A year after Typhoon Ondoy…

October 26, 2010, exactly one year since the destructive Typhoon Ondoy wreaked havoc to Metro Manila and other parts of Luzon. This day will not be forgotten by  many people including my Family, some relatives and friends because we are included in the list of victims of nature’s wrath through a typhoon named Ondoy.

It was a typical Saturday. Early in the morning, it was raining but not so heavy yet. My Mom and Dad went to the local market to buy a week’s stock of food. Only my 2 sisters, brother in law and nephew (then 7 months old) were left at home. The rain started to pour heavily.

Our car was stucked on the road due to traffic (since some roads became impassable).  My mom became worried that the water might go inside the car but nothing they can do since the traffic is not moving for an hour. She needed to use the comfort room and since they realized there will be no way the vehicles will move soon since the rain becomes heavier, they decided to leave the car on the road and go to my aunt’s (father side) house which is close to where they were stranded. Soon the flood becomes deeper and deeper that it went inside the house of my aunt. They had to transfer to a neighbor whose house is 2 stories high.

Back home, my siblings are in panic because they can’t contact my parents and the waters are rising very fast. Our home is bungalow type though it is built higher than the road and in the 20 years that we lived there, never did the floods reached inside our house…if the flood waters reached our gate, it is already above waist deep.. Except on that day when the waters reached inside up to the window pane.  My sister said the flood waters rise very fast and the current so strong, it seems like seeing the Southeast Asian Tsunami videos. They had to climb a stair to reach our next door neighbor who’s Townhouse is 2 stories as well.  They had to do it quickly and cautiously because they are carrying a baby. All the appliances and furniture tumbled down as the flood entered our home.

These events were happening while I am totally unaware of since I am in Bangkok and the weather is so sunny that time.  Never did I expect a typical typhoon to directly hit Manila since it has been raining constantly in the country during that time but it is expected in a monsoon season anyway. I even watched a movie with few friends that day.

I did not receive any single message from family members about the predicament simply because it was so quick and they are totally unprepared. They had to contact each other (my parents, my other siblings, relatives who are mostly living in Marikina or Pasig–all flood prone areas) so in a short while, all their mobile phone batteries went dead.

I was only able to check my Facebook after dinner. I got the biggest shock of my life when I opened Facebook and the wall of my friends are literally flooded with messages about the disaster, re-posting call for help from those affected and prayer requests.

Then I checked the news website and found out how big the destruction is. I got goosebumps and my heart beats faster. At the back of my mind, I am praying nothing wrong happened to my family. I tried contacting our landline as well as the mobile phones of all my family members and relatives. All are unreachable.

I was so restless but cannot do anything. I tried messaging my cousins in the US and Canada if they have any news about our families back home but unfortunately they cannot contact their respective families as well. All of us overseas waited in vain. Just imagine the frustration and anxiety we are feeling back then. All we had to do is pray.

I asked a favor from my ex-GF to try contacting any of my family members since it may be easier if the call is from Metro Manila. Fortunately, she is able to contact my brother in law and got updated that all members of the family including some of our relatives nearby are all ok. Only thing is that they can’t contact my cousin staying in Pasig so they are also worried if they are ok.

The family was able to contact my cousin after a few days. When the flood subsided, my family entered our home and everyone thought they are in a nightmare especially my parents who worked hard to build our home and improve it over the years but all these hard work, savings and memories (including our pictures and documents) are washed away in a few hours time.

I actually asked them to take pictures of our home but they all don’t want to remember it by a picture so I wasn’t able to see exactly how our house looked like then. All I know is they spend few days (if not weeks) to clean and disinfect the house, throw away the appliances, clothes and items that are no longer usable. Our car also had to be on queue for fixing because majority of Marikina are submerged in flood and vehicles needed to be fixed. Our consolation and for which we must be truly grateful for God’s mercy is that everyone in my family, relatives and friends are all safe.

I saw the Facebook note of my cousin detailing her and 2 children’s ordeal while stucked in their home in Pasig. It is very detailed that I can picture them like in Titanic trying to move around in deep waters. Fortunately for them, their home has 2nd floor. They consider the present as their 2nd life already since during that time, only few inches away and the flood will reach the 2nd floor of their house where my cousins and 2 little children were. Their village was submerged in water for few days without food, water and electricity which makes it doubly hard since the little one one is still a toddler then.

When I went back home few months after, there are still some traces of Ondoy in our home (some of the doors and cabinets are not fixed yet that time).

After 1 year that Ondoy “visited” the Philippines, the memory still remains. Let us just pray that catastrophe of this magnitude will not happen again.

