The sun's out here in Metro Manila, but the northern part of the Philippines is currently pounded by "stationary" typhoon Pepeng (also internationally known as Parma), bringing unprecedented flooding similar to what happened in the city about two weeks back.
As everyday life in Metro Manila springs back to normal, it's hard to imagine that roads, cars, and houses were submerged in waters spawned by typhoon Ondoy (aka Ketsana) just a few days ago. But, this calamity has undoubtedly left a lasting scar on the nation's psyche--now even the slightest drizzle is causing paranoia among the people.
Nature's wrath also did not discriminate the rich and the poor. Those living in exclusive subdivisions suffered in the same way as those living along the river banks. The co-founder of leading operator Smart Communications, David Fernando, was a casualty of this disaster when the perimeter wall of his house in an upscale village fell on him at the height of Ketsana's fury.
Some of my colleagues in the IT beat were typhoon victims as well. Ike Suarez, the most senior member of our group, had to be rescued and evacuated from their house in Cainta town, which was swallowed by flood waters. You can read his harrowing account here.
Another co-worker, Billy Allardo, was also severely affected as their house is located in San Mateo town in Rizal province, one of the hardest hit areas. His car was also swamped by the flood. Despite this, Allardo said he's okay and even urged our press corps CyberPress, in which he is also a member, to help rebuild the computer laboratory of a public school in their area.
If there's anything good that has come out of this tragedy, at least from my point of view as an IT writer, is the fact that Filipinos used technology extensively to help their countrymen. My fellow IT reporter Alma Anonas-Carpio put it superbly when she wrote that Filipinos staged "people power online" in the wake of the typhoon's devastation.
She said it was probably the first time in the country's history that technology played a major role in rescue efforts. "Technology was what made the difference with this storm, as it was the first calamity met with a civilian digital response that was swift, efficient and coordinated," Anonas-Carpio wrote in her Facebook note.
Mobile communications were the first tech tool employed by the rescuers and victims alike to spread vital information. But, as cellular signals became increasingly hard to catch and cell phones ran out of power, the Internet took over as a major artery of news and emergency relief efforts.
The traumatic experience brought about by Ketsana also made Filipinos more conscious of weather conditions, especially when two super typhoons (Parma, which hit the country, and Melor, which made a detour to Japan) suddenly appeared out of the Pacific. The Internet has become a central source for this information.
Lastly, the great deluge also exposed the country's utter lack of modern technologies that could accurately predict the changing climate patterns recorded in this part of the world. Reports have indicated the state weather bureau does not have a Doppler radar that could have helped warn the people of the extraordinary amount of rain (aside from the wind velocity) that Ketsana was carrying.
Hopefully, the government would no longer wait for another disaster to strike before it decides to upgrade the country's weather facilities. If Mother Nature speaks, we ought to listen.