The ‘Jo-Koy’ in all of us Pinoys
COMMONSENSE - Marichu A. Villanueva (The Philippine Star) - January 20, 2020 - 12:00am

It was one of those days when you needed some kind of de-stressing after a day’s work at the editorial office where news stories kept coming about the catastrophic eruptions of Taal volcano in Batangas. Luckily, a dear friend gave me a last-minute complimentary ticket to watch last Thursday the “Just Kidding World Tour” show in Manila of Jo-Koy, the popular Fil-American stand-up comic.

Staged at the Mall of Asia Arena (MOA) in Pasay City, the show of Jo-Koy – whose real name is Joseph Glenn Herbert – was a welcome relief, albeit admittedly it was a temporary brief escape from the sad and heart-breaking news and stories of devastation wrought by the Taal volcanic calamity. It was supposed to be a 45-minute stand-up one-man comic act of Jo-Koy but it went on for more than one hour before a jam-packed audience at the MOA Arena.

Jo-Koy lived up to his hilarious takes on his personal and family life experiences being a typical Filipino coming back here in our country as a balikbayan. He grew up here until he was 11 years old when their family migrated to the United States. From the start of his show, Jo-Koy wisecracked about his new experiences on what he called as “gaddamit” traffic in Metro Manila.

It was wise enough of Jo-Koy not to poke or made fun on his first-hand experience when ashfall from the Taal eruptions last Sunday reached Metro Manila a few days after he and his family arrived here.

But here is one of not so funny reasons why many of the 1.4 million or so workers in government gripe about having a thankless job, especially for those who are on-call 24-7 to serve the public. A classic case is the blame and accusations being hurled against the dedicated men and women of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs).

A congressman has asked his colleagues in the 18th Congress to investigate the alleged failure of Phivolcs to issue timely warning to the people of affected communities to evacuate out when Taal Volcano started its eruptive stage last Sunday afternoon. Rep. Elpidio Barzaga, a congressman from Dasmariñas City in the province of Cavite, sought for this inquiry in the House Resolution 643 he filed a day after Taal’s explosive eruptions. He complained that Phivolcs allegedly did not provide the “hazards of volcanic activity of Taal volcano to the general public and more particularly to its nearby cities and municipalities of Cavite, Laguna and Batangas.” 

A portion of House Resolution 643 he authored stated a “need to have a pro-active and not a defensive response from Phivolcs, concerned government agencies and local government units (LGUs) with regard to their actions or inactions” to the latest Taal volcano eruption.” Obviously trying to cash in on the high media attention given to the continuing explosive eruptions of Taal Volcano, Barzaga’s kneejerk House inquiry of Phivolcs would likely be read and approved on first reading when the resumption of sessions of the 18th Congress starts today.

Phivolcs personnel are mostly the nameless and faceless seismologists, geologists, volcanologists and other science experts behind the scene doing 24-hour monitoring of potential natural geo-hazards all around the country.  This is, of course, except for Phivolcs officer-in-charge, Director Renato Solidum Jr. who is concurrently a Department of Science and Technology (DOST) Undersecretary for Disaster risk Reduction and Climate Change. Solidum’s high-profile appearances in media were lately equaled by one of his most capable and competent deputies at Phivolcs Ma. Antonia Bornas who is the volcano monitoring division chief of the state-run seismology agency.   

Fortunately, we have more right-thinking leaders in Congress like House Majority Leader Martin Romualdez who acknowledged it is really difficult to predict the occurrence of volcanic eruption and related disasters. But with more modern and advanced technology equipment and gadgets, there would be more reliable ways to detect potential eruptions. This was why, Romualdez cited, Congress earmarked P588.1 million for this year’s budget of the Phivolcs for the acquisition of equipment needed to upgrade its monitoring of potential disasters. Or this was an additional amount of P221.4 million to the original allotted amount of P366.7 million for the agency.  

In fairness, however, to the Phivolcs men and women, as early as December 2, we run a news story at The Philippine Star about the early detection of renewed volcanic activity around the 47 or so craters of Taal. Quoting the Phivolcs report, a total of 4,857 volcanic earthquakes have been recorded since Alert Level 1 was raised over Taal in March this year. The temblors with intensities ranging from 1 (scarcely perceptible) to 3 (weak) were reportedly felt in the villages of Banyaga in Agoncillo town, Calauit in Balete, Buco in Talisay, and Alas-as and Pulang Bato, both in San Nicolas town as well as in Sitios Tibag and Tuuran in Barangay Pira-Piraso and Tabla, respectively.

Phivolcs declared the main crater is off-limits to humans as sudden steam explosions may occur and high concentrations of toxic gases may accumulate from that time. It warned that the northern portion of the main crater rim near the Daang Kastila Trail might become hazardous once steam emissions along existing fissures increase. “The entire volcano island is a permanent danger zone and is not recommended for permanent settlement at all times,” Phivolcs declared from that day on.

Barzaga can check this out when that news came out at The Star on said date:

Aside from investigating why Taal volcano erupted without alleged timely warning from concerned government agencies, still some Philippine government officials can cook up the most harebrained ideas in times of calamities.

Unlike Jo-Koy, they sounded like frustrated stand-up comedians. While they aren’t even funny, some of their antics are laughable. That’s the Jo-Koy in all of us Pinoys when we can make fun of our own foibles.

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