a case for change

I guess when one gets older, the years catch up and priorities start to change. Or perhaps it’s just a glaring fact when one is surrounded by young ones all too eager to discover the world, traversing the path already traversed long ago.

Or perhaps it’s just a change of heart – a change brought upon by the call for holiness to which I have responded too – much to my surprise and delight.

But for whatever it’s worth – I know there has been a change. The pure joy brought about by dog videos – our dog videos and pictures; the unknown joy brought about by a cousin’s cute picture – are these signs of an impending settling down?

But nah! This is an event far from happening yet. The world is big – and longs to be discovered. Besides, I am yet to be rediscovered.

Madlum River Tragedy: A Tragedy That Could Be Avoided

It’s been a month since that fateful event happened. I was supposed to be on my way home when I learned how a friend of mine was facing a then unknown tragedy. Stalking his Facebook account, I read posts of condolences and encouragement for him to be strong. I seriously wondered what was happening. Scrolling down further, with an impending sense of doom, I read it. That cryptic, yet fatal, post.

bulacan tragedy
This was the initial report. Seven (7) were trapped in the middle of the river when the flash flood happened. Three (3) went missing and four (4) were confirmed dead on the same day. During the next days, the 3 missing ones were confirmed dead.

 

I was in shock. My friend’s brother was one of tragic victims of a supposed happy school excursion turned into a tragedy.

Death has never been a foreign experience for me. I’ve experienced love ones die almost yearly in the past decade. But death via tragedy is. It is the kind of death that catch us unaware – and leaves a deep scar in our heart – unknown when, if ever it would, heal.

I reached out to my friend, offering what pitiful amount of comfort I can. I wanted to personally visit but since I was on my way south, I wasn’t able to. And so, as soon as I got back to Manila, I visited him. And learned of what happened first hand.

Wrong on Many Levels

Rains were already forecasted to fall on that fateful day of August 19, 2014 and yet the tourism class of Mikhail Alcantara decided to push through with their field trip. They were to visit the Madlum Cave in San Miguel, Bulacan as part of the exposure trip for their course to which some students allege that if they join, they can be exempted from the final exams. Apparently, their teachers said that the field trip was a project and if they have a good report, it is possible for them not to go through a final exam. Hence, to the students’ perspectives, not joining the trip might mean a harder exam.

Wrong #1: Giving the students the impression that a field trip would mean an easy way out of an exam. Of course, who wouldn’t want a free pass?

The trek to visiting Madlum Cave is a challenging one. No wonder this cave was effectively used as a hiding point by the Katipuneros. It requires experienced tour guides enough for inexperienced trekkers. Crossing the river even involves holding unto ropes as the rocks are continually shifting and where one side can be shallow, the other side can be dangerously deep.

There were 180 students during the trip. They were escorted by only 3 teachers and 10 tour guides. Do the math and figure out how many students are assigned to each tour guide.

The victims were part of a batch of 40 students led by 4 tour guides – 2 local guides and 2 student guides. You’d think this is enough but judging by the difficulty of the trek – and the inexperience of the trekkers – there should have been more experienced guides to help them especially since part of the trek was crossing a dangerous river. Even trained police personnel find it hard to cross the river with its slippery rocks. What more kids in freshmen college?

Wrong #2: Not having enough experienced and professional guides to help students explore safely.

Students further claimed that when they started the trek, the teachers didn’t go with them and instead were left at the starting point for some videoke time. Basically, they were left to explore on their own. Teachers placed their trust completely on the tour guides and assumed the students, being in freshmen college, would be responsible enough for themselves.

Wrong #3: Delegating authority to others when parents have trusted you to be the one responsible.

Sometimes it is possible to rain in the mountain tops even if it is not yet raining in the lower parts of the mountain. This is the most likely cause of flash floods where excess water upstream gushes suddenly downstream. The protocol before making the trek up is to get in touch with local barangay officials who will coordinate with the watch groups in the upper parts as to the weather condition up top. None of these protocols happened that day.

Wrong #4: Ignoring protocols that were drafted in place to ensure the safety of anyone wishing to trek up the mountain.

It was even disheartening when a video surfaced wherein one student tour guide claimed that they warned the second batch of the type of weather during that moment. In the video, it can be seen how the group pushed through with the field trip despite the bad weather. Clearly, despite the threats of rain – and even the onset of rain – the trek still pushed through. Trekking in bad weather is never a good idea. The slippery slopes are also a threat to anyone’s safety and the potential for getting ill due to prolonged exposure to rains

Wrong #5: Pushing forth with an activity despite the bad weather. In fact, even planning a trekking trip during the rainy months is a WRONG move already.

