Sunday, August 4, 2019

Resilience of the Filipino Spirit: The People of Guimaras Island

The Island Province of Guimaras in Western Visayas, Philippines, has a natural ecosystem and booming ecotourism. This tiny island is peaceful and wonderful, and many people are attracted to its natural splendor.

I visited the Island of Guimaras for the first time in March 2014 and met a Religious Community in San Lorenzo. That was just about 2 hours of immersion, but I felt the warm welcome from the Religious leaders and the members. That was the Iglesia Filipina Independiente or Philippine Independent Church that I have served through a practical health talk as part of our WellLife Program delivered in key cities in the Philippines.

Apart from meeting with the Religious Community, I could enjoy swimming at the beach with its semi-white sand and clear waters, so I promised to return to explore the other side of the Island. In December 2014, I returned and enjoyed a day in the islet called "Tatlong Pulo" in Jordan. That was my first ever camping in a cove and my second and last visit to the island I call a paradise. 

WellLife Program in San Lorenzo, Guimaras in 2014

On August 3, Saturday, I was saddened by the news about the tragic incident of the 3 passenger boats that capsized in Iloilo Straight, just in the middle of the waters of the province of Iloilo and the Island of Guimaras. This happened despite the absence of a typhoon signal but the presence of strong wind and water currents. There were reported survivors of more than 50 passengers, but the sad part is the number of casualties and the missing passengers whose lives were not saved.

I feel their loss and empathize with the stories of some survivors and those who are mourning the loss of their loved ones. Who could have imagined the sudden death from a tragedy that could have been prevented from happening?

I remember what I learned from the AGOS forum about Disaster Resilience in July 2017 when they discussed the possibility of zero casualties by following the 3 goals to Prepare, Respond and Recover. In this case, about the boat incident, there might be a need for more preparedness on the part of the authorities when they have not suspended the boat operations despite inclement weather. 

They may not be prepared with higher anticipation and proper judgment that have caused the lives of innocent people. To have responded and recovered would be essential goals. Still, there's always one goal that we tend to neglect, which is "preparation," so this tragic event will keep repeating itself until we learn our lesson on the essence of preparation. 

This would be one of the most tragic maritime incidents in the Iloilo Strait, and we can better prepare so that this will be prevented. Accidents do happen no matter how careful we are, but there are things that we are in total control of. Hence, we can improve our proper judgment, leadership, and sense of responsibility and accountability.

On a personal level, one lesson would be a need for enhanced survival skills like swimming to avoid drowning, and this could be part of our preparation for a possible maritime incident. We can't always play the victim for something which we can do. Nowadays, we can't predict or anticipate an accident to happen, but one thing is that specific survival skills and techniques will go a long way if we value life and become a survivor. 

The people of Guimaras and Iloilo and those families affected may not be able to recover quickly and may need our deepest sympathy and prayers. I have known them to be deeply spiritual people, and they will remain strong and rise again from this sad fate.

As Filipino, we will always rise up from tragedies... we can rise up from natural calamities. Our resilience remains amidst sorrows and pain. But one thing is sure we may be able to recover but not cover the pain. We can live again with the best learnings and wisdom we can gain.

© 2019 Del Cusay

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