In just weeks, a chain of typhoons battered huge parts of Luzon. It made a great impact on livelihood, properties, lives, and the ongoing semester. We observed severe flooding in Bicol, Cagayan, Isabela, Pampanga, Bulacan, and Marikina. The calamities displaced thousands of people. It broke my spirit when I heard the recording of people screaming on top of their lungs, asking for help. All of this happened because of negligence. All because of the government’s inaction and results of past ill decisions.
I could only imagine the horror of climbing a roof to stay alive. What more to those people who experienced it firsthand? Due to these recent disasters, the UP System decided to implement a recovery week, but the thing is, we all know that a week is not enough for students to recover from all those disasters.
I talked with friends from Bicol and Cagayan. They told me that the floodwaters were high enough to reach the second floor of their houses, cell phone signals are spotty, electricity is yet to be fixed, clean water supply is difficult, and internet connection is grievous. It will take months to be fixed, not a week or two. Thus, implementing a week for recovery can only do so much.
On top of their daily struggle to survive, they even have to bear the heavy load of thinking about how they will continue the semester and the dangers of Covid-19 since most evacuation centers are crowded and lack safety protocols. In the Department of Health’s last count, the number of infected individuals is currently more than 400,000 people. As part of a varsitarian organization, I know that many students suffer from a lack of stable internet, electricity shortages, and mental health issues since we started this virtual academic year. It is severely heartbreaking to think that thousands of fellow iskolars are now being left behind, and only band-aid solutions like academic breaks are on our plates.
Due to these reasons, the UPLB Council of Student Leaders decided to hold a strike to end the semester and pass all students. Closing the semester is the most humane and compassionate way to address the crisis that we are facing. If the system is faulty and does not heed our calls, we do not have a choice but to paralyze it ourselves. It is time to share the burden of our fellow iskolars. They are left with no other choice but to fend for their survival. It is time to fight for people who can not fight for themselves. However, we recognize that students alone cannot do this. What we face is a multisectoral crisis and it needs the participation of all sectors including the faculty and staff to take up the responsibility to fight for the least of us.
However, our call is not only to end this semester and pass all students. We are also tackling the root of all this suffering—the tyrannical, neglectful regime. All these natural calamities were inevitable, but due to the continued deforestation, environmental holocaust, irresponsible mining, and corrupt government officials who put their agenda first before the vast majority’s interest while Filipinos are dying.
We are now being tormented by how badly our leaders are handling the climate crisis. They even dared to defund the National Risk Reduction and Management Council by P4 billion. We are all paying the price of their self-centered decisions where the poor and the underprivileged are the most vulnerable. Due to recent disasters, we lost P10 billion pesos worth of agriculture and infrastructure. The already dying sector is now facing a yet again catastrophe that will further put them in a grave situation.
I have learned in the university the importance of our collective cries for change and criticism. I am fully aware that we can change many things if we harnessed solidarity as a university. Our mandate is always to serve the people, but today, we are also helping the people we are serving with, our fellow iskolars. Today we can add up by joining the strike to assert that no one must be left behind. We all have dreams, and we know how painful it is to have a dream deferred. We are now fighting not only for our dreams and aspirations but for other people’s dreams too. We must put all people in power accountable for their negligence. We are so done with being resilient. It is the right time to fight back against this country’s top oppressor. [P]
Photo by Michael Ian Bartido
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