After the devastation wrought by Yolanda, I sometimes wonder if we ever learn our lessons in preparing for these yearly disasters. True, man can only hope of controlling Mother Nature the same way King Canute dreamed of holding back the waves. But given the regular visits of these catastrophes, it is truly a puzzlement why we’ve yet to become proactive instead of being reactive in these times of disasters. That is why even after four years, I find After the Storm: Stories on Ondoy by Anvil Publishing still relevant in today’s times.
Edited by Elbert Or, the essays in this compilation were mostly written in the midst of and immediately after the typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng in 2009. In his Introduction, Or writes, “All of these essays are collected here to serve as a written record to remind everyone that Ondoy happened. That if we are not careful to learn from our experiences, then another disaster may find us unprepared yet again.”
Seeing how these were written during, before, or immediately in the aftermath of the storms, the quality of the essays wasn’t even. Oh, there were gems amidst the collection, starting off with poetic “The Last” by Ruel S. De Vera. Reading how a former favorite volume rose in the floodwaters to float off, in the company of the writer’s other books, triggered in me a similar memory so painful that it was almost a visceral blow. My entire library of 16 years drowned in the torrent of Talayan Creek water in less than 30 minutes. I never thought I’d see the day where hardbound books would be doing the butterfly stroke in the flood, or that a lesbian literary classic would freestyle its way to the bottom of the swollen creek.
But if this writer thought that opening salvo was painful, it was the recounting of MVX Ong of his family’s ordeal in”Nakapanlulumo” that made me want to weep in the face of his remembered fear, rage, helplessness and a maelstrom of other emotions during those perilous hours. Written in Filipino, his essay captured the gritty reality of trying to fight back against the fury of the relentless rain and the rising flood–and the determination to succeed.
Luis Buenaventura II tackles a diametrically opposite viewpoint in his “An Unpopular Opinion on Volunteerism”. In his short piece, he logically argues his point on how help could be better done by staying where one is, and donating his earnings for the day directly to the aid effort instead of spending his man-hours’ potential income bagging food and clothes. Or, in other words, maximizing one’s resources that are immediately on hand.
Other contributors of the book include Cathy Babao Guballa, Ramil Digal Gulle, Rene B. Javellana, SJ, Jim Paredes, Mar Roxas, MRR Arcega, Tania Arpa, Javier Bengzon, benignO, Arvin de Leon, Zarah Gagatiga, Norman Clarence T. Lasam, Gabriella Lee, Stefan Saurez, Fidelis Tan, Martin Villanueva, and Lawrence Ipil.
After the Storm: Stories on Ondoy is available at National Bookstore.
***This article originally appeared in now defunct ManilaSpeak.com***