I no longer remember his name.
All I remember is he had walked half a day to get to our medical mission in Quinapondan in Eastern Samar a month after Yolanda struck. And I also remember that I was the first doctor this 60plus man had ever seen in his entire life.
Our medical team composed of about 4 doctors worked from sunup to sundown and we agreed no patient would be turned away. It didn’t matter that our supply of medications had run out so that we had absolutely nothing left to give this man—not even paracetamol for this man’s whole body malaise.
And I remember how he approached me—like he was such a bother. And that he wasn’t worth my time—unsure, apologetic. And they come to you because the pain, which they are so used to bearing in silence, has escalated so they can no longer bear it.
And we had literally nothing to give him.
Except to just be with him. Pakikipagdalamhati.
He teared up when I asked him, “Kamusta na kayo, tatang?” and I looked at the other doctors and nurses I was with—them who had nothing to give and I saw that they had done exactly what I was doing. And how this consuelo de bobo seemed to be working.
And I remember teasing Tatang by telling him, “Pano to Tatang, wala ng gamot? Pwede ba kiss na lang?” And I took off my hair clip and shook my hair free and gave him a wink. And that sweet smile there is what he gave me –and that I have kept with me all this time—as well as the community of laughter I shared with everyone there.
And, this is where I learned that physical presence is essential when calamities happen. The people of Samar and Leyte taught me this.
For us who have way too much in life, it can be pretty hard to imagine what it’s like to lose a loved one, not to have food, be naked and cold, have no roof over our heads, listen to your children wail in hunger happen all in one night.
For our brothers and sisters in such dire straits, presence matters. So much.
So many of them blink their eyes in disbelief when they find out we are not from Samar and that we traveled just to be with them. I think it comforts them because they don’t feel too alone and forgotten. I think it fortifies them somehow..
And so yes, physical presence is of utmost importance.
And if you need to be told this, what kind of leader are you? What kind of leader would choose a family reunion over being with thousands who would have gotten so much comfort from her presence? And what kind of leader would prefer sashaying along 5th Avenue over rushing home while her bailiwick is in shambles?
I remember so well the day the possibility of voting for Rodrigo Duterte entered my mind—and it was when I saw the clip of him in Tacloban immediately post-Yolanda.
How he mirrored my grief and the rage whereas Noynoy and Mar just didn’t give half a shit and how they reduced this epic human tragedy into feudal politics as usual.
Rodrigo Duterte, a mayor of Davao, could have easily averted his gaze from the suffering and no one would have faulted him for it because this wasn’t his territory.
And yet there is something Rodrigo Duterte knows and it is this: that he must go where he is needed and he must give all that he can.
Rodrigo Duterte cannot help but be Rodrigo Duterte. This is who he is.
And even before he became President of the land, Rodrigo Duterte brought weight to his life by being the kind of human being who would be there for those who needed it the most –the poor and the oppressed.
And even when we give credit where credit is due (the VP’s work with marginalized giving free legal aid–which made me vote for her), the difference between the President and the VP is too stark.
With rumors swirling about an ouster of this President –fueled by the American, Loida Lewis’ arrogant pronouncements that Duterte MUST resign and let Robredo take over, so many of us are TERRIFIED AND ENRAGED.
Replace a hard working President who has accomplished so much in just 6 months over a VP who couldn’t even be bothered to meet her subordinates till Day 45 when her predecessors and successor hit the ground running from Days 2-5?
Replace a President who works without letup and who has never taken a vacation over a VP who does *what?* and just NEEDS a 2 week US vacation with yayas?
Is this some kind of sick joke?
If she can’t even be there for one province, what makes you think she can be there for the entire nation? If she can’t even manage one paltry government bureau, what makes you think she can manage an entire country?
For our country’s sake—specially the marginalized—those whom the LP ignored/forgot/didn’t care one hoot for and therefore are the most vulnerable, the most doomed in the event of a power transfer—I pray all these talk of ousters are mere products of delusional talks over tea between a demented billionaire with too much time on her hands and a most discredited political party run by elites .
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