One, after Fernando Poe, Jr. died on Dec. 14, 2004, they did an inventory of his things. In one bodega, they found cartons of relief goods that were meant to be delivered to Infanta, Quezon. Infanta had been buried in mudslides a couple of weeks before his death and, along with many others, FPJ had bestirred himself to help.
With one difference: While all the other relief-givers were busy putting their names on their donations— or as in the case of many public officials, putting their names on other people’s donations— FPJ was not. His people would swear later he would not hear of it. He gave strict orders for the relief goods to be unmarked and just sent where needed. It altered my view of the man completely and made me vow to make amends to his family for some of the things I had said about him.
That is class. Which makes me furious today about the politicians who want to exploit the misfortune of others for their ends. Or indeed their continuing travail, many of them having lost everything in one of the worst disasters ever to hit this metropolis. It’s a sentiment I know is shared by many, even those who were not directly ravaged by the floods, as I’ve seen in news reports and blogs.
Heading the pack iswho was busy announcing that “kami nga ni Senator Villar” have been tireless in delivering relief goods to the needy. You’d think the guy would have learned a thing or two from being crucified after he vituperated about Cory’s coffin being shown on his show, consequently disrupting his and his audience’s fun. Clearly his chastisement hasn’t chastened him enough. Or he’s just fundamentally tasteless he cannot see that the last thing the victims want is to be treated like contestants, or supplicants, of “Wowowee” waiting upon his generosity.
Thankfully the tack is likely to backfire. People are in a foul mood and are not likely to remember Revillame—or his principal—with fondness come election time.
The last thing we need is to see politics mix with relief. “When you want to shoot, shoot,” assaid in “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly,” finishing off the guy who was threatening him with all sorts of mayhem. Same principle here: When you want to give, give, don’t advertise. All you’ll get back is mayhem in the minds of the beneficiaries.
Two,government’s disaster council gave a briefing. They were three days late. The time to have done that was Saturday at the height of the rains. The time to have appeared in public to calm down a metropolis in the grip of panic was last Saturday. The time to have gone to the aid of people who had every reason to panic (some of them were huddling on the roofs of their houses, along with their children and their aged, pounded by unceasing rain) was last Saturday. The time to have unleashed the full resources of government, which should have been there because government has—or should have—billions of pesos in calamity and emergency funds, was last Saturday.
In fact the monumental thing that happened last Saturday was the complete absence of government. The only government there was were the media, notably ABS-CBN and GMA-7. You can forgive both for advertising their wares, or relief efforts, under the extenuating circumstances. They were the government. They were the central authority apprising the public of the situation. They were the central authority coming to the aid of the victims. They were the central authority running the country.
The Internet is full of reports that the emergency fund is depleted, having gone to fund Arroyo and company’s not-very-emergency trips abroad. I’ll leave that for when it’s confirmed. But the breakdown of government is staggering. Arroyo should thank God, or whatever entity she worships, we have elections—the same elections she tried to monkey with earlier with Charter change. Without that she would probably not last this week, given an incensed citizenry, given an aroused citizenry, given a citizenry that will no longer brook abuse. This is as angry as I’ve seen residents of Metro Manila in a long time.
Three, indeed to this hour, what government we have is courtesy of the private sector where voluntarism has sprung like wildflowers. That is the bright spot in all this, the light amid the darkness, the blazing sun after the storm. Truly the Filipino rises to his finest self during trying times, the more trying the times, the finer the rising. Or it is in times of disaster that the Filipino ceases to be a disaster, thinking of others first before self.
It’s especially heartening to see the kids go en masse on relief mode. Many of the kids in my neighborhood have done so, teeners who normally while away the holidays playing basketball, flipping rollerblades, and drinking beer in the stores. They’ve enrolled themselves to help without thought of pay, without thought of recompense, without thought of reward. Just the thought of doing something nice for a change, just the thought of doing something to make things better.
It rekindles memories of the July-August floods of 1972, when students also went in droves to places in Greaterno longer traversable by land, or indeed outside the metropolis where they were greeted by a greater ravaging. But then there was activism to fuel, or goad, or flagellate the youth to idealism. Well, there was also the prospect of meeting a cool chick or a cool cat while on your best form. Today, there’s just spontaneous goodwill to do the trick. And the prospect of meeting a cool chick or a cool cat while on your best form. The kids come home happy, comparing the welts and bruises on their arms from lifting crates while drinking beer in the stores.
Makes you wonder what on earth you need government for.