Sharing some pics I got from this website: http://www.typhoonondoy.org/tag/ondoy/

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The Power of Writing

Last Sunday Night, I got the chance to watch Boy Abunda’s TV programme in ABS-CBN called “The Bottomline” via video streaming in Pinoy Channel.TV. It was my first time to watch this episode and actually am not aware of such program till that night. The Bottomline is interesting, trending if not fearless. Boy is his usual self, a good TV Host. It goes to prove that he is not only a veteran show business entertainment host but can also tackle various controversial topics.

The guest that night is investigative journalist cum author, Marites Vitug. When you see Marites, she doesn’t look intimidating or outspoken compared to other Journalists/broadcaster like Jessica Soho, Che Che Lazaro, Maria Ressa, etc. She seems dimunitive, timid and unassuming. I guess the saying “Don’t judge the book by it’s cover” fits her to a T since she is now one of the best selling authors in the country what with her latest book “Shadow of Doubt: Probing the Supreme Court” becoming a critical and commercial success so to speak.

I have not read the controversial book yet so I can’t say much about it at this stage. However, what I like to point out in this blog post is the sheer power of writing.

History has proven that a writing can change the course of the future be it an individual, or even a nation. Dr. Jose Rizal, the Philippines’ National Hero used his various literary works to open the minds of the Filipinos and to fight for their rights during the Spanish era. These writings became the inspiration of the Katipuneros which eventually led to a full-blown revolution.

Anne Frank, the young girl originally from Frankfurt became a worldwide figure because of the publication of her diary (which was translated into many languages) detailing their life in hiding during World War II. Time Magazine eventually named her in 1999 as one of “The Most important People of the Century”.

And who would’ve think that J.K. Rowling who was literally an unknown figure before the year 1997 will gain international prominence and become a billionaire just by writing and publishing series of books about a young wizard named Harry Potter?

Nora Daza who has written and modified/ invented many Philippine recipes is considered an icon of Philippine cuisine and one of the respected cook book author.

I remembered working in a hotel group earlier- – part of their PR activity is inviting 2 or 3 well known blogger, house and dine them in the hotels for free and as an exchange, these bloggers have to write blog posts or articles about their travel experience and stay in the hotel. This goes to show how powerful their writings are in convincing would-be guests of these hotels.

Last year during the onslaught of Typhoon Ondoy, there was one shoutout in Facebook made by a Filipina based in Dubai. The exact words were  “Buti na lang am here in Dubai! Maybe so many sinners back there! So yeah deserving what happened!”. This remark is very strong and really got through the nerves of many Facebook users the fact that the calamity brought vast devastation in many parts of Luzon and it was very unexpected and the country has yet to recover from the tragedy when the remark was made. The post spread in the net like wildfire and the succeeding comments and invectives hurled at her are really so bad that you can’t take it as person though I can’t blame them for doing so because her remark is truly inconsiderate and uncalled for.

Truly, writing is a very powerful tool and good way to communicate.  Writing is a common task as we do it almost everyday. Yet no matter how common it is, there is always something new to write.

The people I mentioned above has definitely caught our attention if not touched our lives in some ways and many of them has made writing their source of income.  Some people who earn a living out of writing don’t mind destroying one’s reputation if they feel it’s worth millions of bucks without considering if the person they are writing about will be terribly affected.

At the end, can they call themselves prolific writers? I guess the key to effective writing is to do it wisely, morally and objectively and try to communicate with your target audience.

I believe by right, I am a writer too (though I literally type it in my computer and post online) which I share through my blogs. With my posts, I am giving my views and opinions on certain topics or issues as well as just conveying my random thoughts and wisdom about life in general.

I am a sentimental person. I would keep letters, cards and notes from family, friends and loved ones. Maybe because I don’t receive too many so I still have the mood and time to keep it.

On the second thought, I just love reading them over and over again. I feel good after reading the personal message they’ve specially written for me.

One of the simplest yet most powerful and touching letter I received in my lifetime comes from my niece during my recent trip back home. She handed me the letter with drawing she personally did upon learning my short vacation. I am sharing to all of you.

Keep on inspiring through your writings… so others will enjoy reading…

The Phenomenon of Mafia Wars

Mafia Wars

I have been into Facebook for many months now and what keeps me glued to this social networking site is the fact that it has been a constant source of information about my friends, former colleagues, family and relatives. In fact, during the time of the Typhoon Ondoy (Ketsana) wherein my home got affected and some of our relatives as well, Facebook has been the source of Free and instant communication between me and some of my relatives staying in the US and Canada. Since we cannot contact most of our family members back home, if we get any news or if someone managed to receive any SMS or are able to call any member back home, we just messasge through Facebook.  Really convenient. I even see many people trying to encourage others to extend help or give donations to the victims sent through Facebook. This is a very effective means of communication and conveying our message across the globe.

