Yolanda used to be just a woman’s name. Four years ago, all that changed when the strongest typhoon ever to make landfall struck the central Philippines, hurling toward Eastern Visayas and across the archipelago, leaving more than 6,000 dead and thousands more missing.
These days the communities ravaged by Yolanda have stirred back to life, in varying paces. For the communities there, however, the slightest sign of rain could bring easily back the harrowing memories of that day when they felt powerless against the forces of nature, however thoroughly they prepared and however hard they prayed.
But while Yolanda was primarily a natural disaster, it also brought to fore many man-made vulnerabilities before and after the actual landfall.
It highlighted, for instance, that while the Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Law had been passed three years before, many local government units were still not compliant with the parameters it set. If at all, Yolanda exposed the disparate levels of mitigation and preparedness, with some LGU leaders taking the guidelines seriously and others ignoring them altogether.
As a result, when the typhoon struck, many were overwhelmed by its destructive power and the unprecedented damage it brought. Response and rehabilitation efforts were uneven and ill-coordinated. Everybody, even the responders, were victims, too.
The dark, chaotic days after Yolanda also showed us the frailties of our local and national leaders. We were aghast at how some milked the tragedy to boost their political stock and put down their foes. They were grateful for the help, of course, but knew little on what to do with the help that arrived, much less contemplate how life could go on after the aid had stopped and they now had to stand on their own two feet.
These days, some continue to live in dangerous areas. Others still wait for houses, or decent facilities if ever they did get the shelter. It is hoped the people, most especially their leaders, know better.
This is not going to be the last, or the worst. If Yolanda cannot anymore be just a name, let it at least be a lesson.