Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Telling the Truth: A Rotarian's Bitter-Sweet Dilemma

Marvin Macatol
17 January 2012

The New Year 2012 is here and I wish it finds you well. I also wished the Christmas Season that closed the previous year was spent well and joyously with family and loved ones.

As you may already know, in another part of the country, I couldn't say those lines. In my home city of Cagayan de Oro, a flood caught everyone sleeping and swept them away in the unholy dark and early hours of December 17, 2011. These were all in the papers.

My family and relatives were fortunate to have been spared. But an indescribable pain still burned my heart. It found expression in a series of slides entitled, "Remembering Sendong (Washi): Did You Really Understand What Happened?"

These slides illustrated how Sendong, the twisted decision of the Cagayan de Oro City government to allow people to live in hazardous areas of the city, and the denudation of the forests became a lethal mix that created the catastrophe that killed more than 1,000 people -- formal and informal settlers alike.

I posted these slides on Facebook on December 25, 2011. In a little more than a week, more than 4,500 people saw the slides and shared it with their friends. It was a mega-hit in the world of social media.

Several people asked for my permission to use my slides in their own presentations. I of course agreed. All I really did in those slides was repackage existing information and quoted other people heavily. I had no doubt that it touched the hearts of those who are now sick of the wanton destruction of our environment and utter disregard of the government and loggers about our forests and watersheds. It touched the hearts of people who wanted changed.

I'm sharing this because I wish no one has to create those slides for Quezon City one day. One of the highlights of our club's activities in 2011 was the Intercity with General Elmo San Diego as our speaker. He talked about the West Valley Fault System.

I was reminded of San Diego when I came across the story of the previous City Mayor of Cagayan de Oro City who became unpopular because of his efforts to let the settlers leave the hazardous areas. Today, the people now know that Mayor Magtajas was right all along. These people wished they listened earlier. Some people didn't live the next day to make that wish.

Back to Quezon City, no one knows when the West Valley Fault System would move. But when it does, I can only pray that Rotarians wouldn't look back and say, "I wish I listened and did something."

To talk about the West Valley Fault System would be an unpopular move. We would be branded "alarmists" and overzealous environmentalists, even by members of our own ranks. We would even be called trouble makers by those whose real estate properties would be seriously affected by the news. But while we would wish to show detractors how wrong they are, we likewise wish that such a day would never come.

It is a bitter-sweet dilemma.

To be bearers of truth isn't an easy task indeed. But then perhaps it's why the first question we ask in the way we think, say or do in Rotary is, "Is it the Truth?"

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