Disaster management and chili peppers

Masabaw an naging Pasko asin pagsabat sa Bagong Taon kan kadaklan niyatong mga kahimanwa mantang sa ibang parte kan Pilipinas, it is literally burning lalo na sa Davao City asin Manila. Pero dahil bago na ang taon, may naukudan lamang kaya kita sa mga naka-agi? How about in terms of disaster preparedness?

In my recent visit to Northern Cebu, many were shocked to hear the story of Bicolanos prioritizing the protection of their chili pepper plants than protecting their houses. Tamang-tama kaya na kan satuyang pagbisita, nagraragasa man an Bagyong Vinta.

It may be funny but the practice of protecting chili pepper plants during typhoons clearly show that disaster risk reduction management is already in the subconscious of the Bicolanos even before the Philippine Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act of 2010 or Republic Act No. 10121. Protecting the chili pepper plants before protecting the houses simply means knowing which to prioritize – a must in disaster preparedness.
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Funny prioritization, one might say, but not necessarily wrong. Of course, it is expected if chili production is a family’s major economic activity. However, if it is only a plant or two for a household’s consumption, it really means something. First, aside from being a part of the regular Bicolano diet, chili peppers provide heat in the cold and rainy days especially post typhoons. Second, it shows confidence on the durability of the houses these Bicolanos have. Of course, it could also mean recognition of human limitations by protecting the easier ones first or else accomplish nothing but lose everything – another principle in disaster management.

Bicolanos, of course, have learned a lot being along the typhoon path and being prone to volcanic eruptions, landslides and floods. The region is also prone to man-made disasters like fire and magic – yes, M-A-G-I-C or the mysterious conversion of donated canned meat into sardines. Typhoons Milenyo and Reming in 2006 that literally wiped out barangays in the cities and municipalities surrounding Mayon Volcano also played a role in the refinement of the local disaster management systems and instilling disaster preparedness in the Bicolano subconscious. Because of the learnings, Albay has transformed a lot and has been recognized nationally and internationally as a model local government unit for disaster management.

For 2018, our hope is that we further transform and we transform better. The recent rains have not only caused landslides particularly in Camarines Sur but also left most of Bicolandia flooded. Apart from the refinement of systems and procedures, and changing the habits and consciousness of the people, we need more infrastructure projects that could protect us from these calamities. The Duterte Administration has embarked on “Build! Build! Build!” program and may Bicol benefit from the same.

Lastly, we also need to level up from just being prepared in times of disasters to being resilient. Resiliency is the ability to bounce back immediately after the disaster strikes. It would be an ideal if no disaster comes. Nothing, however, beats reality and, quoting Petra Nemcova: We cannot stop natural disasters but we can arm ourselves with knowledge.

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