URDUJA fatalities have listed over 40, while more than 30 others remain missing to this day. As this is being written, another weather disturbance is even now crossing northern Mindanao, just days after Urduja spawned the tragedies that we’re now inflicted with. Yes, Urduja and Vinta aren’t your average super typhoons in the category of the hurricanes that swept up the Carribean island communities, yet the misfortune that befell our compatriots in the Visayas, especially in Biliran, has dampened the holiday spirit somewhat. Just 3 days before Christmas Day, and we’re being overwhelmed with unparalled anxiety never before experienced.

Biliran has absorbed much of the fatality listup largely because of landslides triggered in a matter of hours after Urduja dumped heavy rainfall on the hapless province. And why was this so? Because our constituents down there weren’t advised well enough? Because our weather specialists didn’t give fair warning on the coming storm? Because we’d rather leave everything in God’s mercy, rather than giving it our all to be out of harm’s way? Because it’s December, and no storm in recent memory has historically besieged our hapless communities?

Whatever reason anyone advances now, there’s no denying that the tragedy-struck families were so unprepared in meeting the deluge. Neither did they feel being at severe risk since the mountain slope had not even been denuded for soil to loosen up and cascade ferociously to sweep up everything on its lethal downward descent. It’s very obvious that incessant rains over the weekend have loosened the mountain soil enough to unleash the avalanche of mud, trees and boulders from the slopes down at the foothold.

What we’re obligated to highlight is the seeming absence of effective coordination among disaster officials and the communities that have been allowed to live in risk areas. Forced evacuation has long been a rallying catchphrase we hear every now and then when an impending storm is just hours away. The Biliran families who top-listed the fatality count were simply left to God’s will. Infuriatingly sad indeed.

Why has Mother Earth gone extreme, the weather events taking a turn for the worse? We are grimly reminded that we are where we are now due to our own misbehaving ways, repeatedly done since four centuries ago. Have we forgotten that scientists the world over have been warning us that since four centuries ago, what mankind has been doing is to bombard Mother Earth with too much concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, resulting from combustion of fossil fuel principally coal, oil, natural gas, along with deforestation, soil erosion and animal agriculture?

In short, we’ve been abusing our planetary home from way, way back, we’ve been wreaking havoc on our precious ecosystem that has been our lifeline into the future, we’ve been irresponsibly leading a lifetime of extreme profligacy and inordinate greed at the expense of the generations next. By 2047, the earth’s surface temperature would have drastically altered, enough to ignite mankind’s own ill-fated annihilation and extinction.

All is not lost however. Weather events may come and go but we can get over the hump if each time we take heed of nature’s vengeful ways. It may be late in the day, but surely there’s nothing to prevent us from heeding grim warnings about climate change. We can forestall the end of days by the essential ways in which we should lead our own lives.

First, we bring down the level of massive pollution now afflicting the planet. This is achievable if we reduce dramatically the greenhouse gas emissions into the earth’s atmosphere. The task is even made much easier if leading polluters that the United States and China have become in just 50 years of wanton misbehavior are brought to heel for their extremely errant ways. At the same time, peoples and leaders in every other place on earth can accept it as their supreme legacy to do today what should have been done many yesteryears ago. Simply stated, it means working today to secure a future of responsible stewardship of the only planet we can pass on to the next inhabitants.

And before we put Urduja and Vinta behind, let’s keep a more vigilant eye on Baguio’s mountain slopes, much of whom have been habituated by us but have remained extremely vulnerable to another weather disturbance. Let Biliran, and earlier than that, Ormoc serve as the signature names to keep us mentally alert and active in forestalling unwanted tragedies. #

P.S. We join everyone in celebrating the Birth of the Child Jesus! May the best of Christmastime come from us, as a worthy gift to our Savior and Redeemer. Let his birth amid the scantiest of circumstance serve to remind us that humility, more than honor, is a better stepping stone to success. Merry Christmas to one and all!


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