Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Locked in Lepanto; world politics

Locked in Lepanto; world politics

Either the world has learned from us, or maybe the kind of politics that we practice here was originally the world’s all along, since it is more the quid pro quo or “you scratch my back and I will scratch yours” kind of thing.

Take US President Barack Obama, for example. He and his wife, Michelle, traveled nearly halfway around the globe to persuade the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to hold the 2016 Olympics in Chicago, Illinois, Obama’s home city and state, quickly installing Chicago (to most Filipinos, Chicago’s reputation is that of a Mafia city in the ’20s and ’30s, reminiscent of bootlegging, submachine guns, and gangland killings in the days of Al Capone; also the home team of basketball great Michael Jordan) as the odds on favorite over Tokyo, Madrid, and Rio de Janeiro, with the latter city eventually getting the honor. This proved not only a disappointment, but probably also an embarrassment to the Obama couple.

Chicago, in fact, was first to be eliminated in the preliminary balloting.

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Anyway, guess what happens next?

In a totally unexpected turn of events, President Obama is awarded the Nobel Peace prize.

The announcement caught the White House by surprise, so that even the usually articulate Barack, who seems to have the right words for everything, was hard-pressed to come out with a statement that would neither make him look too eager or even undeserving, which is how the rest of the world feels about the latest feather in Obama’s cap.

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So what does this mean? First they hurt Obama’s feelings, (something of course denied by Obama proppers), and then make up for it by giving him an even bigger plum.

Personally, I feel that former US vice-president Al Gore is more deserving of the award, but that’s Gore’s luck, losing to George Bush in a presidential election under a cloud of doubt, yet conceding defeat early so as not to divide the American people.

And no one seems to remember that it was Gore who trotted the world to warn us about the effects of global warming and climate change.

Unlike Gore, statesmanship is something that Filipino politicians do not have, particularly Erap Estrada.

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Also hugging the international news is the Philippines, citing specifically, not only Metro Manila and the other storm-affected provinces, but also the City of Baguio itself, the reason why we keep getting calls from relatives abroad asking how we are.

I wouldn’t know exactly, since over the past two weeks I remain trapped in Lepanto, Mankayan, unable to travel because of several landslides, rendering Halsema Highway impassable.

Not that my Minda and I are surviving on camote and other root crops, but being isolated in a place away from family can be tough on the mind and heart, but thank heaven for cell phones, one gets to know how things are at home no matter the distance, although our two boys, albeit living apart from each other, say that calling up every couple of hours is plain too much parental concern.

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I am familiar with Little Kibungan, where a lot of people died following a huge landslide in the area caused by the heavy rains, even if it lasted for only a little over a day, but the amount of rainfall, as measured by PAGASA, was the equivalent of a month’s downpour, which explains the flooding all over.

If you motor via Tam-awan to and from La Trinidad on a regular basis, you can’t help but notice the small landslides along the way every time there’s a torrential burst from the clouds.

As our Lepanto colleague and friend, geologist Froi Conde explains it, the soil is incompetent (he quickly adds that he isn’t talking about lawyers) meaning the earth is unable to hold itself together when water seeps through, and will naturally slide or fall, more so when there are no imbedded rocks and vegetation to at least make the soil firm and stable. I hope I got that right, Froi.

Funny, but like the soil, I failed to put things together when Froi and I were introduced to each other by Lepanto senior vice-president Gus Villaluna – you know Conde, UP, geologist, great prose – right on that day I should have known it was you, Froi. Sorry.

Ah, but I was still an assistant prosecutor when we first met, and old age affects the memory.

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There is nothing we can do about natural disasters, and even with all the scientific advances, there is no way to avert them.

But to some extent, deaths and injuries can be avoided. The trouble is that we do not listen. People who live in low-lying or coastal areas, or in places prone to landslides, refuse to heed the warnings, but the question might well be asked—where exactly will they go?

Government must partly be blamed for this. Leave now, government cries, (lisanin nyo na ang lugar), but government does not make ready where the people will move to.

Evacuation centers crop up only after the damage is done, and the people are moved out in the course of the typhoon, or following the aftermath—a little too late, I would say.

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The weather bureau makes the forecast, but all the other government agencies do not coordinate with PAGASA on what steps to take before the typhoon hits.

Like loose soil, or military prosecution witnesses (a private joke), government appears to be incompetent. Similar to showbiz folks, politicians love the heroics of after-the-fact-TV exposure, postures of sympathy, with the ever “sickening,” humbling (kuno) statement, “ang sarap pala ng pakiramdam.”

Frankly, true charity is never showy, and should even be anonymous. But for showbiz, rescuing a distraught Christine Reyes is the essence of chivalry.

How sad that not too many know the names of the young man and the soldier who gave up their lives saving others. Hopefully, in time . . . 

Author: Benny Carantes
Publisher: Baguio Midland Courier
All Credits are given to the author and publisher above

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