Typhoon Aftermath: Open Letter From a Survivor Captures Spirit of the Philippines, and of the Moment

Every once in awhile someone rises up out of nowhere and “says it all”, capturing the moment. The following “Letter from a Survivor”, written by Biboy Alimangohan, is just that and is starting to blow up on Facebook, as it should. The original is in Taglish. I’m posting it first that way, and then below, with a translation of the Tagalog parts.

I will also say this before posting it.  The letter is written to President Aquino, and is critical of him, not so much because of the inefficiency of the government response — but rather for his failure to provide the kind of leadership that would life the spirits of those who are suffering. From afar, watching the interviews that President Noy Noy has given, I have been just deeply saddened by a certain kind of “tone deaf” quality that comes across in the interviews.  You can see him maneuevering beneath the words to shift the blame to someone else, or rather the first thing you notice is that he is relating to the whole situation in a “who’s at fault, it better not end up being me” way. In other words, there’s a defensiveness and a “it’s about me” quality that comes across. There is very little empathy and quite honestly that’s hard to imagine in a Filipino since empathy is a natural part of Filipino character. But then again, maybe not so much among the elite?

I will also preface this by saying that the letter is a bit graphic, so if you’re offended by plain talk, no need to read further.

If, by some outrageous possibility, President Aquino does read this open letter (it’s addressed to him, after all, and its making the rounds of social media) — my sincerest hope is that he would just read it humbly, and take on board what it’s saying, and have a little internal “aha moment” when it becomes clear to him that he’s not doing this right, and he can do better, and the people who are suffering NEED him to do it better. And by that I don’t mean just the efficiency of the relief effort. I mean the way a leader leads, and rallies the spirits of his people.

Here is the letter, Taglish first, English after that.

OPEN LETTER: After being stuck in a dead zone with no comms and internet the past 48 hours ngayon ko lang nababalitaan ang latest antics ng ating kagalang-galang na pangulo. So take this as one Taclobanon’s OPEN LETTER to His Excellency, Benigno Aquino, President of the Republic of the Philippines. Mr. President, Gusto ko lang sabihin, NAGHANDA ANG TACLOBAN. IN FACT, most people we encountered who survived, survived precisely because NAGHANDA SILA. People were evacuated, centers were put up, and warnings were issued. Ang tanong, bakit madaming namatay? kasi tangina naman pre mas malakas pa ang yolanda sa katrina. Kung ang US nga hindi napigilan ang hagupit ng katrina. This was not something anyone could have prepared for. Isa pa, wala bang nakapagsabi sa yo na nasa tacloban ang SENTRO NG BAGYO?? pano mo maikukumpara ang “casualty count” ng leyte at samar sa ibang probinsiya ng hindi mo rin ikukumpara ang lakas ng tama ng bagyo. Pero alam mo minamahal naming pangulo, di ka naman namin sinisisi, puta bagyo to eh, nature to, alam naming hindi ikaw ang dahilan nito. Isa pa, ang mga waray, hindi magaling sa blame game. ANG IKINAGAGALIT NG MGA TAO NGAYON ETO LANG: AT A TIME WHEN PEOPLE ARE DESPERATE FOR A LEADER THAT WILL SEND THEM A MESSAGE TO PICK UP THEIR BROKEN SPIRITS; AT A TIME WHEN PEOPLE NEEDED ASSURANCES THAT YOU HAVE THEIR BACKS; THE ONLY THING YOU GAVE THEM, WAS A BIG “FUCK YOU TACLOBAN, THIS IS YOUR FAULT, DON’T BLAME ME.” (Forgive my very liberal paraphrasing) Tangina naman pre (i hope you don’t mind my audacity to refer to you on friendly terms), hindi naman namin hinihingi na pigilan mo lahat ng bagyo. O kaya na personally ka mamigay ng relief goods. Ang hinihingi lang ng mga tao sa yo, bilang lider ng sambayanang Pilipino, ang maging inspirasyon sa amin. The best leaders throughout history aren’t remembered because they prevented huge disasters, they are remembered because when disaster inevitably struck, they inspired and rallied the people. I’m not an expert on Philippine history, but isn’t that what your parents did? I’m sorry Mr. President, but you failed us. You failed the people of Bohol, Cebu, Leyte, Samar, Biliran, Masbate and all the other provinces that had to face the last few disasters. On a final note, that “casualty count” you so callously keep referring to? That’s not just a number to us. That “casualty count” are family, friends, and neighbors that we will never see again. People we loved and cared about that we will never be able to laugh with or share a drink with. Don’t get me wrong, I do not for a moment presume that you don’t know the pain of loss. I’m sure you do. But, you see, that’s precisely my point. I’m sure you understand, that any human being going through the deepest and darkest grief doesn’t care much that it’s this or that person’s fault. What we need from you right now, Mr. President, is an outstretched hand, not a big middle finger. Yours truly, Biboy Alimangohan Formerly of San Jose, Tacloban City Current address: N/A

