An Eruption of Grief and Deaths that Shake the Nation

What's with all the deaths, one after the other, and in varying fashion? It all started with Henry Lanot's death in a restaurant. Ciara Abalos died of a bacterial infection which led to multiple organ failure. Dr. Nicolo Echeverri, still part of the Abalos clan, was ambushed as he rode his car.

Assistant Foreign Secretary Alicia Ramos was killed in her very own home. About three Filipinos were stabbed out of nowhere while vacationing in China. Yesterday, we heard news of Director Punongbayan of Phivolcs fame dying in a chopper crash while performing his official duty as part of the Red Cross. Dir. Punongbayan, together with people from the Air Force and scientists from Phivolcs were on their way to assess the safety of an area to be used for the resettlement of our countrymen affected by the typhoon and landslides in Quezon last year.

We lost several scientists there. Director Punongbayan has been synonymous with the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology for as long as I can remember. The Pinatubo eruption. Warnings on Mayon. Major earthquakes. Threat of tsunamis. Radio people always contacted one expert to inform listeners about such occurrences and that was Director Punongbayan. I did not know him personally but I did feel bad when I heard the news yesterday.

Commentator Jimmy Gil was talking about his experience with Dir. Punongbayan on DZBB last night. He described Dir. Punongbayan as "tahimik" at "masipag." He was also described as a personality who would not call attention to himself. "Kaya nga hindi puwedeng politiko itong taong 'to." It was probably that characteristic that made him quite famous even without his really trying. Whatever reputation he had was built on hard work, scientific knowledge, and a true spirit of service. Hindi nga politiko definitely.

On Double A sa Double B this morning, people were texting about Director Punongbayan. One such text went: "Sana si _______ na lang ang nakasakay sa helikopter." Mga Filipino talaga. Even as we are a very warm people, we can be pretty blunt too. Out of desperation and frustration perhaps.

So to the families of Director Punongbayan and everyone who perished in that helicopter crash, we offer our prayers and condolences. The fact that your loved ones died carrying out their duties without minding the accompanying risks should make all of you proud. It does not make their deaths any less painful but we continue to believe in a God Who will look kindly upon their souls and reward them for a job well done.

People come, people go. We are all bound for another place. Death can come in many forms but we know that death is not eternal. Life is. God bless.

[By Angelica Viloria | Friday, April 29, 2005]

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