Demand Accountability: A Lesson from Typhoon Ulysses

by Seneca Moraleda-Puguan

Rescuers evacuate residents from their flooded homes after Typhoon Vamco hit, in Marikina City, suburban Manila on November 12, 2020. (Photo by Ted ALJIBE / AFP)

“Poor Philippines.”

This was the remark of my five-year-old daughter while we were watching the news online about the aftermath of Typhoon Ulysses in the Philippines.

My voice was cracking when I told her, “You know that is where Mommy, Daddy, Callie and Yohan are from. The Philippines is our country.” Later that day, while praying for our dinner and thanking God for the food on our table and roof on our heads, tears fell as thoughts of the many wet and hungry people who lost their homes and loved ones caused by the typhoon filled my mind.

The Philippines anticipated the landfall of Super Typhoon Rolly (International name Goni), said to be the strongest typhoon in 2020. It had a destructive effect on the province of Bicol. But no one expected that the effect of Typhoon Ulysses (International name Vamco) would be more heartbreaking and devastating as it caused overwhelming flooding in Manila and its surrounding provinces. While the people in Central Luzon are still struggling to pick up the pieces of what Ulysses left, we were all stunned by the tragic flooding in the North, covering Cagayan Valley that triggered the call #CagayanNeedsHelp. What breaks my heart even more is that many of my friends, and even relatives have been badly affected.

Typhoon Ondoy and Yolandawere etched in my mind as two of the most destructive typhoons that ever hit the country but Typhoon Ulysses will always be remembered as the tragedy that hit the Philippines in the midst of a pandemic, at a time where the Filipino people are already struggling with fear and uncertainty.  This year has really been one of the toughest years.

But we, as Filipinos, are used to this, aren’t we? Year in and year out, the Philippines get hit by storms and typhoons that are named from A to Z. In fact, we are known as a people who are resilient because we experience all kinds of natural disasters and yet we rise again and move forward, we still put a smile on our face and laugh at our hardships.

But one Facebook post struck me and made me question our glorification of resilience.

A lady named Ella Hyacinth Golez, on her post entitled “Refuse to Glorify Resiliency, Demand Accountability” said:

Following any ill-fated event like a typhoon, Filipinos naturally emanate resilience-the ability to put their rubble of their lives back together after any deranged circumstance. Undeniably, we are the kind of people who transcend beyond our misfortune with humility and patience.

However, until when are we still going to glorify self-transcendence while some continue to live in favor of their privileges, failing to see reality through the eyes of the disempowered because others’ misfortunes do not exactly concern them as they are not exactly involved in it?

Now that we are at the helm of global health and environmental crises, those whom we call “resilient” are those who are barely getting by, the ones who have it the hardest, and worse — the ones who were not able to recover at all.

Through the years, we have seen how Filipino’s resiliency has become over-exploited and romanticized by many and has been taken advantage of the people in power.

Resiliency should not be a reminder that ”there is more to life than suffering”, but a wake up call for the government to strive hard and shape up in providing a community of inclusivity, full of opportunities for everyone so that nobody is left behind, and become accountable for their misplaced priorities and policies in the past because Filipinos are not sacrificial lambs.

We, Filipinos, are more than our stories of struggles and resiliency. We should be the reminder and the face of accountability. We deserve better. 

I couldn’t agree more with what she said. Her post has been shared more than a hundred thousand times.

Typhoons and storms will forever be a part of those who live in the Philippines. It is something we have to always prepare for, bravely face and cope with. But shall we just idly watch thousands of our countrymen lose their lives, families, friends and properties due to floods and landslides? Shall we be content in giving sacks of relief goods to victims every time a typhoon landfalls and ravages our nation?

I hope things get better. I hope we find long-term solutions to the problems we face as a country every single year. It is my prayer that our leaders and our future leaders would be more pro-active, responsible, wise and truly be accountable to the people they have sworn to serve. Just like what Ms. Golez said, let’s refuse to glorify resiliency and demand accountability.

My heart bleeds and breaks for the Philippines. I pray for grace and comfort for all those who lost loved ones and their precious homes caused by Typhoon Ulysses. I pray for supernatural strength upon the rescue workers and those who are on the frontlines to help those who are affected. I declare wisdom upon our government leaders as they navigate and find solutions to the problems caused by the typhoon.

I am hopeful that one day, my daughter will see the Philippines for its true beauty and strength, its people. I long for the day that our country will be well prepared for the calamities that come its way. I look forward to the time that our leaders will truly have the welfare of its people in mind, preventing the loss of precious lives and resources. It may be a long way to go but it’s possible. By God’s grace, we will rise again. No more will we be called “Poor Philippines.”


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