On Friday, it will be six years to the day “Yolanda” swept across Eastern Visayas and many other places, causing unparalleled death and devastation.
In this regard, the House of Representatives approved on third and final reading the bill declaring every Nov. 8 as Yolanda Commemoration Day in Eastern Visayas.
The bill seeks to honor the memory of those who perished during the storm, and also “salute the selflessness of all volunteers and organizations that took part and contributed in the recovery and rehabilitation efforts of the communities affected by the typhoon.”
Six years ago, in the aftermath of the tragedy, we saw an outpouring of local and international aid and relief, and the overwhelming bayanihan spirit that allowed the stricken communities to eventually recover from their loss.
But we also saw how a lack of central planning and coordination hampered efforts to bring relief sooner than they are needed.
The commemoration of the tragedy takes place just as Mindanao is reeling from the series of earthquakes that rocked it in the past few days. Relief and rehabilitation are primary concerns for the affected residents, especially since there are reports aid are not able to get to the communities who need it the most.
More than commemoration, there is a need for the entire country to adopt a mindset, not of disaster, but of resilience. Only it will allow us to break free from the cycle of shock and scrambling that possess us when disaster strikes.
Disaster is more than just mobilizing, even mobilizing well when disaster strikes. It is acknowledging our local governments’ different levels of vulnerability, and to what hazards. It is intelligently knowing what disasters are likely to strike, and where. It is establishing protocols for what must be done, who must be in charge, and what the fastest way to reach most people is.
There is also currently a proposal to establish a separate department of disaster resilience—which is ideal, for organization and planning purposes, even as the implementation is yet to be seen.
That we live in a hazardous area should no longer be a novelty. We should have this fact drilled into our consciousness by now. The only question is not how well we respond when disaster strikes, but how we are able to build a lifestyle that already includes anticipating risks and knowing exactly what to do in the event of a howler, a temblor, or any other disaster—natural or not.