Saturday, February 18, 2006

All the King's horses and all the King's men....

The news today has been dominated by the landslide on the island of Leyte…I use the word ‘dominated’ very loosely. For a tragedy of this size the news coverage (at least in print) has been almost minimalist…I can’t help feeling that anywhere else the newspapers coverage would be slightly different if a magnitude of this disaster had occurred …instead of (as in most cases) about 50-75% of the front page and then a few pages further into the paper….elsewhere, coverage would have been the whole front page and then the majority of the pages inside particularly the first few pages of the paper….

On the front of the PDI(one example only) the disaster coverage on the front page shares space with news that the first Filipino-American woman to be nominated for an Oscar will wear a Filipino designed gown….and the beginning of a column which compares GMA with the Energizer (Duracell) bunny……..the mudslide is mentioned one more time…on page 6 with only 75% of the page covering the news…

Is this down to ‘news apathy’, i.e. it’s happened before….it’ll happen again….. the average Filipino being so used to tragedy and disaster in their country that it doesn’t register any more…

When the Ultra stampede happened my colleagues raised an eyebrow and generally implied that, ok, this was a slightly different tragedy to befall the country but these sort of things are to be ‘expected in the Philippines’….when I saw the breaking news on the BBC yesterday afternoon about the landslide I told my colleagues in the office….their response…”Again?” and then carried on talking about what they were going to do at the weekend….I am fairly sure they are not being cold hearted and un-feeling….just accepting…..

I am finding it hard to comprehend that ‘just down the road’ (as it were) there are somewhere between 1,500 – 2,000 people lying buried in mud; including a school which was at the time, filled with an estimated 200 children.

The disaster has so far been blamed on a combination of heavy rains and logging….man and Mother Nature struggling against each other…as they do so often in this country.

The Philippines is a particularly unfortunate country, almost every year brings natural disasters on a devastating scale..ranging from floods to typhoons to volcanic eruptions to landslides, with the odd earthquake for variety. Add to this the man-made problems…politics, population control and pollution (to name just three) and for an outsider such as I am…the country is a ticking time bomb in serious need of someone to sort out the challenges it faces.

I asked some of my colleagues the other day if they thought anything was going to happen on the 25th February (the anniversary of EDSA)…the general feeling was “No”….for two main reasons…the first being that although people are ‘annoyed’ with GMA, their feelings are not yet as strong as they were back in 1986 and in 2001 (for EDSA II), the second reason being that they don’t feel there is a viable alternative to GMA…or at least not viable enough to cause hundreds of thousands of people to wander along EDSA….again…dare I say it…..apathy strikes….

Two columns I have read today have made me think about this country and the way it is governed….

The first was from the The Standard ….and is written by a journalist who was at the airport the day Aquino was assassinated and was also one of the journalists inside the Palace soon after the Marcos family left….Where has the hope gone?

It is almost as if the entire country has given a collective shrug to the current political mess because the details become numbing.

Now the country waits, in vain apparently, for People Power 3 to get rid of Arroyo.

"I don't have the energy to overthrow another president," a friend of mine said last year when the Arroyo scandal began, and it seems that weariness, rather than any lingering credibility, is what will keep Arroyo in office.

The second column was from the Opinion page of the PDI….the column itself “Passage to India" was, obviously, predominantly about India…but one paragraph really gave me pause for thought….

One of the things that should interest Filipinos is that its present president, A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, is an aeronautical engineer. That's right, he's not a lawyer, nor was he ever a TV host or a movie actor. He is the author of five books, one of which has been translated into Chinese, Russian and Korean, and has two books of poems to his credit. We have much to learn from the Indians.

I know my thoughts have not been organised in this was written in haste, with too many subjects jostling for opinion, with not one clear thought coming through...however, this country has many, many problems and it is going to take a concerted effort from the population, the media and a suitable goverment to overcome these huge hurdles.


Blogger Skippy-san said...

I still wonder what the Philippine Diaspora has to do with how messed up things are in the country. Could it be that all the best and brightest are all somewhere else making the living their own country cannot give them?

Thus as a result, the home guard has become apathetic simply waiting for the money and the goods to arrive from overseas.

Harsh I know, but all of the Filippinos I've met are talented people ( some for good, some for ill) Why they do not put that energy to good to fix their country and make it into the power house it could be is beyond understanding.........

6:38 am  
Blogger Madame Chiang said...

Just after I posted this I thought that you would be the first to reply...bringing in your thoughts on the overseas workers!

One of my earlier posts after arriving in Manila was about a conversation I had with some of my colleagues and the end result was that they felt the only type of leader who could take them out of this mess was someone who had no family connections, no business connections and was basically just a hard headed the time my colleagues suggested Bill Clinton....the other day we revisted the conversation and the general concensus was that Lee Kuan Yew would be a better bet...

I think you make a fair point in your post, however I think that when considering the government the lack of cohesion, lack of direction and the high level of 'cronyism' that exists here is very much to blame...

Politically, I can almost see where the 'average Joe' is coming from...having been through two 'People Power' revolutions, emerging each time thinking they were entering a better and brighter future...the third time could seem a little 'pointless'....for some bizarre reason that quotation from "The Importance of being Earnest" springs to mind..."To lose one parent may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose both looks like carelessness"

8:49 am  
Blogger Glenzo said...

Whenever I hear of these tradegedies, I remeber a book that i read as a young man.
Thornton Wilder's second novel, THE BRIDGE OF SAN LUIS REY, was published in 1927 to worldwide acclaim. The plot is deceptively simple: On July 20, 1714, "the finest bridge in all Peru" collapses and five people die. Brother Juniper, a Franciscan missionary, happens to witness the tragedy, and as a result, he asks the central question of the novel: "Why did this happen to those five?" He sets out to explore the lives of the five victims, and to understand why they died. Ironically, his quest will lead to his own death.

11:54 am  
Blogger Skippy-san said...

This landslide event will be in my post tomorrow. I spent most of my day on the phone and figuring out what aircraft and stuff we had to send down to the Philippines. USS Essex and USS Fort McHenry have been sortied to assist. The US Navy is expecting to provide more help in the days to come. Shades of last year and Tsunami relief.

Me? I'll be here in Japan working the phones and e-mail......God is still never going to let me go to the PI. Even for a good cause........

8:44 pm  
Blogger Madame Chiang said...

It's all in a good cause...any assitance they get will no doubt be gratefully received...

You should try to get here...even if under your own is a country that has to be experienced first hand...even if just to blow previous assumptions out of the water!

9:06 pm  
Blogger Glenzo said...

The Navy was in town yesterday but are gone already. They are on their way, I guess to assist.

10:01 pm  
Blogger Skippy-san said...

I'd love to go to the PI, but my employer frowns upon it and its a lot of hassle for me to go by myself because I am not a Filipino....they have, in my opinion, an unreasonable fear about the MPF there.

7:46 am  

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