Saturday, February 28, 2015

Shades Of Grey

One early morning during the last week of January this year, a farmer intent only on a leisurely inspection tour of a parcel of coconut land perched on a hill behind the village church in Barangay Salvacion in San Agustin town some nineteen kilometers north of Lianga got more than what he bargained for. He instead unwittingly stumbled into a group of armed men in motley fatigue uniforms who apparently had decided to set up a temporary bivouac on that high ground overlooking the barangay.

The intruders quickly ascertained that the poor farmer did not pose threat to them and promptly sent him away but not after warning him to keep his mouth shut about their presence and the location of their camp. Scared half to death, the guy scampered down the hill as fast as his wobbly legs could carry him.

Several days later in Barangay Britania just three kilometers south of Salvacion, rumors started spreading about another group of strangers also in full combat gear this time on a motorized boat which had supposedly landed just north of the main village site. Where that group eventually went was not clear. Britania, of course, is the main jump-off point for tourists eager to visit the already famous Britania Islands which lies just a short distance from that village's shoreline.

Sunday, January 11, 2015


One can suppose with the benefit of hindsight that there must be more than a bit of irony in the progression of events. When Typhoon Ruby (international name, Hagupit) entered the Philippine area of responsibility in early December of last year, the locals in Lianga and its surrounding communities rushed out in a frenzy of activity all of which was supposed to be in preparation for what was forecasted to be a major storm. The memories of the devastation left by 2013's Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) and 2012's Pablo (Bopha), after all, remains painfully fresh in the minds of all Filipinos here.

When Ruby did not quite live up to its hype (although it did cause extensive damage and did claim at least 18 lives) and PAGASA, the national weather service, announced that a tropical depression was following on Ruby's wake and will make landfall in Surigao del Sur on Dec. 28, the response to what would later develop into Tropical Storm Seniang (international name, Jangmi) was understandably tepid to say the least. Everyone thought it was just going to another one of those run-of-the-mill weather hiccups common this time of the year in this part of the world.

It turned out that Seniang struck hard where Ruby veered away and this part of the country as well as many other areas in the Visayas and Mindanao got clobbered hard. Hundreds of thousands of people ended up paying dearly for their complacency. "We all prepared for Ruby," one survivor in Cebu province in the Visayas tearfully lamented, "but no one warned us about Seniang."

Monday, December 22, 2014

Pining For Home

Like many netizens all over the world, I am not particularly trustful of or comfortable with Google, that global internet presence which, whether we like it or not, insidiously intrudes into and then profits from almost everything we do in the online world. Its multinational hugeness and its pervasive dominance in all things related to cyberspace worries a lot of concerned individuals even those who regularly use its many services and who benefit from them in the personal or economic sense or both.

Yet occasionally, this internet colossus comes out with something that manages to surprise us all. Something that in this selfish, money-centered and cynical world (of which Google is, whether deservedly or undeservedly, in the eyes of many, a personification of) somehow pulls and tugs at that emotional core that hides in all of us, something that whispers and resonates to that softer side of our human nature, something that affirms that universally held hope that even in this selfish and cynical world, there is a premium still for love, friendship, generosity, loyalty and all those other pure, virtuous and noble sentiments of the human heart.

Last Dec. 14, Google Philippines published a video on You Tube that has been viewed and shared by more than a million people to date. Titled "Miss Nothing", it is basically a tribute to the more than two million Filipino overseas workers abroad who have left their families and homeland behind in order to work for a living all over the world. In less than two minutes it emotionally paints through images and music their loneliness and sense of isolation and how through the magic of modern wireless digital communication they desperately struggle to keep their tenuous links to their loved ones back home alive and meaningful.