‘We have not yet seen the full impact of Rolly’s devastation, as some areas in Quezon and the Bicol region are still unreachable, with power and communication lines still down.’
EVEN for a country that sees on the average about 20 storms in a year, the news of the strongest typhoon coming our way rightly threw many people into frenzy in the last few days. You see, most people who monitored the progress of the Super Typhoon Rolly (later downgraded as it lost strength) had flashbacks about equally powerful storms in the past: Typhoon Rosing in 1995, Super Typhoon Yolanda in 2013, Ondoy in 2009. Once our household got wind of the information, we scrambled to top up our food supply and other necessities like water, gas, candles, etc., having seen how bad it can get in these situations. (We had no electricity for two weeks in the aftermath of Milenyo in 2006.)
After searching for information about the storm, I learned that Catanduanes was once again in the path of the typhoon. I asked one of our long-time kasambahay whether her family had already prepared for the coming of Rolly, and fortunately she was able to contact her mother in Catanduanes in time to check in on their situation. We were surprised to find out that while they knew another storm was coming, they had not known that it was predicted to be a strong one. As luck would have it, she was able to reach them a day ahead to warn them, and they were able to evacuate to higher ground.
As a habitual news consumer, I was very surprised that I had to search for details about the storm. Beyond the news that another storm was on the way, I had to make an effort to know more details that would have adequately prepared me for what was to come. Having to exert effort to find more information about a particular issue is usually not a problem for me, but impending calamities is a different animal. This kind of news should be aggressively pushed by government, usually in partnership with media, as it has real and tangible consequences on human lives. Thankfully, I had ready access to the internet and other media platforms, but we all know that the reality is that there are a good number of our fellow citizens who cannot say the same.
The reality of a devastating storm bearing down the country revealed an inconvenient truth: the non-renewal of the franchise of ABS-CBN had a significant impact on delivering timely information to those in far-flung areas. While ABS-CBN clearly tried its best with their now-limited manpower and reach, it was clearly not the extensive and wall-to-wall coverage the public had benefitted from (and legislators took for granted) in the past decades. The loss of their Regional Network Group was felt across the board, especially in the Bicol region where they used to have a regional base.
This is not meant to denigrate the efforts of the other big television networks and small radio stations who did their best to provide coverage and help disseminate relevant information their viewers and listeners, but in situations where lives hang in the balance, every network (big or small) counts.
We have not yet seen the full impact of Rolly’s devastation, as some areas in Quezon and the Bicol region are still unreachable, with power and communication lines still down. I remain hopeful that the casualty count will stay where it is, and that our local government units were proactive enough to have implemented the necessary precautions to have saved their constituents from harm. We may need to wait for a few more days to get news from these hard-hit areas, and should prepare to see how we can help. After all, as one social media morosely tweeted: “Tayo-tayo na lang ito.”