“The pen is mightier than the sword.” Literally, the sword might be mightier than an enemy. Yet no sword is mightier than its handler because its fate can be controlled by a human being. How about being stronger than a human being? Who else more is tougher than nature?
Typhoon Yolanda proved to be one of the strongest ever. No great boxer or wrestler can ever control or counter it. When nature punishes, its impact is indeed immeasurable. No one will ever think of that media-portrayed anarchy fighting for food and water will ever take place. For hardly hit areas, we can't imagine how they struggled on the first few days after the typhoon.
Then what about the firemen? Firefighters, rescuers, emergency responders – name it. We are one in the fire service. We lost firemen to Haiyan. Some of them cannot be seen until now. Bureau of Fire Protection personnel also lost a family member, a relative and even own children. One fire non-officer was at the fire scene during the onslaught of the typhoon. While responding team was busy putting out fire that engulfed a residential area, she had no idea that storm surge already took her children away in downtown Tacloban City. She ended up receiving hugs from her commander without knowing why at that moment.
Amidst grief, we had to work. Faced with the massive problem of water supply and basic needs for own family, we had to leave. With a home that lost its GI sheets and trusses, we have to report to duty. Because it is our duty to serve. It is in our hearts that we serve our country. As far as Albay, ARMM, Cagayan de Oro or Surigao; we had to be in Tacloban City to assist our colleagues who can barely sleep. Eating was difficult now matter how good the food is – adobo, chicken, vegetables – name them. Swallowing even our own saliva was hard as our rescue uniform was soaked with decomposing human fluid and skin. Being members of the Task Force Cadaver, we recover as many dead bodies as we could see and smell. We patrol on foot just to locate those missing and hidden bodies from debris. Our latex gloves break after carrying a few corpses.
There was no time for excuses. We cannot complain. We cannot call anyone to replace us to do what we were doing. Work must go on because we are your firemen.
We are your firefighters. We save lives, we retrieve bodies and bury them even when it rains. While no one else had to cry for the unidentified victims, we too shed tears for them. We are deeply saddened. When heaven darkens we too make river of tears without you noticing it.
As we remember the demise of our firemen in the great Rockwell fire in December 14, let us continue the tradition of honoring our Filipino firefighters. This is to remember not a river of tears that we too shed as human beings but perhaps the ability and discipline in the fire service to keep most of those tears in our pockets, suppressing our own emotions and feelings of grief and tiredness just to let you know and see that we are your firefighters – strong and ready to serve the Filipino people.