Also here is, embedded from Facebook, so if you’re logged in to FB and click on this you can read all the comments too.

 

ENGLISH-IZATION VERSION
OPEN LETTER : After being stuck in a dead zone with no comms and internet the past 48 hours now I just heard the latest antics of our honorable president . So take this as one Tacloban ‘s OPEN LETTER to His Excellency , Benigno Aquino , President of the Republic of the Philippines . Mr . President , I would just say , prepared TACLOBAN . IN FACT , most people we encountered who survived , survived precisely Because they have prepared . People were evacuated , centers were put up , and warnings were issued . The question , why did so many die? Damn because so much stronger than the pre Yolanda in katrina . If the U.S. was not able to prevent the scourge of katrina . This was not something anyone could have PREPARED for . Another, not sure yo have said in tacloban the CENTER OF STORMS ? How do you compare the ” casualty count ” of Leyte and Samar in other provinces also not correctly compared the strength of the storm . But you know we loved president , in turn we blame you , Molly storm to eh , to nature , we know you did not cause it . Moreover , the waray , not good at the blame game . Condemn THE PEOPLE ARE TALKING NOW ONLY : AT A TIME WHEN PEOPLE ARE DESPERATE FOR A LEADER THAT WILL SEND THEM A MESSAGE TO PICK UP THEIR BROKEN SPIRITS : AT A TIME WHEN PEOPLE NEEDED ASSURANCES THAT YOU HAVE THEIR BACKS : THE ONLY THING YOU GAVE THEM , WAS A BIG ” FUCK YOU TACLOBAN , THIS IS YOUR FAULT , DO NOT blame ME . ” ( Forgive my very liberal paraphrasing ) also pre Damn ( I hope you do not mind my audacity to refer to you on friendly terms ) , we also can not resist asking you all storms . Or that you personally distribute relief goods . Just asking people to yoU , as the leader that the people of the Philippines, will be an inspiration to us . The best leaders throughout history aren’t remembered Because They prevented huge disasters , Because They are remembered When disaster inevitably struck , They inspired and rallied the people . I’m not an expert on Philippine history , but that is not what your parents did ? I’m sorry Mr . President , but you failed us . You failed the people of Bohol , Cebu , Leyte , Samar , Biliran , Masbate and all the other provinces that had to face the last few disasters . On a final note , that ” casualty count ” you keep referring to so callously ? That ‘s not just a number to us . That ” casualty count ” are family , friends , and neighbors that we will never see again . People we loved and cared about that we will never be able to laugh with or share a drink with . Do not get me wrong , I do not for a moment presume that you do not know the pain of loss . I’m sure you do . But, you see , that ‘s precisely my point . I’m sure you understand , that any human being going through the deepest and darkest grief does not care much that it ‘s this or that person ‘s fault . What we need from you right now , Mr. . President , is an outstretched hand , not a big middle finger . Yours truly , Biboy Alimangohan Formerly of San Jose , Tacloban City Current location : N / A

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