IN SOUTHERN LEYTE and Surigao, the bells have continuously tolled for the past few days, signaling
the death of so many people. The news of this tragedy has reached even the head of the Catholic Church Pope John Paul II who
immediately sent his message and prayers for those unfortunate victims. Finger-0pointing has started. A government officer
pointed out that heavy rains, severe deforestation and the mountain terrain were to be blamed for the fatal mudslides. She
added that heavy deforestation reduced the capacity of the land to hold water. She recalled that before the deforestation
of the area, there was no problem of flooding or landslides.
Twelve years ago when a similar tragic event killed 8,000 people happened in Ormoc, a friend of
mine ask me how can a loving God allow such horrifying accident to occur. I answered by saying, "Let's not blame God for things
people are responsible of. For if the government and its people specially loggers rape and abuse Mother Nature, tragedies
like this will reur over and over again."
The victims may be less in number now but pictures of people being dug out of the mud and
the extreme sadness shown on the faces of their kin cannot but deeply touch us just for saying those words 12 years ago and
not doing anything about it. Like what I did and did not do several years ago, government authorities will again issue statements
and warnings on the possibility of more disasters occuring because of the deforestation of mountains and watersheds. These
happened I recall in 1991 when I read in newspapers that Leyte governor, leopoldo Petilla, said illegal logging was largely
to blame for the calamity in Ormoc. Emilio Osmena, the governor of Cebu province, agreed while Senator Aquilino Pimentel was
so angry that he wanted to lead rallies against illegal loggers who continued to denude the country's remaining forests. All
these came to pass and became forgotten. I am sure with the elections coming there will again be cries for investigations
and clamor for heads to roll. Once more reforestation programs will be announced and started. A complete log ban policy will,
once more, be suggested and debated. Intensive drives against illegal loggers will be pearheaded by government officials.
And the usual political posturing such as people power will be done to defuse the anger of a nation hurt and traumatized by
the gruesome scenes on TV and newspapers.
Hopefully, something good will result from the aboved-mentioned actions. However, to be sure that
these deaths do not recur, we should no longer be watchers of hat others are saying or doing. We should no longer wait for
government to do it for us. As the late U.S. President Kennedy once said, "Ask not what your country can do for you but what
you can do for your country." OFWs can now start looking deeply into themselves and find the courage and strenght to
commit to their country that this will never happen again. That you will do your utmost that no Filipino will again be buried
under and killed by a landslide. Because everytime a bell tolls due to Death's visit, it touches everyone of us.
Lastly, as 2003 ends, may all of us have a properous and peaceful new year!!