Mind da News: What a Wrath!

GENERAL SANTOS CITY, January 8, 2013 – Horrible! What horror wrought by a terrible hand! On reading the news and seeing the pictures of the wrath of “Pablo” such description may even be unapt.

I was 14 years old when we left Iloilo for Mindanao on December 31, 1939 and arriving in Dadiangas on January 4, 1940. That makes me a 72-year-old Mindanawon. This long I have not experienced a typhoon. In my 14 years in Iloilo as far as I can remember typhoon was a yearly visitation coming at most three times a year on typhoon season.

We were living in a bamboo and cogon house in our farm among the hills. The winds screamed. Coconuts and bamboos swayed; bananas in the open were flattened. But our house that rattled and squeaked as it quaked with the winds was spared. And so were the other bamboo and cogon houses and huts in the neighboring hills and in our barrio along the provincial road.

The typhoons brought strong rains and floods creating a sea of the fields below the hills and swelling to the brim the banks of a nearby brook and a river. But the flood waters, while brown, carried not much mud. Within a day or two after the typhoon had passed, the waters would recede. Whatever damages the typhoons had wrought were minimal.

We expected typhoons every year. We knew the months they were to come regularly. In anticipation, my father braced our house with bamboos. So did our other neighbors in the neighboring hills with bamboo and cogon houses.

From the reports and pictures from the Mindanao provinces “Pablo” had visited it appeared that this “Pablo” was a hundred times stronger than the unnamed typhoons I experienced in Iloilo.  By the damages it had wrought and the horrible tales of the victims, it was a thousand times destructive.

More than a thousand people dead! More than 70 years ago, the typhoons had not drowned a single person in our barrio in the 14 years I was there; in the entire province there were reports of one or two but not during every typhoon. Of course, 70 years ago, the flood followed a regular course, not descending so suddenly upon villages carrying tons and tons of mud. There were no hill or mountain slides.

“Pablo”, as a picture in the Philippine Daily Inquirer showed, flattened a whole town center; in a picture by MindaNews, it left no banana standing in a 10,000-hectare, or bigger, plantation. Coconut trees were shorn of their palms or uprooted, big trees toppled. Galvanized iron roofs of concrete or semi-concrete buildings were ripped and blown away, lighter houses left in heaps of rubbles; concrete bridges wrecked.

The typhoons that visited us with predictable seasonal regularity more than 70 years ago were only annoying visitors compared to “Pablo” and its generation which are monthly or weekly avengers of the wrathful Mother Nature.

What has made Mother Nature so angry — not only with the Philippines but the entire world? The favored among men – blessed with fortune and power — since the latter half of the last century, to satisfy their greed, abused Mother Nature’s bounty and protective system on earth and above. The perfect balance of nature destroyed, the innocents now suffer the catastrophe of atmospheric and geophysical imbalance.

When we arrived in Lagao Settlement in 1940, the mountains were lushly forested. Two rivers to the west, Silway and its main tributary Klinan, were roaring and deep. Buayan River to the east was wider and deeper. Between Lagao and Buayan was the Baluan forest, five kilometers or more wide, extending from the Conel and Malungon forests down to the sea; a deep creek teeming with shrimps ran through Baluan forest. The forests are now all gone; the rivers practically dried up.

This is true throughout Mindanao and the entire Philippines. In the 1950s, the Congress passed laws legalizing logging. The forests were partitioned into concessions with the influential and wealthy members of the Congress and their friends as concessioners. By the 1970s the once lushly forested mountains were bald — their protective covers gone. The plains are now at the mercy of floods with tons of mud and landslides.

Elsewhere in the world parts of countries – Australia, China, the United States and other Asian and South American countries among them – have been devastated by Mother Nature’s avengers, typhoons and floods. Will man be able to restore the natural orders he has destroyed? The Kyoto Protocol has yet to make a score.

In the Philippines it’s all “sounds and worry” – no match to the avengers’ “sounds and fury destroying everything”. The best that could be done is to warn the people to flee to safe grounds.  But as “Pablo” has shown, where are the “safe grounds”? States of calamities are declared; reliefs are given the victims.  But the billions of pesos in term of infrastructures, farms and crops, agro-industries and private properties destroyed are lost forever.

For Mindanao, it’s a sad awakening – no longer typhoon free since “Sendong” ravished northern Mindanao particularly Cagayan de Oro City in 2011. The typhoons are moving fast southward. Another low pressure area, the third since “Pablo” struck the north last December 4 is moving toward southern Mindanao and may hit Davao City and General Santos City.

So far, General Santos City has had cold and rainy weather for the last three days. Will I experience a typhoon after 72 years?

Mother Nature’s wrath spares no one. – (Patricio P. Diaz/MindaNews)