The lady who goes up to our building selling books at discount price came with an armload of new books some two weeks ago. I immediately noticed one and bought "The Story of Natural Disasters". I thought, great, this should complete Gabby's series, as he already has The Story of Dinosaurs and something else I can't recall. Gabby is an avid follower of shows in Discovery Channel. He likes watching Mega Disasters, Air Crash Investigation, Gone in Seconds, stuff like that, and though the images can be quite graphic, there is still a very logical approach as to why things go amiss and how people could prevent it from happening in the future, so I leave him be.
Gabby, who has a not-so secret ambition of becoming a fighter jet pilot (cough, cough!), has to be coaxed into reading books too, apart from watching tv because, I tell him, that's basically how people learn stuff and go on to become what they want---like a fighter jet pilot. Of course, he believed me. My son however has a new-fangled habit of taking interest in new things for exactly 24 hours, on the dot, and dropping them to the pit of certain oblivion the next. So I decided to put off taking the new book home and shoved it in my office drawer. At one time, i scanned a few pages and came to these facts about Hurricanes:
"The thousands of islands facing the Pacific Ocean to the east and the South China to the west are particularly at risk (from giant hurricanes). They experience typhoons from June to December, corresponding with the region's rainy season. In the Philippines, in 1984, two major typhoons sank 11 ships and caused more than 1,600 deaths".
I thought whoa, so we bear the curse of being geographically located along the typhoon belt, and that is something we've all had to live with. Well, unless some future technology makes it feasible for us to be transported to planet Mars and abandon Philippines, then there's a glimmer of hope, we can leave and start life anew there. I shoved the book back to my drawer and shrugged at my silly thought.
Two weeks passed, and one Saturday, I wake up to ominous clouds. I could feel the ground spew out heat, and I angrily cursed the weather for acting up. I had wanted to go to Divisoria, or get some photos of my daughter in the sun-drenched garden of the city hall. The storm came, and there was nothing much to do except wait it out, curl up in bed and read an old book. I even washed my clothes. It was a storm alright, but we have already been used to it around these months, and it was just something you weather, so to speak. I was miffed that my husband even took his sweet time lounging around and not doing his usual grocery shopping. For me, it was nothing more than another storm, and life should absolutely go on as usual.
And then Sunday, I woke up to the din of frantic news reports on TV, and Kris Aquino's non-stop babbling and self-praising. And then, looking closely at the footages and images on TV, I recalled that little trivia I read from the book and momentarily forgot about Kris.
It was as if a rug has been swept from beneath me, shocking me to my core, suspending me in a disbelief that all these happened in a mere twelve hours that I was being a bitch about the bad weather. Twelve hours, and everything has become so dissonant---cars and houses getting swept in currents, children losing grip of their parents' hands and getting lost in murky waters, people shivering in the cold and getting hungry, people crying for help and getting none, people marooned in roofs and trees and electric wires, fear and dread eating them up slowly as they wait for something to intervene them from being killed or killing themselves, people who suddenly become just an anatomy of helpless bones and muscles and weak flesh, pliant to the strong winds and the wrath of mother-fucking-nature. And I sit here at home, warm and dry, hot coffee cup dangling on my fingers, watching the scenes being retold as if I'm from another world, fear gripping me. It runs in my head, this fear, this shame, that ALL THIS so close to home, and yet I could do nothing but bawl my eyes out crying.....
And so, is this how easily we become statistics in Discovery Channel, mere numbers or footnotes in the Story of Natural Disasters?
The world is screwed, and I am utterly useless.
PS....After picking my brains up, I decided not to be so useless. The world can do away with one less fucked up person, so I am doing my little share in helping the victims of Ondoy. I hope everyone of us should, in whatever little way we can.