The recorder had accompanied family members who journeyed to Marilao to visit a relative and to donate sacks of rice and boxes of instant noodles to the Shrine of the Divine Mercy, which is located near the inundated areas and is a local center of relief distribution. Hence, unlike when they had gone to the headquarters of a television network, going to Divine Mercy church gave them a chance to see at first hand the results of the storm.
In one residential area, the most evident mark of the past disaster was the ongoing cleanup. Like an obverse of the typical Philippine fiesta, wherein the streets would be crisscrossed with wires bearing colorfully festive vexilla, the streets were filled with drying clothes hung from wires string from opposite sides of the road.
To explain: the floodwaters, in many areas rising higher than 3 metres, had left layers of mud on everything they had touched. Therefore the streets were filled with various items left to dry after heavy washing, from blankets and beds to bags and books and, of course, clothes of every perceptible variety. Added to these were piles of debris, trash, and items discarded after the waters rendered them unusable, tangible reminders of the other, more painful losses from the flood.
And the residents of this area were the fortunate ones by comparison. Others had lost their homes entirely and had been forced to live on both sides of MacArthur Highway (a short drive from a large shopping mall), with many, especially children, begging for coin from the passing vehicles. Their makeshift houses, with walls and roofs made of cartons, plastics, and wheels (the last to make the materials too heavy to be blown away) present a heartbreaking picture of poverty.
Many of them had formerly lived by the side of the river, and had therefore been the first and worst victims when the dangerously-risen waters of Angat dam were released into the rivers. In one instance, this recorder was told, the victims had been 3 children whose mother had left to buy rice from the nearby public market. She had returned amid heavy rain to find water overtopping their home, “at halos mabaliw siya, hanggang ngayon” (and she was driven next to madness, even until now). As seen from the photo on top, that riverside is deserted now, save for persons scavenging for whatever can be salvaged from the remains of their former homes.
The victims are struggling to repair their lives, and we should help them at every step; and if, some would persist in the capitalist line that they should lift themselves by their bootstraps, then we should at least give them boots. Indeed, we note with joy how Church and State, private persons, and various organizations have mobilized to take up the slack and give to the afflicted. (For example, on the part of the one true Church, Asianews notes here that Caritas has mobilized 30 million pesos to help the victims, and that figure does not include initiatives by individual parishes, dioceses, and religious orders and associations.)
Thus, in but half an hour in one area, we saw two vans–bearing no banners and flanked by no media persons–anonymously distributing small plastic bags with food and clothing, and as we left we saw various residents returning from yet another vehicle. Note that these donors were private persons acting with no portfolio save an outstanding generosity, and with no expectation of material reward. It is only hoped that we will all continue to give and resist the onset of donor fatigue when it comes, since the afflicted will need help for the long haul.
May God bless us all.
*This was first posted on our other blog speculum.