When disaster strikes
FROM THE STANDS - Domini M. Torrevillas (The Philippine Star) - September 30, 2014 - 12:00am

When disaster strikes, the man you often see being interviewed on television is Undersecretary Alexander Pama, executive director of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC), which falls under the office of  Secretary of National Defense Voltaire Garcia.

He was barely four months into  the job when Typhoon Mario started raining cats and dogs  and flooding  Luzon, including Manila. Mayon Volcano in Albay started spewing threatening smoke and causing multitudes of people scampering away to evacuation camps, and an earthquake of 5.0 intensity hitting Claveria, Cagayan.

Pama told Bulong Pulungan sa Sofitel  media forum one of his many wishes during such bad times: “The first thing media would ask me, was, how many people died? I wished they would ask, how many people are alive?”

Usec Pama should know by now that most of us in media like to run after a story which says a man has bitten a dog. For a dog biting a man is ordinary stuff.

Pama served as 32nd Flag Officer in Command, the highest position in the Philippine Navy, when he retired, at the age of 56, four months ago. Some of  Rear Admiral Pama’s assignments  before retirement were rescuing Filipinos during a violent conflict in Sabah, heading  the Navy’s Anti-Terrorism Task Group, and mounting military offensive against the Abu Sayaf Group. For his accomplishments he received exemplary leadership awards.

As head of the Philippine Navy, he only had to raise an eyebrow and his men would make a run for things they had to do.

Now he has only about 400 employees to look after the effects of nature’s wrath. Since he took over, he had to contend with eight typhoons, including the most recent ones, Luis and Mario.

Although used to death-defying circumstances, he found the NDRRMC job challengingly different. One is that people thought his team was like Harry Potter, and that he would  just wave a magic wand, and wave the storms and floods away.

The combat veteran said two laws mandated the function of NDRRMC — the Climate Change Act of 2009 (RA 9729) and the DRRM Act of 2010 (RA 10121).

RA 10121 changed government focus from disaster relief to disaster risk and reduction management.  Now the National Disaster Risk and Reduction Management Council focuses on mitigation, prevention, preparedness, response and recovery, and rehabilitation.

The DRRM Council puts together efforts of a network of government agencies and private sector groups involved in the relief, risk and reduction program, from the national council to the regional, provincial, municipal , city and barangay levels.

These prepare disaster-prone areas by scientifically predicting and informing people about when, where, and  how strong rains will hit.

The council met with the local agencies and Albay Gov. Joey Salceda to assess ground assessments and action plans on the imminent eruption of Mount  Mayon.

This time, the agencies’ concerns include the welfare of farm animals and feeding them — in addition to looking after the needs of thousands of people living in evacuation centers.

Usec Pama said although he was not with the council when Yolanda occurred, he learned hard lessons, such as anticipating that in calamities, “our very own people and partners like in Yolanda-hit areas were also victims and that the prep-positioned goods were also flooded or swept away.”

Pama said a lot of potential fatalities and damages can be lessened if people heed warnings and evacuate their areas immediately. Hazard maps show  evacuation sites.

Floods are caused not by the rains alone, but by people’s lack of concern for their environment, like indiscriminate throwing of garbage and denudation of mountains. He expressed optimism that informal settlers would finally be resettled to help ease the problem of stagnated rivers and canals.

The occurrence of earthquakes cannot be predicted, he said. But we can find comfort in the efforts to prepare people for such disasters with the drills being conducted.

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Instead of celebrating her birthday on   September 22 with the usual  sumptuous feast Nene Leonor decided to hold a fund-raising dinner for a cause. The activity was meant to raise funds for Joaquin “Chino” Gutierrez, a very gifted and talented violinist, to enable him to travel and compete in international competitions. Supporting Chino continues Nene’s advocacies as former president of the Friends for Cultural Concerns of the Philippines, whose main program was helping support artists.  

Nene would like to thank her friends who have always supported the FCCP projects during her term. These are Imelda Cojuangco, Linda Lagdameo, Nene Pe Li, Edna Lhuillier, Mila How, Mariquita Yeung, Dra. Lou Ejercito, Ching Cruz, Dra. Ellen Binay, Consuls Louie and Mellie Ablaza, Joey and Mabel Abaño, Estela Lopez, Letty Hahn, and Joel Cruz. Flower arrangements were the work of love of Nene’s nieces Tina Bonoan and Mari Bonoan Escaño, daughters of Nene’s sister Letty Bonoan.

Chino, a charming young man at 24, played a few pieces showing his virtuosity. His rendering of native songs as Kabukiran was distinctly creative. You should listen to his playing of classical pieces.

Also providing entertainment numbers at Nene’s party were singers Rem  Zamora of Repertory Philippines and Jett Pangan of The Dawn.

You might want to do the same thing Nene did to help Chino, a violin virtuoso giving his country reason to be proud. Contact  Tel. 8976017 and 8975239.

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A week earlier, Chino dedicated four pieces of his successful concert repertoire  at the Francisco Santiago Hall at BDO South Tower, Makati City, to two Filipino icons in the field of violin  – Maestro Oscar Yatco, conductor laureate of the Philippine Harmonic Orchestra and “eminent violin professor,” and internationally acclaimed violinist and composer Gilopez Kabayao, “Artist for the People” and 1972 Ramon Magsaysay Awardee for Public Service.  Chino explained his dedication to the two eminent maestros in the preface of the souvenir  program at his September 13 concert, titled “Passion,” which will have a repeat at the Ayala Museum, Greenbelt, Makati City, tonight, September 30, at 7:30.                        

In Chino’s tribute to Yatco, he recalled that the maestro extraordinaire spotted him at a masterclass he gave at Miriam College Music Center when he was nine years old, “and he told me I was born for the violin,  and that I  should be studying violin in Germany.”  Five years later, after much practice, Chino was accepted into the prestigious State Academy for Music and Theater in Munich, Germany. “Life has taken many unexpected twists and turns since then, but here I am at 24, still doing — and embracing the thing that Mr. Yatco said I was born to do,” Chino’s tribute said.

The pieces  Chino dedicated to  Yatco  were Bach’s Chaconne,  which Chino first heard  Yatco play  at the same  Francisco Santiago hall 13 years ago, and Tchikowsky’s Souvenir d’un Lieu Cher (Memories of a Dear Place).

For Kabayao, Chino dedicated  two pieces  – the Bloch Nigun, which Kabayao masterfully played at his Carnegie Hall debut, and the Brahms Sonata No. 3 in D minor. Kabayao , Chino wrote, is “a modern-day hero . . .  who continues to be a guiding light and a source of inspiration and strength as I traverse my own path as a musician.”

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 My email:dominitorrevillas@gmail.com


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