a series of unfortunate events

27 06 2008

I wish I’m just writing about Lemony Snicket’s series of books.. I wish I’m just writing about death of goblins and other fictional characters. Unfortunately, I am not. 😦 I am sharing with you real-life accounts of unfortunate events that have stormed our country, the Philippines, in the past few days.

Typhoon ‘Frank’ Batters the Philippines

Last Saturday, Frank wreaked havoc in our already distraught country. Thousands of people were left homeless — young, old, rich, poor — others either missing or dead. What’s more distressing is that a lot of the fatalities were young children. It makes me think now that perhaps this is Mother Nature’s way of getting back at those people — mothers — from recent reports who have purposely killed their newborns for pathetic reasons. Maybe it’s Her way of saying, “Alright, it’s children that you don’t like.. children it is that I’m taking away from you.”

M/V Princess of the Stars

At the peak of Frank’s fury last weekend, Sulpicio Lines’ M/V Princess of the Stars succumbed to the sea. There were, I think, close to 900 passengers and crew members but to date, only less than a hundred have been reported alive and rescued. The rest, again, have been reported either dead or missing. This has been the 5th ferry from Sulpicio Lines that have died in the water. It’s really a wonder why they are still in operation after all these. Yes, the accidents were never on purpose. However, these have been results of human errors, which in turn means that not all necessary precautions were undertaken in order to prevent such tragedies from happening. The slightest and smallest error in judgment and in preparations may, and in most cases will, lead to unfathomable disasters — I wonder just how much more of these need to happen before we all learn from past mistakes.

Mt. Pundaquit Tragedy

Last June 21, a group of hikers went to Mt. Pundaquit in Zambales. This was just like any other hike to them, I guess. But fate has other plans that day for 3 of the 12 hikers. At around noon, they were crossing a creek when 4 of them got swept away by raging waters. Fortunately, one of them survived but was badly battered. The first body was found on Sunday (June 22). The search for the remaining 2 victims resumed. On Monday (June 23), the 2nd fatality, a female hiker, was found. I learned about this tragedy from my officemate. It would have just been one of those unfortunate events, if not for the fact that the last missing victim was Thaddeus Reantaso who was once an officemate of mine. And though I’m not as close as the others are with him, he was still a friend. The search for him went on for days. Until finally, on Wednesday (June 25) – on his 32nd birthday – his body was found on Hermana Mayor island which was 90km away from the creek that swept them away. When I started writing this entry last Tuesday, I intended to make it as news-like as possible. But ever since I heard that Thads’ body has been retrieved, I just find it so impossible to sound detached.

In a way, these tragedies — or all tragedies for that matter — can be very humbling. It makes us realize that we are but specks of dust here on earth. We may have the freedom to do what we want to do, to command and demand, to build and destroy… But despite all this freedom, God still has the final say as to when we live and die.

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2 responses

28 06 2008
Jodl

Sigh… so true..

2 07 2008
james

RIVER OF RAGE

The passing away of our fraternity brother, friend, and my one and only batchmate Thaddeus “Tadz” Reantaso marked an outpour of sympathies and flood of comforting messages. I hope people won’t get me wrong, I am dearly grateful for these expressions of sympathies and its good intentions. But as much I would want to appreciate kind words for Tadz now and appreciate people texting and saying to me “there is a greater purpose or plan” or words like “he died for a good cause,” I cannot achieve to see the glory in his death if there is any. There is no glory here except tragedy. I respect people when they would like to view this unfortunate event as a glass half-full rather than half-empty, to see the brighter side of things. But for those who still feel the loss and would like to mourn, then let them mourn.

Right now I’m asking myself, “why would Tadz engage in mountaineering?”, “Why would he join an outreach program?” Someone told me during the wake that probably that’s where he found his further enlightenment. Im sure people feel good helping and connecting to other people. Although I remember him telling me when I joined a similar group during college, that such welfare endeavors are not sustainable, that it could be just for guilt-washing purposes. Maybe he changed in that aspect (I’m glad that he did). Im not sure if he found his god there or found answers to his existentialist questions, surely the mountains and the experience of climbing it is truly breathtaking aside from the fact that it is highly conducive for sex, booze, doobies and other forms of bourgeoisie adventurism. I cannot hide my obvious angry inquiries on his intentions. If he is alive now, i would tell him, “You want to find enlightenment? You need not go far! Just look at the side streets of Manila, bro’. There you will find a mountain full of our society’s trash and it’s up to your conscience to climb and conquer it or not. You’ll find it not in an escapist and adventurist exploit in the wilderness but in the center of our daily urban dwellings. There the truth awaits you! And it awaits your decision to do something sustainable about it or turn around and walk away.” But I’m sure he knows that already. He had a better grasp of social reality long before I did. So I guess I’m telling this to him because I am partly guilty of apathy and because I badly wanted him to be safe and alive right now.

As my grief is settling down, i try to find objectivity in a mesh of rage that i am experiencing. I struggle to see through the eyes of everybody who have known Tadz in varying degrees. I try to understand the different levels of grief and guilt (if there is, to some people) so as to avoid prejudice. But my heart is crying for one thing here – THE TRUTH!

What really transpired during that moment when his team was crossing that river? What exactly happened? Is there a rope that the team could have used to assist them in crossing the river? If there is, why didnt they use it? What are the protocols and S.O.P.s when there is a typhoon? Should mountaineers proceed with the climb even if the typhoon signal is low or the affected area of typhoon is far? Whose call is it to proceed? Whose call is it not use the rope? Tadz dont know how to swim. Was it not a prerequisite in joining mountaineering clubs since crossing rivers is an integral part of trekking the mountains? Was there anyway to prevent such tragedy from taking place and taking the lives of people???!!!!!!!!!!!!! And finally, was it enough to say that people never wanted such thing to happen?

I am sure that if such tragedy fell on me or to you, Tadz will be writing here, unapologetic for razor-sharp words that he normally lashes out and throw everything including the kitchen sink God knows who gets hit! I’m sure it’s going to be a lot better than this “child-friendly”, edited down version of what I originally wrote (puro mura kasi yung original).

As much as i want to bury the dead and let my batchmate-brod and his companions rest, I cannot turn away from the urge of getting to the truth. The truth cannot bring back the dead, i know, but it can help reassure not just mountaineers, but rowing teams, diving and surfing groups, and other outdoor activity club members, people with similar families and friends that may grieve their loss if ever, of their safety and compel organizations to be more proactive in protecting lives. I am sure that we are all one in wishing that such tragedy will not befall other people especially those close to us. Outdoor and recreational groups must take concrete steps including ADMITTING OPERATIONAL LAPSES AND RECTIFYING THEM.

Now i call on everyone who has even a tiny grain of regards for TADZ, to those who openly express their utmost admiration and respect for this fallen friend, to come out, FREE the TRUTH, and let true healing take place.

The truth must come out. Justice must be done. Lives must be further protected.

-James C. Hermogenes
Fraternity Batchmate/Brod, friend

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