The Power of Prayer

The Power of Prayer

We thank the Lord that Super Typhoon Ompong, with international name Mangkhut, did not really cause great havoc in the Philippines. The forecast of heavy rains and high storm surges did not happen. Northern Luzon was very much prepared to face the fury of Ompong, so are the Metro Manilans.

Days before monster Ompong hit the country, and while it was causing damage to Guam, Saipan and Mariana Islands, prayer text brigade had been going on in social media in the country. Everybody was telling everyone to pray that the Philippines be saved from the wrath of Ompong; that either: Ompong will weaken or Ompong will divert its direction and will not landfall in the country. It is like praying for a miracle because the World Meteorological Organization forecasted the monster typhoon as the strongest in the world and that it will hit the Philippines with winds at 205kph and gustiness of 255kph, equivalent to a Category 5 hurricane, with 900 kilometers radius and storm surges at 6 meters. Oratio Imperata is also prayed; it is the obligatory prayer during natural calamities such as storms, drought or other natural calamities or circumstances which merit the prayers. It is also invoked during wars, plague and disruption of public peace in society, customarily led by the archdiocese.

In the Diocese of Kalookan, the parishioners pray so hard for the intercession of the second patroness of San Roque Cathedral, Nuestra Señora Virgen de Nieva, the patroness against typhoons, earthquakes and calamities. Faith can really move mountains. Although there were casualties due to landslides, the fury of Ompong did not cause flooding in the flood-prone areas of the Diocese. To the surprise of everyone, Ompong left the country Saturday evening instead of Sunday morning yet. That is what we call “Nasa Diyos ang awa, nasa tao ang gawa.”

About the landslide in Barangay Ucab, Itogon, Benguet, the residents of the place recalled that it is like the mountain falling down and the sound can be heard from a far distance. Reports said that most of the 59 dead, including the 12 missing, were from Ifugao Province. Those who were killed were small scale miners while others were laborers. They came from different places, finding hope in digging for gold ore.

The Itogon mining community was vulnerable to landslides. When typhoon Ompong was forecasted to have a landfall in Northern Luzon, the residents were told to evacuate but they resisted, thus, resulting to casualties and damage to properties.

Lessons learned: Follow the instructions of authorities when told to evacuate. On the other hand, the government authorities must implement compulsory evacuation, especially when they know the terrain of the place is dangerous; and that the rainfall that goes with typhoon Ompong saturated the grounds where the bunkhouses are standing.

Meanwhile, in Barangay Tinaan and Naalad in Naga City, Cebu, a massive landslide also happened. It “swallowed” 30 homes, killed at least 90 people and more missing.

Disaster scientist Mahar Lagmay had been to Itogon and Naga City and he concluded that both landslides were “the same”. (1) Both triggered by “their mountainsides getting soaked with water”. Itogon’s was triggered by the rains of Ompong while Naga’s was triggered by the rains of habagat or southwest monsoon. (2) The landslides in Itogon was “aggravated by small-scale mining”; the oldest mining company Benguet Corporation was being blamed by the local government. There is a quarry in Naga, Cebu, operated by APO Land and Quarry Corporation but local and national officials have not pointed to it as the reason for the landslide. (3) In Itogon, local officials already observed that the soil is already saturated with water from the rains but they said that the said condition is not found in Barangay Ucab. In Naga, there were concrete signs and warnings of landslides by the City Risk Reduction and Management Council; cracks and fissures in the affected areas were found. (4) Maps of Itogon showed the danger zones which are prone to landslides and unsafe. The same is observed in Naga where the houses were occupied by the employees of quarrying company APO. (5) Thousands of miners have been mining unregulated in Itogon for years and that left the government authorities ineffective. In the same manner that quarrying in Naga continues to be unregulated.

With the landslides, Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Roy Cimatu ordered the stoppage of all mining operations in the Cordillera Region; he also ordered to stop quarrying operations in 8 regions across the Philippines.