Isabela

A little over a week ago, I flew to Isabela along with a handful of other reporters to cover President Noynoy Aquino’s visit to areas hit by typhoon Juan.

Behind me is a Philippine Air Force plane

When we went to a disaster-stricken community in the province, I saw scenarios that I had also witnessed during my typhoon Pepeng coverage in Pangasinan last year: trees torn down, houses and various other buildings damaged, and hungry families gathered in a hall as they waited patiently for relief goods.

As we waited for the arrival of the officials who were visiting another area, a fellow reporter and I looked around for a restroom.  There was a local health center nearby, so we entered and asked if we could use the restroom there.

The 30-something woman inside, an evacuee, let us in with a smile, and then apologized profusely because there was no water in the toilet.  It was a painfully touching situation: there she was without a home and without food to feed her family, and yet she was apologizing for not being able to clean up the toilet for us visitors. We immediately told her there was no need to apologize.

I’m not sure if many people in Manila realize how lucky they are that our region doesn’t get hit by typhoons very often, unlike some provinces in northern Luzon. Some students here complain that their classes were not suspended on time, but other Filipino children are not even left with the option to go to school because their buildings were either flooded or damaged.

As a reporter I get to witness disasters from various perspectives: officials’ and volunteers’ and victims’. It’s always the last that gets to me.

I don’t know how to end this post without sounding inappropriately self-righteous or preachy, so let me just share an excerpt from something I wrote after I covered Pangasinan last year:

I met so many:  fellow media practitioners out to get the news no matter what, ordinary citizens braving the flood just to go to their jobs that will put food on the table, children dancing in the rain.

I got a glimpse of how disasters can bring out both the worst and the best in some people. The worst, in some of those who pushed even mothers carrying their hungry, crying babies as they scrambled for food and relief goods. The best, in the countless volunteers and officials who took the time and the effort to go into the most remote parts of the province just to extend assistance to those in need.

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