Hard Lessons for Hard Challenges


Lessons learned the hard way are inevitably repeated. The only difference is how you make of what you have learned.

It’s the same, even more so when tragedy strikes. When it does, it becomes even more painful, catching us off-guard more often. For one thing, tragedy knows no rules to abide by, no traditions to respect. It just happens.

In a world of fast-changing climes — yes, it’s all about climate change, dearie — disaster breeds tragedy. It just takes place, regardless of time and circumstance. And when it does, as it often does, it merely provides a grim contrast to the any season’s merry-making mood, Christmastime or not. It merely gives sudden birth to a painful pause that leaves an indelible imprint in anyone’s consciousness, even more so to the bereaved and the grieving.

At about this time last year, we remember our southern isles besieged by tragedies born from disasters. In a nation such as ours, such tragedies are so unfair, so unmerited during a Yuletide break, given our proclivity to mark the Nativity with fervent passion and anticipation. For a people such as ours, given our largely Catholic upbringing, it’s so distressing that Divine Intercession may seem to have missed its mark at the most benevolent period of the year. There’s no mistaking that the December Disasters of last year would have been less of a heart-breaking tragedy if past reminders of ever-readiness had been heeded. Obviously, something went wrong, very wrong.

As if in retribution, thanks the Lord for huge mercies, nothing heart-wrenching has taken place so far. The weather system may have calmed down somewhat, like the usual quiet before the storm. But perhaps the lull is God-sent, for us to take hard lessons the right way, should another of weather aberrations such as those that lashed us two months back gets to head our way.

Clearly, it calls to mind how government safety regulations ought to be followed to the letter, as in the case of the any fire consuming everything in its path. Clearly, disaster officials should be as alert-conscious as before to give due notice, to issue timely warning alerts, to put people in danger zones out of harm’s way. This is not to exculpate disaster victims who have been noted to be about their usual ways while eking out their downtrodden life. Usually heedless of the coming storm, usually more concerned in squeezing in a day’s earning to close the day.

When will we ever learn lessons of life that could have been deeply embedded in the hearts and minds of everyone? When will we ever realize that disasters are lesser of a risk when the to-do’s are sternly followed, when everyone mandated by a sense of responsibility does his job the best it can be done, when everyone in harm’s way are led out of it?

Grief and anguish over the painful tragedies may salve in time, justice may be served in the end, but if we keep on repeating wayward deeds that result in costly loss, then lessons have not been willfully learned from one set of tragedy to another.

For us here in Baguio, the recent tragedies should spur us, leaders and constituents alike, to take stock of what we are in the national life, lest these misfortunes take place, and they certainly will do unless proactive, as in preventive, measures are made. Landslides and flashfloods are natural after-effects of a passing storm, happenstances that can be mitigated. Road mishaps occurring along mountain highways are a dime a dozen in a year, given the dilapidated, worn-out motor vehicles that are allowed to ply our road networks that are themselves urgent showcases for re-design. Mall fires can also take place, as it did in the 80s when nearly 500 hotel guests perished in the Pines Hotel inferno.

But these days are more characterized by the traffic mess we’re all in. Sure, Baguio remains a topnotch holiday destination, made even more appealing as north-bound expressways became a modern-day reality. The nightmarish traffic snags that occurred a weekend back would not seem to deter another horde of travelers up here, Baguio’s cooling rejuvenating climes enough of an allure to keep them coming. Residents and visitors are expected to simply go about their holidays striving to have the best of what Baguio is in its natural essence, unmindful of the ghastly traffic snarls along every which way while here.

To be sure, as Christmastime hovers over us, they would be here in monstrous numbers, loading up the city’s already over-stretched loading capacity to further strain. The traffic jams would again be simply chaotic, beyond the mere bumper-to-bumper levels. Obnoxious fumes are bound to compete with obnoxious words spewed out with vitriolic ire from exasperated motorists. Traffic enforcers would again pounce on the expected choke points and apply directional waving signals that have proven too puny to unclog the piled up vehicles.

These traffic tragedies have become a monumental source of collective shame for those of us who understand a bit of what honest-to-goodness, plain traffic management is all about. Have we really become so helpless? No wonder that even Baguio old-timers are wishing hard that Baguio be brought back to when the good ol’ days were the best days of their life. Time of course won’t bring us back to those days. But good ol’ vision will.