After more than a month of the monstrous havoc brought about by the super typhoon “Odette”, our place is still without electricity. There is nothing on the horizon yet of having the power back anytime soon. Its atmosphere right here and now is likened to where SIMBANA (Simpokan, Bagong bayan and Napsan) was like several years ago – quiet, remote, natural beauty, and simple living. As such, you could not have a hint that people are damn complaining about the current episode under collective life “Ganito rin po kasi noon…sanay na po,” remarked an elderly.

As for me,nasanay na rin ako. In truth, this has been the kind of life which most of us are dreaming of- quiet, remote, natural beauty and simple living. My FB posts would usually gather numerous likes and comments whenever I show photos of seashores, mountain ranges, rural settings, camote for snacks, lobster for dinner, suman and puto in a bilao, tambay sa tindahan sa kanto, etc. Sounding like a chorus they would say,”sarap naman dyan, Fads!” Indeed. It really is. Sarap appears to describe as “walang stress”. Some would even add further, “Gusto ko po dyan mag retire.” While it is just a sheer one-liner, I could not help but also reckon that as they are still wishing it for themselves in the future, I am already into it at present.

The truth, in fact, is the two barangays (Bagong Bayan and Simpucan) have never tasted at all of the power coming from our local electric cooperative. Quite amusingly though, no electricity, no problem. Alternative is the key. These two rural villages have been actually running on solar energy for quite a number of years already. They have their lights on, their cellular phones recharged, our sound system in the chapel working, among others, courtesy of solar panels. Moreover,I was happily surprised when at one time I was trying to close the faucet after washing my hands. An old woman interrupted me, “Okay na po yan kahit hindi masarado. Galing po yan sa bundok ang tubig, running water po.”

I do wonder right now what civilization and progress could the urban-dwellers be talking about. What future are we ushering ourselves into when we talk about technology and all. Could the future actually be a return to the past? Heaven forbid that we must not talk of development while we would just do away with energy that comes from natural resources. Sunlight, wind, rain, sea tides should downright be the proper names of progress.

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Natural energies do make life stress-free. I have never been sleeping so soundly until I got stationed here in SIMBANA. Having neither AC to speak of nor an electric fan to cool off the night, the breeze is all there is to keep me company until daylight. And on some occasions and some sitios at that, I just have to put on my kulambo so as to spare my skin of mosquito bites. Voila, a typical morning is so enticing with the sound of sea waves, along with the chirping of birds, surrounded with lush green forests and the rays of sunshine beholding my face. All these and more are but irresistible invitations for me to spend me-time or to do meditation.

Going back to “Odette”, the unfortunate phenomenon has proverbially put our barrio into the limelight as we were the only place in the entire city with communication lines open and functioning. For four days, Puerto Princesa City was incommunicado from the rest of the populace. As a consequence, I became an instant news reporter getting interviewed by the national press and the foreign correspondents alike. I also got calls from national offices and some multinational companies asking for a situation or so. Furthermore, what was very telling were the numerous requests coming from families apparently begging for an assurance that their loved ones were safe and sound. All told, what kept our barrio alive then was the fact that we had our “energy” intact amidst disasters. While the whole city then was without water and electricity, as had been said a while ago, we had solar and running water. On the other hand, communication lines remained true-blue via satellite instead of the sophisticated fiber optics on the ground.

For many of us, the traditional ways of communicating and interacting came alive once more. Writing (love) letters became a tool of survival. For instance, a son, who is assigned in Brooke’s Point, had to scribble a note and have it favored to a public transport going to Puerto to reassure his elderly parents. I know too of a young wife who had to write a very long letter to be sent to El Nido just to stay in touch with her husband. Payment for purchase had to be in cold cash once again. Gone were orders online, apps, QR codes, and the like. For my part, I had to literally knock on doors of family residences and then capture a photo as a “proof of life” for their loved ones who were just too worried about them that very time. A point in fact has been made very clear – tradition remains a formidable option.

In all respects, while we are into a lot of things of risk reduction and disaster management, some things must be deemed as non-negotiable: renewable energies in natural resources, being connected with family and tradition as a worthy option. Practically, they are what we had known too as the basics. And without what is basic, we do get sick, and we could even be sickening.

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