The Inbox

Discordant notes on flood relief efforts

Ochanine with Jobert Sucaldito in DZMM

By  Pablo A. Tariman, VERA Files

A little over a month before the opening of the season concerts of the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra (PPO),  CCP's resident music director Olivier Ochanine is busy studying scores for Shostakovich's  Jazz Suite No. 2, Nielsen's  Incidental music to Aladdin and Rachmaninov's  Symphonic Dances.

But at the height of the monstrous monsoon rains this week, Ochanine made a quick intermission from music scores and decided to volunteer in relief and rescue operations.

The orchestra conductor and his Filipino wife are no strangers to disaster relief operations. They were also in Cagayan de Oro and Iligan City last year to help flood victims.

"Ever since our experience in Cagayan de Oro and Iligan City helping out victims of Typhoon Sendong, I've been waiting and waiting for the chance to once again go 'into the trenches' and do whatever is possible to assist people as they experience Mother Nature's wrath," wrote Ochanine in his personal account chronicling "17 hours of confusion" in the relief operations front.

Ochanine took over the leadership of the national orchestra in early 2010 just a year after Typhoon Ondoy.  Born in Paris, he studied flute in Germany and the US and  has resided in Los Angeles, where he was an avid music educator and freelance conductor.

And so while Metro Manila was reeling from heavy afternoon downpour last Wednesday, Ochanine and his wife reported to the MMDA Flood Control center at EDSA and Guadalupe.

Ochanine recounted: "We have been told this is going to be a full rescue operation, and, naturally, I was very eager to help, since that was exactly the type of work I have been yearning to do since our efforts in Mindanao.  This time, we will not just be feeding the victims. This time we will be assisting during the disaster and we will be dealing with the real-time circumstances, which for me is too good to resist."

They were told that they will be deployed within half an hour and so they quickly ran to a nearby convenience store to buy whatever little food they can get as they were a little hungry.  With them were a couple couple dozen rescuers from the MMDA, a nurse who is vacationing from the Middle East.

Olivier Ochanine"I quickly become labeled the 'import' by the rather burly head of the MMDA mission, as I am the only white rescuer there for the time being," the PPO conductor related.

That expected 4 p.m. appointment with flood victims last Wednesday didn't happen and they still waited for orders until 10 p.m. "By that time, we are already very tired, and I am starting to feel very hungry.  The good news was that food was delivered from Jollibee and we are able to feel a little more energy ahead of the mysterious deployment that seems never to want to come."

They had no choice but to wait and watch the television reports.

Ochanine noticed a strange reaction from the MMDA chief of mission: "We were actually surprised to see the 'chief' of the MMDA mission snicker with his buddies about the army's efforts to rescue the poor victims of the Commonwealth landslide.  Some of the MMDA have been at the landslide earlier that day to help out as well, and they apparently think it is hilarious that the army men were wearing life vests.  I am taken aback because I suddenly realize that this effort seems to be trivialized into some sort of competition between the various groups as opposed to genuinely caring for the rescue of victims.  I think to myself: 'maybe they just need some comic relief from their very tiresome day in the flood zones and maybe they are not really competitive'."

As they were about to go home after six hours of waiting, they were told that the rescue operations would commence and they rushed back to the MMDA Flood Control Center. They were told to join a truck with a large rubber boat and with some rescuers hanging from the sides of the vehicle.  They proceeded to Quezon City Del Monte area and on to Roosevelt where they saw massive flooding and where they saw other trucks under water.

They unloaded the rubber boat but never got briefing on what to do. What followed was another long wait as they saw the waters rise with more heavy rains. Then they were asked to follow a rescue mission on a family asking help from the third floor of their house. Unloading the huge heavy rubber boat, he realized that load could be damaging on his cervical disc problem.

"Will we be rescuing people tonight at the cost of my career?" he pondered.

As they rested in a gasoline station, they heard some cries for help. They were disappointed when they were told they could not assist because they were sent to the wrong assigned area. To make things worse, they were told that the stranded inhabitants they were supposed to rescue had already been picked up by another group of rescuers.

There was no word from the leader of the rescue operations and Ochanine and wife went home taking the next available jeepney as the truck they used going to the area was nowhere to be found.

"I can confidently say that today was both one of the most exhilarating, memorable and eye-opening as well as one of the most disheartening, embarrassing and sad experiences of my life," Ochanine said after his volunteer effort yielded negative effort. "It's far from easy to pass by flood victims and have to refuse to help them.  It's much harder even to accept this when you have in fact failed in rescuing those whom you have set out to rescue."

After experiencing  17 hours of waiting and watching chaos and disorder in the relief and rescue operations of the MMDA, Ochanine and his wife joined the  DZMM/ABS-CBN  relief operations in  Novaliches and Marikina and highly relieved that they were finally able to help.

