Having spent around 15 years of my life in the city of Marikina, (now living just across the border along Marcos Highway), the early morning of September 26, 2009 wasn’t particularly unusual in any sense. It was raining hard, but it always rained during that time anyway. Around 7:30 AM I looked outside our house and there was nothing of interest, just a lot of rain and wet pavement. Around 9:00 AM I checked again, and there was flood all the way up to the gutter. Nothing to worry about I said to myself. I was used to this. We were used to this. My neighbors were used to this. The whole city was used to this. An hour later though, things went to hell and Murphy’s Law couldn’t have come at a worse time. It was the last time adrenaline had run through my veins. In the wee hours of the afternoon that day, everything became calm. A drive through the city after getting our bearings was absolutely depressing. The city was enveloped in darkness, both literally and figuratively. Not only Marikina, but the rest of Metro Manila was left paralyzed. Three years later, the Visayas region experienced a much more destructive storm in the form of Haiyan. We were still not ready.
Are we truly ready for the so-called “big one”? Is our government at a point where we can sleep easy knowing that if a disaster happens, damage and destruction will be minimal? Local scientists and academics have been quick to point out that it’s only a matter of time before some catastrophic calamity, be it an earthquake or something else, rears its head on the country. The most recent “big” calamity, typhoon Haiyan, clearly showed that we are not ready for disasters of large-scale magnitude. Considering our country’s geography, weather and nature, disaster preparedness should be something that governments and citizens should have mastered over the years, but still, we find ourselves being brought back to square one. It’s time to look to the future, and help preserve what we have. Calamites won’t go away in a country like ours, so it’s time we make a concerted effort and regard disaster preparedness as a priority concern and issue in government.
Josh Siat 2012-61056