Another reason why I don’t mind spending late weekday nights and most especially weekend nights even renting computer in a net cafe is because of the very interesting and unique games which is popularly known as “Apps” short for applications. Currently, I am playing Farm Town, Farm Ville, Barn Buddy, Fish World, My City, Restaurant City, Roller Coaster World, Cafe World, Island Paradise and of course Mafia Wars..too many apps for me to be called a real app “addict” you may say. Well yes, I spend at least 2 hours a night just for me to do usual rounds of these games. Apart from going to fitness, I guess this is just my way of getting past my boredom especially since I am living alone and communication back home is limited. Sometimes if I finished work then heading to the gym and taking a quick dinner, either the folks are already sleeping or about to sleep so most of the time, I have been talking to them during weekends. At least this kind of addiction doesn’t do any harm to other people and is quite entertaining if I may say. Only thing is that of course instead of me sleeping longer, I had to cut at least 2 hours of my nightly sleeping time but just like any other fad, I am sure this will come to pass soon.

Actually even I am playing many of these apps, it doesn’t mean I have to visit them all everyday. It’s just a matter of time management and effective scheduling. Ha ha ha! For example, in Farm Town if you plant a crop for 3 days, then you don’t need to visit in the next 3 days until the crops are ready for harvest. Unless you are really hot to gain XP to level up faster then you need to visit neighbors often, work for others etc. But for my case, I am not taking it too seriously and am not in so much of a rush to level up fast. Besides, I have other “more important” things to do on other times of the day. Of course these activities doesn’t have to coincide with work or family affairs for that matter. Well, lucky for me, even I sleep past midnight every day, I don’t feel sleepy or not alert in the office or trying to do something silly because of lack of sleep. I am confident even my boss would read this post can say my work is not affected at all so everything should be ok I guess.. Ha ha ha!

Ok going back to the games..I had been hooked up in Farm Town for quite a long time and in fact the post I made here in my blog about Farm Town has been one of the most popular topics in my blog in terms of searches and visits. Truly, Facebook is a global phenomenon and many people have been trying to get information about these apps thru blogs. Lately, I have been spending more time with Mafia Wars which is one of the most popular if not the most popular app in Facebook. Wikipedia listed that as of October 2009, Mafia Wars have 25.9 million monthly active accounts.  It means, it has even more people using this app than the registered population of the whole city of New York!

But what makes Mafia Wars quite exciting if not interesting considering it is not even an arcade type game? Well for one, you gain power, money and influence every time you accomplish any job or have had successful fights. You can even grow your mafia family every so often.

You can select a character type. You can choose to become a Mogul (which means you earn money faster) or fearless (meaning you can recover energy faster so you can do more jobs) or become a maniac (to recover stamina faster so you fight more often). I actually chose the Mogul character. As of this writing, my cash which I have not deposited in the bank is more than 200 million already and I believe I have over 100 million in the bank which I have deposited earlier. Wow, if those are real money, I can take the place of Warren Buffet or Bill Gates very soon especially with the very fast inflow of money into my coffers.

I continuously am trying to improve my Top Mafia based on their profile and level so every job or fights I take, I can get more Experience Points or money. I am currently at level 60 playing less than a month. So if anyone wants to be part of my Mafia family, please feel free to let me know so we can level up together!

That’s all for now folks…I need to read John Grisham’s The Associate. Really very interesting..cannot drop the book even late at night. As soon as I finished the book, will make a post about it.

After Ondoy, here comes Pepeng…who’s next?

The last quarter of the year seemed to bring the most calamities and catastrophes in the Philippines and the world. A string of very strong earthquakes had been rocking Asia and the Pacific from Indonesia, to Samoa to Vanuatu even Jolo, Philippines. Very strong typhoons have been visiting the Philippines and nearby countries almost simultaneously. The disasters brought about by these natural disturbances are alarming.

Thousands of people died in Padang and the damage to properties are widespread. Same with Samoa and American Samoa wherein hundres of people die in the Earthquake plus Tsunami it generated. In the Philippines, the death in Typhoon Ondoy (Ketsana) is over 500 and as I read the news online, reports confirmed that there are 264 deaths in Typhoon Pepeng’s  (Parma) wrath and counting especially since rescuers have to dig through the massive landslide and floodings in Benguet and Pangasinan provinces and many other areas of Northern Luzon.

