PH image tarred by ‘tanim-bala’

By: Malou Guanzon Apalisok November 08,2015 - 11:12 PM

Passing through the Mactan Cebu International Airport last Thursday en route to Cagayan de Oro City, I could sense that travelers were trying to assess things at the MCIA amid reports that corrupt members of the Aviation Security Group and the Office for Transportation Security (OTS) in cahoots with crooked airport officials are running a well-organized extortion racket in the terminals of the national gateway, the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA).

The tanim- or laglag-bala scheme is making global headlines. One Japanese television network even came up with a program on how the bullet-planting scam is carried out in NAIA.

The crude presentation that I saw in the Internet began with a traveler putting his hand-carried luggage inside the X-ray screening machine, followed by the discovery of the bullet by the supposed personnel in the same section. The presentation ended with the airport security police berating and extorting money from the traveler.

Similar reports like this have gone viral, and while we collectively grit our teeth here at home, I heard OFWs around the world are red in the face and can hardly walk up to gather with people from other countries.

With a global image like this, it looks like we are done for good.

* * *

It was 7 in the morning of November 8, 2013 when Supertyphoon Yolanda (International name, Haiyan) hit Tacloban City with 13-feet storm surges.

Recounting that fateful day in social media, Redemptorist priest Fr. Edwin Bacaltos said Yolanda’s fury lasted more than three hours. As the only priest in the parish church that day, Fr. Bacaltos attended to both the living and the dead. Two thousand people flocked to the church after the storm surges stopped. Outside, bodies littered the streets.

He remembers blessing 20 dead bodies scattered along Calle Real across the church. In the days that followed, the church of Our Mother of Perpetual Help became a great sanctuary for Taclobanons whose faith had been shaken.

A death in the family, loss of job, dishonor and financial debacles can cause a person to doubt if God is present.

Yolanda multiplied these disasters that even Pope Francis, when he visited Tacloban on Jan. 17, 2015, was at a loss for words to comfort grieving families except to tell them that “Jesus knows your suffering.”

The words of Pope Francis are as relevant today as they were two years ago because people continue to live in bunkhouses in communities wherein young women are vulnerable to sexual abuses. Children also suffer because of the lack of food, water and sanitary surroundings.

Many national and international agencies decry the government’s slow reconstruction and recovery efforts, despite the billions of pesos that have been poured for projects intended for thousands of people made homeless by the supertyphoon.

This assessment comes not from politicians but from many non-government organizations and volunteers who lent themselves to reconstruction and recovery efforts.

In August this year, the UN special rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons found the situation in Eastern Visayas appalling. He mentioned funding shortfalls and political challenges including a lack of cooperation between local and national government agencies as factors in the delay of the recovery processes.

Listening to the UN special rapporteur, we get the idea why the government is pouring money for infrastructure projects when people need houses, water and basic systems for them to build their lives all over again. The idea of “build back better” is only good on paper unless the government provides for land on which to build better houses.

From where I sit, it is as if nobody is in charge.

The second anniversary of Yolanda was marked by a number of activities in Tacloban City organized by the local government which funded the construction of a memorial park to remember the more than 6,000 who died. The lighting of 50,000 candles along the 22-kilometer route through the streets of the Warays including three neighboring towns was a high point of the program.

Elsewhere in Samar province, the party-list Tingog Sinirangan (Eastern Voice) organized a candle light memorial and fluvial procession from Basey to Tacloban City also to mark the 2nd anniversary of Yolanda’s devastation.

Alexis Yu, who heads Tingog Sinirangan, told this corner that more than 200 people on board 100 pump boats were to participate in the fluvial parade that was to sail off at 7 p.m. through the Cancabato Bay from Basey municipal wharf to Tacloban City. Basey used to be the old capital of Leyte.

The highlight of the 45-minute fluvial parade is the blessing of the sea. As the 100 pump boats all equipped with torches, or dukalwong in the local dialect, sailed off to Cancabato Bay, I could visualize the sea ritual taking on a prayerful atmosphere in remembrance of both the dead who perished in the tragedy, and the living who continue to suffer to this day.

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TAGS: airport, NAIA, Ninoy Aquino International Airport, Tacloban, tanim bala, tourism, Yolanda
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