He admitted in his Facebook posting: "I have to say that rowing a rubber boat on Araneta Avenue in total darkness and 1.5 meters of water while hearing voices calling for help was one of the most eerie experiences of my life."

(VERA Files is put out by veteran journalists taking a deeper look at current issues. Vera is Latin for "true.")

  • Happy Earth Day! The 8 Biggest Mysteries of Our Planet
    Happy Earth Day! The 8 Biggest Mysteries of Our Planet

    When the first Earth Day was held in 1970, geologists were still putting the finishing touches on plate tectonics, the model that explains how the Earth's surface takes shape. For today's Earth day, here are some of Earth's biggest unsolved mysteries. Scientists think Earth was a dry rock after it coalesced 4.5 billion years ago. But the beginnings of Earth's water are shrouded in mystery because so little rock evidence remains from this time period. …

  • Angel calls birthday boy Luis ‘amazing’
    Angel calls birthday boy Luis ‘amazing’

    [caption id="attachment_130927" align="alignright" width="300"] Angel Locsin and Luis Manzano (Instagram)[/caption] Angel Locsin is extra sweet to boyfriend Luis Manzano today, with the latter commemorating his 33rd birthday. The actress authorized Sagip Kapamilya Foundation to auction the 1970 Chevrolet Chevelle, which is her dream car. …

  • Miss America defends student suspended for asking her to prom
    Miss America defends student suspended for asking her to prom

    By Chris Francescani NEW YORK (Reuters) - Miss America has suggested officials at a Pennsylvania high school reconsider their decision to suspend a student for approaching her at a school assembly and asking her to be his prom date, the beauty queen said on Saturday. The disciplinary action taken by school administrators in York against the 18-year-old senior made national headlines, and generated sympathy for the young man on social media. A video of Central York High School senior Patrick …

  • Vatican dismisses criticism of John Paul II over abuses
    Vatican dismisses criticism of John Paul II over abuses

    The Vatican on Tuesday brushed off accusations that late pope John Paul II was aware of and ignored allegations about sexual abuse carried by the Mexican founder of a powerful Catholic movement. "There is no personal implication of the Holy Father in this affair," Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi told a news conference on Sunday's ceremony to confer sainthood on popes John Paul II and John XXIII. The scandal over Marcial Maciel, who founded the Legion of Christ and was a serial predator, …

  • After Oppo, Here Comes Zopo
    After Oppo, Here Comes Zopo

    Oppo, a Chinese mobile phone brand, is bringing to the country the Find 7, Find 7a, Find 5 Mini, N1, R1, and the Neo. A few days after the brand’s launch, NOVO7Tech teased on its Facebook fan page the arrival of another Chinese label, Zopo Mobile. Based in Shenzhen, Zopo Mobile was established in 2012. …

Editor’s note:Yahoo Philippines encourages responsible comments that add dimension to the discussion. No bashing or hate speech, please. You can express your opinion without slamming others or making derogatory remarks.

  • Happy Earth Day! The 8 Biggest Mysteries of Our Planet

    Happy Earth Day! The 8 Biggest Mysteries of Our Planet

    LiveScience.com - 23 hours ago
    Happy Earth Day! The 8 Biggest Mysteries of Our Planet

    When the first Earth Day was held in 1970, geologists were still putting the finishing touches on plate tectonics, the model that explains how the Earth's surface takes shape. For today's Earth day, here are some of Earth's biggest unsolved mysteries. Scientists think Earth was a dry rock after it coalesced 4.5 billion years ago. But the beginnings of Earth's water are shrouded in mystery because so little rock evidence remains from this time period. …

  • David Moyes statement after Man United firing

    David Moyes statement after Man United firing

    Associated Press - 2 hours 41 minutes ago
    David Moyes statement after Man United firing

    MANCHESTER, England (AP) — Statement released by David Moyes on Wednesday, a day after being fired as manager of Manchester United after less than a season in charge. …

  • Pirates kidnap three on Singapore tanker off Malaysia

    Pirates kidnap three on Singapore tanker off Malaysia

    AFP News - 12 hours ago
    Pirates kidnap three on Singapore tanker off Malaysia

    Armed pirates boarded a Singapore-managed oil tanker in the Strait of Malacca, kidnapping three Indonesian crew and stealing some of the vessel's shipment of diesel fuel, the International Maritime Bureau said Wednesday. The attack occurred early Tuesday off Malaysia's west coast, said Noel Choong, head of IMB's Kuala Lumpur-based piracy reporting centre. The diesel oil tanker was believed to be en route to Myanmar. "IMB is aware of the attack on the Singapore-managed ship in the Malacca …

POLL
Loading...
Poll Choice Options