Editorial: Incendiary January

INTO the final lap of 2020’s opening month and already the year soars with a burning tail.

January, as though in a relay race, catches December 2019’s baton typhoon Ursula with Taal’s eruption, which displaced thousands in many parts of Batangas Province. Hot dregs underneath spewed steam and dumped ash on farmlands and villages—killing just about any living thing within reach. While the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) reduced the alert level from 4 to 3 as signs of a more violent eruption dissipate, nature has its strange moods. Before its current rage, Taal slept for 43 years, her show of unrest few and far between, so what could possibly make it less suspect.

Disrupting that running tale is the novel coronavirus that blew up in Wuhan, China, the proximity of which is made possible by direct flights to the Philippines. The recent and more disturbing discovery is that people who are not showing symptoms can still be carrying the virus. That changes the entire quarantine practice while the virus sneaks like death into a populace. Health agencies must not leave it to chance.

Not as incendiary as those two, but close to home, was when a resident in Sitio Panagdait, Barangay Kasambagan on Sunday, Jan. 26, set his house on fire. The act downed 25 other homes and killed a neighbor reportedly locked up by relatives for stray behavior. One man’s fury was a whole village’s tragedy.

In Barangay Liburon, Carcar City, on the same day as the Kasambagan fire, a jealous husband stabbed his wife dead and burned down their house, leaving his two-month-old baby to the rescue of neighbors. If it’s any consolation, the house alone burned.

Punctuating all these news is the death of NBA star Kobe Bryant, and there’s something curious about how grief is carried out in social media. The death had ignited posts that highlighted not just a dazzling career, but the rectitude in his personal life. Nothing can be better practice in social media than glorifying deeds that inspire the rest of us to be better persons.

Remember, too, that there weren’t a few stories of heroism in the Taal saga. As fiery as nature itself was the outburst of the bayanihan spirit in that part of the world.

At the end of the day, no matter the dizzying disturbances this month brought us, we still have the feel of a community that, quite by reflex, pushes back against tragedy. And that’s where we find hope. Within ourselves.