: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. It was the.... epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.” No events have placed our people’s will to withstand trial and misfortune amid a raging pandemic than the series of violent typhoons which devastated our hapless country in a span of two weeks. The last one, Ulysses, will no longer be the beloved legendary Greek hero who vanquished the Trojans but will be remembered more as a weather disturbance, which has brought tragedy to millions of Filipinos.
As of this writing, floodwaters have not yet receded in many parts of Luzon and the immense debris of destruction it had left remained uncleared. The wide swathe of despoliation it had caused covering the entire expanse of Luzon Island from Sorsogon to Cagayan will be a grim reminder of nature’s merciless fury. Scores of people who could not climb to the roof of their houses drowned and many of those who managed to evacuate to safer places were unreachable to rescuers and inaccessible to relief assistance. Practically they were submerged in water but not a drop to drink. Yet, despite the unmitigated disaster all over us, the tragedy has brought us a spring of hope as Dickens had said. The overwhelming pleas for relief have not fallen on deaf ears. Hundreds of thousands of Filipinos, in their own way, big or small, have hearkened to their calls. Filipinos all over the world have generously responded and voluntarily pitched in. All forms of assistance—cash, food, building materials, clothing, drinking water, and prayers poured to the hapless victims of calamities. A couple of my friends from the insurance industry have donated cash to purchase relief goods to be distributed in my hometown in Bicol, which was severely damaged by Rolly and Ulysses. My own law class in San Beda has also contributed money to send to Bato, Catanduanes residents, where Typhoon Rolly made its first landfall. And more are coming. Another friend from abroad has started a fund-raising campaign to send relief to his community in Cagayan. This is not to mention countless others whose kind souls have provided more relief and comfort to our unfortunate brothers and sisters in Bicol, Marikina, Rizal, Quezon, Isabela, Cagayan and many other devastated areas. As one writer has said: “The darkest nights produce the brightest stars.” And our firmament is bedecked by a constellation of stars that are selfless in brightening up the lives of our stricken countrymen.
The English alphabet is barely enough to name all the tropical storms that enter our country making the Philippines, as the Time Magazine once labeled it, the “most exposed country in the world to tropical storms.” But sad to say, we never learned. After every Ondoy, Yolanda, Reming, Glenda and other severe
cyclones which ravaged our country, we still hear the same refrain from the government: stop illegal logging, regulate mining, build sturdy public structures, construct more evacuation centers, reforestation, ad nauseam, as if they are newly conceived ideas whose time has just come. Administrations come and go but they remain bright ideas crying to be pursued and implemented. Now everyone remembers our dear departed former DENR Secretary Gina Lopez. It seems that in our fight for climate change, the first salvo is to jettison our champion environmentalists. The Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE) has claimed that the Philippines has recorded 46 deaths in 2019 involving environmental activists and defenders. Even forest rangers and other environmental enforcers have not been spared from violent attacks, prompting DENR to renew its call for the creation of an enforcement bureau within the department that will train and arm enforcers. It’s not yet late for the President to relentlessly pursue his vow to prosecute illegal logging and illegal mining in our country, which undoubtedly are blamed, among others, for worsening floods in many parts of our country. Protecting our country’s natural resources is one of his campaign promises. Appointing Gina Lopez as Environment Secretary who waged a war against the twin evils of illegal mining and logging had initially earned President Duterte a lot of kudos. But it was a losing fight against the windmills. Vested interests and powerful politicians behind the influential agribusiness, logging and mining were so mighty and invincible to confront even a strong-willed woman. We trust that our President truly means business this time. Let’s not wait for another Ondoy or Ulysses to demonstrate the folly of our environmental and climate change policies. President Duterte does not lack the nerve to stop illegal logging and illegal mining. All he has to do is to adopt the same resolve and robust efforts he has employed to go after the drug syndicates and dealers who have destroyed our youth. If that happens, President-mayor “Rody” or “Digong” will be the greatest phenomenon, human or natural, that can overcome the cruelest wrath and untamed fury of a Ulysses.