If Tani Ato were a celebrity, his tragic story would have merited a running news story in the national papers. But he is not, so his grief will have to be immediately lost in the nation’s frenzy for the most explosive showbiz scandal and the next presidential polls.
If Tani Ato were a writer, he would have told of how he metaphorically wrote 30 at 73, when the recent typhoon conspired with tons of earth to bury six of his kins at Twin Peaks. He would have graphically described how his tears raged as he frantically dug up his dead, how he washed them clean, and how he buried them in a row of tombs close to his house. But he is not, and all he could do is tell the nosy in unadorned speech about how he lost Ambrosio, 49 ; Oliver, 27; Patricia, 30; Gloria, 27; Keithley, 4; and Jamaica, 9 (mos.).
If Tani Ato were a preacher, he would have waxed eloquent on theodicy and eschatology exhorting people that the disaster is simply the will of God, and all he must do is to have a deeper faith in the inscrutable wisdom of Divine Providence and to be forewarned of Armageddon and be assured of Heaven. But he is not, and he is still probably wondering why he had to bury his own children and grandchildren and if in his remaining years on earth he will have to bury too his other surviving relatives, with none left to bury him.
He didn't have to lecture me about coping with tragedy. I could see how, after being battered by a storm, he has striven to get on with his life: I could see it in the deep lines of his face, in the unpracticed way he pointed at the encased photos of his dead loved ones; I could hear it in his simple retelling of a nightmare that, from hereon, would haunt him during every heavy downpour at night.
He is just one of those hundreds of residents in Tuba, Benguet who will have to nurse a wound in the heart for the rest of their lives. He is just one of those thousands of voiceless, faceless victims of calamities across the country whose harrowing struggles with the random changes in life must be shared with the rest of the world if only to make us more humble, sensitive, compassionate, generous, just, thankful.
The road to Twin Peaks...
Five years ago, I covered the inauguration of this new modular bridge in Tuba, Benguet for DILG–CAR's official publication, Gongs and Drums. Everyone was jubilant then, for the bridge primarily meant easier transport of goods from the vegetable farms to the market. Now, the bridge was used by grief−stricken villagers to transport their muddy dead.
Abigail Daculan, also a former Local Government Operations Officer (LGOO) and now our school nurse at UP Baguio, was back to her usual Community Organizing stance as she helped distribute relief goods (thanks to the UP Baguio Community and Café by the Ruins) directly to the affected families.