Friday, December 21, 2012

The Wrath of Manurigao River

The wrath of the Manurigao River is turning into murky brown the color of the sea, I was about to say when I posted this picture. Seen from the highway of Caraga while on board Ramsey Ahmed's motorcycle about a week after typhoon Pablo, the vision itself looks threatening, reminding someone of a scene from Armageddon. Is that a natural color of the sea? I asked Ramsey, who stopped his skylab to allow me to take some pictures. The gigantic waves even dwarfed a carabao grazing under what remained standing of the coconuts along the shoreline. I have known Manurigao long before typhoon Pablo made its landfall in nearby Baganga and Cateel areas of Davao Oriental, leaving behind a trail of devastation to people and communities. Manurigao figured out in many of Allan Delideli's stories and anecdotes during the making of the book, "Understanding the Lumads: A Closer Look at a Misunderstood Culture." During those times, he couldn't help telling stories how the lumads had to hike for very long hours on their way to school, crossing the river along the way; and how dangerous the water current can get during days of torrential rainfall. When I arrived in that part of barangay Baugo, where the bridge traversing Manurigao had fallen, people told me how the logs had gathered its strength underneath the pillars supporting the bridge, so that eventually, the bridge had to give way. "It was also for good, Day," a storeowner said, "With all those logs gathered near the foot of the bridge, trapping the water, we would all have been submerged. If the bridge had stood, the water would have killed us all!"

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Greenpeace comes to bring relief--and a warning

This story did not come out of the paper where I work, so, I decided to post it here. Greenpeace describes the recent typhoon Pablo as “very rare” and “unusual,” a sign that what has been predicted a decade ago about climate change is already happening. Mark Dia, Greenpeace Southeast Asia typhoon Pablo operations chief, reiterated the environment watchdog’s warning for governments to do everything they can to stop carbon emissions, including calling off coal-fired power plants being lined up in Mindanao, before the worst can happen. “It is very rare to see typhoons forming near the equator, especially at this time of the year. And for us (in the Philippines) to be hit by a category five typhoon is something unusual and extraordinary,” Dia said as the Greenpeace ship Esperanza docked at the berth 3 of Sasa wharf here, to deliver relief goods to typhoon victims. He said the impact of the recent typhoon should be sufficient warning for the Philippine government to take with extreme urgency the call to shift away from coal-fired power plant in favour of renewable energy. “We have to act fast,” Dia said, “Are we going to wait for a tsunami type of event to happen?" he asked. "Even Japan has declared it will close a lot of its nuclear power plants after the Fukushima disaster.” “For those who are still skeptical, are we still going to risk more lives and limbs before you can change your mind?” He cited the report of the intergovernmental panel on climate change that the severity of typhoons, drought and extreme weather conditions has been increasing in intensity for every rise in seawater temperature. “We don’t have any argument now that the weather has been changing in a very bad way,” he said, of the typhoon. He also said that for countries like the Philippines, identified among the top 10 countries most vulnerable to climate change, with very limited resources to deal with the problem, “It is very urgent that we solve the problem, not only globally but also in our own small way,” he said. “We have to ensure a better pathway for development, one of which should be a shift to from coal-fired power plants to renewable energy,” he said. “If we will not help each other now, we can see more of this (typhoon) happening in the future and the cost will be immense in terms of property and agriculture and lives lost.” He said once each coal-fired plant is built in the country, people will be stuck in this form of energy sources in the next 20-30 years, and hopes for the environment will be getting dim. “We have to do it now,” he said, referring to the shift to renewable energy. “We need to really act fast at the same time, start preparing for the worst.” The Greenpeace ship Esperanza, which has last been involved in the clean up of the oil spill that hit the island of Guimaras several years back, unloaded 55 tons of relief goods from the Department of Social Welfare and Development and Save the Children Foundation to help the typhoon victims. “This is just a small thing against the immensity of the impact of the typhoon,” he said.

Friday, December 07, 2012

What Pablo brings in Compostela

December 6, 2012. Ja said as soon as I arrived several hours after dark, "How can you help yourself from being overwhelmed? Were you not overwhelmed? I've done that before and I was just overwhelmed. There were just so many things to shoot. Many things were happening all at once. You get distracted. You don't know where to start. You would naturally lose your focus. Even the most professional of of us, do, did you not lose your focus?" I said, "!!!" He did expect me to lose focus. I felt bad because I ran out of battery. I showed him the pictures because I felt bad. 'Ahhh!" he said, "So, you lost focus, too! You're simply overwhelmed!" I felt worse. I no longer wanted to see the rest of the pictures. Earlier, at the Compostela terminal, I texted him, I'm going home now because I ran out of lithium. Instead of staying close to my subject whose houses were torn down, I allowed my subject to guide me to a bridge somewhere because they said that bridge directly face the valley of New Bataan, where many people were carried away by the flash flood. They said it was important that I should see that bridge across the Agusan River, which overflows sometimes, and inundate the landscape with muddy water. Perhaps, Ja was right. I was also overwhelmed. I let my subjects guide me, instead of me, charting the story. When we returned to their shattered hut, their Grandma was sitting on the old sofa in the midst of the muddy sala. She sat just below her picture on the wall, the last thing staying there after Pablo's devastation. The Grandma wearing the same dress as the one in the picture. I told her to stay where she was but when I finally pressed the shutter, my camera said, re-charge the battery! The whole area had no electricity. I said I had to rush home. At the bus terminal, it was so hot I wanted to collapse. Somebody was selling water inside the old bus. He handed me one. It was warm. "Please give me a cold one," I said. The vendor looked at me, then he looked around, then back at me. He said, tongue in cheek, "There's no brownout in this town," he said, glancing at the other passengers. "Yes, there's no brownout in this town," he said. "There's electricity everywhere."