Iloilo City, 21-06-2008

It was supposed to be one of those cloudy days. The sky was dark, not unusual especially that the rainy season has already begun several weeks ago. The Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) raised a signal number one for Bicol Region and the rest of the Metropolitan Manila. The agency forecast that the eye of the typhoon with a sustained wind speed of 74kph will pass the town of Tayabas, Quezon sometime during the midday.

And things started to change.

Since PAGASA releases its forecast every six hours, the typhoon, which is as idiosyncratic as the rest of us, suddenly started to redirect its course and instead moved toward central Philippines. It battered the coast of Romblon and capsized the 23,824-ton Sulpicio Lines ferry, M/V Princess of Stars imperiling the lives of its eight hundred plus passengers. Official reports feared hundreds of dead as the scant number of survivors were rescued.

The province of Iloilo was worst hit and suffered 101 deaths; the death toll, however, will still increase dramatically as there are reported missing cases. As of press time, there is a total of 229 dead persons not counting the victims of the capsized ferry.

For a long time, Iloilo has not experienced a calamity of such enormity. According to a friend of mine, flood water rose in a unexpectedly fast rate forcing families to seek refuge on their rooftops or climb trees.

An arial view of Jaro, Iloilo City after being ravaged by Frank (Fengshen)

I lived in Iloilo City for five years of my life. One of the most beautiful cities I’ve been to where one can experience a rare coming in together of cultural dynamism, urban atmosphere, and a relaxed lifestyle. For me, it was a city that could rival Salzburg, Munich, or even Paris. Its people are one of the most intelligent, open-minded, and optimistic group I know.

While watching in the aftermath of the typhoon, I was wondering if Iloilo can still recover from this mess. Not surprisingly, amid the cars eaten up by flood I saw people who continued to remain hopeful. I saw smiling faces while they unload a speed boat from a truck to be used for rescue operations; I saw kids bathing under the downpours; I saw hope at its purest form. I saw ordinary Filipino who do not easily surrender from life’s adversities.

“John, are you okay there?” Asked my friend who is in Iloilo right now. “Don’t worry about us here, nagsaka na lang kami sa second floor with our things kay grabe ang baha (We placed all our things on the second floor because the water is too deep). Maski wala kami tubi kag kuryente, diri ayos lang, ginsugo ko nila kagina to buy water,hehehe, nakalab-ot ko sa Molo (Even if we don’t have water and electricity, do not worry about us here. They asked me to buy water this morning, I reached Molo). My friend stays in Jaro, a district in Iloilo which suffered worst because of its low elevation.

One thing, this experience taught man never to take his position complacently. While I was still in Iloilo, life was so good and so comfortable that in a way it’s making the people believe in false security as if nothing bad could happen. But this was proved untrue by the events these past days.

I still would want to see an Iloilo City that is as vibrant as when I left it, although maybe it will have changed by that time, but I just want to go back to that city and be infected with the hopeful disposition of the Ilonggos.


One thought on “Iloilo City, 21-06-2008”

  1. i can show you pics of the actual flood. i may not be as artistic as the professionals but at least my shots tell a story. i hope i give justice to photo journalism 🙂
    sometimes the media tend to sensationalize the actual situation but despite of these difficulties, i believe that we Filipinos are immune to any other forms of hardships, calamity as a good example.
    i believe that after all of these testings and trials, we remain to be thankful to the Lord that our lives have been spared to the catastrophe.

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