By Jemson B. Palin
MT-II, Surigao City Division

For many Surigaonons, December 16, 2021, is a day they will not easily forget. It was when Odette left a hair-raising memory when she brought the wildest winds and heavy rains on a Thursday afternoon.
Unforeseen magnitude
Floodwaters inundated the streets, causing the homeowners to panic and scamper to high places to save themselves. Landmarks, school buildings, gymnasiums, cultural centers, multi-purpose halls, supermarkets, churches, houses, cars, furniture, clothes, appliances, and memorabilia did not escape Odette’s fury. Landslides occurred in some parts of Surigao City and other municipalities of Surigao del Norte. Sadly, some people lost their lives.
Given the magnitude of the devastation, most Surigaonons have already anticipated a long recovery process. Many believed that such a tragedy could have been prevented or lessened if: The local government flood control system worked; disaster urban planning implemented; and, illegal logging and mining banned.
However, the people of faith have seen positive things beyond all the mayhem, destruction, and tragedy, and they acted accordingly. Odette allowed us to come together as one Surigaonon. One Caraganon. One Pinoy. Its wrath was a great equalizer since it spared no one – rich or poor.
Charity and Altruism
However, despite the delayed support and assistance from the LGU due to the disruption of communication lines and other facilities, several socio-civic organizations and private individuals volunteered to assist and serve. They responded to those who cried for help. They gave food to the hungry and provided comfort for the homeless. Generous people tirelessly packed relief goods all night to distribute to the hapless evacuees. Many dug in deep into their pockets to give as much as they could afford. We all united to help our fellow kababayans in desperate need. Indeed, charity and altruism reigned during and after the calamity.
Temporality of things
Aside from the lesson on unity and charity, Odette allowed many Filipinos, particularly the Surigaonons, to discern what is truly important in their lives. Their sprawling Mediterranean-inspired house, expensive luxury cars, Paris-bought clothes, Cartier jewelry, or the fine food suddenly lost their significance. Odette showed us that all these material possessions could disappear in an instant.
After Odette, we know better: Our relationships are the most important in our lives. It is the people we love and our relationship with them that we must treasure most, not the futile accumulation of material wealth which, in a snap, can be gone. If we focus our lives on building and enriching our relationships, we will never lose these loving bonds no matter how many Odettes will come into our lives.
Odette left us with so much destruction. However, its lessons can only make us stronger as a people and as individuals. If we focus on what is truly important, we will never lose.