Many residents fear that the big dams in the area are damaged due to the big volume of rains. However, the government assured that the Dams specifically San Roque, remained strong and firm.

I saw a news article in ABS-CBN news website of SM Rosales Pangasinan being submerged in water up to the 2nd level. The news reported that over 1,000 people are either staying in the higher floors of the mall or on the roof when the flood waters rose very fast. This scenario is very much alike what happened in the Metro during the onslaught of Ondoy’s presence in the country.

Now it is imminent, the effects of Climate change is already affecting people’s daily lives. The compelling question is how the Government can at least assure the people that they are given assistance to rebuild their homes and livelihood. Of course as a citizen of the world, everyone has to have its fair share of responsibility. But the Government should impose stricter policies to help prevent continued denudation of the forests, initiate better garbage collection and disposal thru the local governments as well as have mass cleaning and re-forestration projects. The government should be busy on helping the nation instead of being more of a liability as what many Filipinos perceived them to be.

We don’t know what comes next after Pepeng. The least we can do is pray. As a nation, we have to move forward. We don’t know what’s gonna happen next and we should all be prepared. This actually applies not only to us Filipinos but anywhere in the world what with disasters frequently happening in many nations of the world today.

Analysis by Winnie Monsod

While I was watching various videos of update on the Super Typhoon Pepeng and the damage of the last typhoon, Ondoy, I saw a video in YouTube about the analysis of Professor Winnie Monsod on the Government’s spending especially Foreign Trips which the President has spent over 10% of her total days in the office since she assumed the Presidency. What’s more alarming is not the number of days spent abroad but the costs spent on the trips.

The news anchor Ivan Mayrina said he view the trip as essential especially the last controversial US Trip since the US is the country’s major trading partner.

Agreed.

However, reviewing further the costs of these trips based on Winnie’s analysis, if we are to average out the cost of trip, Winnie said that in 2002, cost per day is USD 45, 880/day and within 5 years period (2007) it rose to 6 times or worth USD 255,600 per day. She also claimed that it is not attributable to inflation, cost of trips (e.g. Hotel accommodation, airline, etc) has increased because it will not increase more than 20%. over that period.

What was said to have contributed to the tremendous increase as quoted on the video is a.) The size of her entourage must have increased tremendously b.) their per diems must have gone up enormously c.) some combination of both.

Winnie’s suggestion: Continue the trips but cut down on the expenses. (I can’t agree more on this proposition).

In connection to this analysis, I saw another video in GMA New’s website on the same News programme wherein Winnie talked about the tragedy of Typhoon Ondoy and it’s relation to what could have done by the Government.

Link to this video: http://www.gmanews.tv/video/48659/qtv-analysis-with-winnie-monsod

She said one factor is that PAGASA (the Government agency tasked to give weather forecasts) do not have a DOPPLER RADAR which is used to determine the rain content of storms and the intensity of flooding that may occur and wind velocity. Cost of this Doppler Radar is a “mere” USD 300,000 to USD 1 million or roughly PHP 15M to PHP 50M. She tagged the amount as “mere” because the cost of this useful equipment is much less than the Pork Barrel allocated to a Congressman (reportedly worth PHP 70M for each Congressman) or PHP 200M pork barrel allocation for each Senator.  Whoa, such a big amount of money really.

Prof. Monsod also compared the cost of this radar to the Foreign trips of the Government. As earlier analyzed, cost per day of a foreign trip is USD 255,000 in 2007. This means the cost of the radar is anywhere between 1-3 days cost of the foreign trips of this Government.

There were many other human errors that she intelligently analyzed.

The National Disaster Coordinating Council reported a loss of PHP 4.8 Billion in damages across Metro Manila and other parts of Luzon and claimed the lives of 277 and counting.  Had the government given priority on these essential instruments , it  could have saved the lives of all of these people and properties even if it costs more than USD 1MILLION.

Of course we cannot blame all of these damages to the Government because I believe everyone is partly to be blamed. All of us in one way or another has contributed to the climate change because of unguarded if not uncontrolled use of energy and natural resources and continuously dumping trash improperly. But many people are trying to point out is for the Government to come to its senses in allocating the budget on priority projects and spend the taxes paid by the Filipinos wisely and morally.

Surely, as a nation we have encountered many natural disasters in the past and we have overcome these tragedies. Soon, everything will be back to normal. Of course, we cannot return back the lives of those people who have died in the calamity but we can do something to correct or improve the way we do things or the way we live.

I fervently pray that God will spare us from more natural disasters and for God to bring a true leader to the country in the next election. I believe the Philippines deserves a better leadership…