 

These are just some of the many other reasons why the entire trip was wrong – deadly wrong. Disregard for safety measures of the students by the people who were supposed to safeguard them is blamed as the the primary cause of the tragedy. Parents felt that the school was negligent in looking after the welfare and safety of their children.

The school claimed that parents signed a waiver hence absolving the school from any untoward events that might happen in the event of a disaster. But, the school actually failed to get a CHED endorsement for the field trip – an endorsement that would require them to submit a “risk assessment plan”. Had they complied with this, then perhaps they could have assessed the obvious dangers of the trip and have mitigated the disaster that happened. This makes BSU liable for criminal, civil and administrative charges.

 

An Act of Nature

Many claimed that no one wanted the tragedy to happen. It was something no one could foretell. It was an act of nature. It was beyond anyone’s control.

Yes it was an act of nature that no one really wanted to happen. Yes, it was something no one could foretell and no one could control. These are facts that no one disputes. But it was something that could have been avoided. There were many things the school – the people responsible for the entire trip – could have done to PREVENT what happened. As I read somewhere – It is better to be safe a thousand times than to meet an accident once.

Moving Forward

Right now, a case has been filed in the Ombudsman to investigate the tragedy and to punish those responsible.

call for justice

A fact-finding report stated that visiting Madlum River was not part of the initial itinerary of the students, but the tour company decided to add it during the last minute. Madlum River is notable for catching tourists unaware with flash floods and this is not the first time tourists died there due to flash floods.

The families clarified that the case filed was not against the school and their goal is not to shutdown the school. Rather it was against the people who were supposed to be responsible but didn’t act responsibly.

A tragedy that could have been prevented is the worst type of tragedy. Having it happen to young people who had their lives well ahead of them makes the pain all the more acute and the cry for justice even louder. Filing a case will not erase the pain the families of the victims are going through. But making sure those responsible are held accountable for their actions would somehow lessen the ache they feel.

I hope what happened served as a lesson – a lesson for educators to act more responsibly, for tour guides to guide responsibly, and for everyone to be vigilant about their safety.

This video gives you a chilling feel of how it must have been in those last moments during that fateful day.

Freedom In Christ

cross JRocks

Many believe that when you surrender your life to Jesus there will be many restrictions in your life. Most who haven’t encountered Jesus believe that to surrender one’s life to Him would mean to live a boring, predictable life.

They know that God demands holiness and they believe holiness equates to a dull, uneventful life.

Sadly, they are severely mistaken.

Living a life surrendered to Jesus is actually living a life of freedom. To surrender to Jesus means to allow Him to free you from your sins. Actually, we were freed from our sins centuries ago when Jesus died at the cross. We just need to accept this freedom and by accepting, meaning to surrender to Him.

Surrendering to Jesus means being free from our sins – we are no longer slaves to them. We are no longer slaves to guilt that results from sin.

Surrendering means being free from stress for Jesus promises to give us a stress-free life. Surrendering means being free from sickness for Jesus promised to be our healer and the source of our strength. Surrendering means being free from poverty for Jesus promised to make us prosper in this world and beyond.

You see, surrendering to Jesus is not the kind of surrender the world envisions. It’s not like going to a prison cell where you will be locked up for your sins and forced to live a deprived life which sadly many associates with holiness.

No! Surrendering to Jesus means living a life of freedom. It means actually starting to see what life to the full means. It means having the freedom to actually make your own decisions for your life – decisions that you know will lead to a full life because Jesus is in you and you followed His leading.

To those who haven’t experienced Jesus it’s hard to understand.

How is surrendering freedom? How is it that an act if surrender can be the source of freedom?

But to those who know Jesus, to those who have taken the bold step of surrendering to Him they will testify to the abounding freedom they gained from their surrender.

A freedom that leads to a fulfilling life. A life of endless joy, abounding love, overflowing blessings and endless peace. A life that is not boring at all but exciting every moment.

If you haven’t surrendered to Jesus, why haven’t you? It’s free. It’s easy. It’s simple. Best of all it’s freedom. What have you got to loose? A vice you can’t give up? A habit you can’t break? A relationship you can’t end? If I tell you that you get a million pesos just to quit your vice will you do it? Or another million to break that habit? Will you do it?

Whatever it is, try to surrender to Him. Just once. Give it a shot. After all, you have nothing to lose.

Surrending to Jesus is as easy as A-B-C.

A- admit that you are a sinner and you can do nothing on your own to be absolved.

B – believe that Jesus died for your sins and was raised from the dead.

C – confess with you mouth that Jesus is Lord and Savior. Allow Him to enter life and give Him the chance to change it. This is possible when He is now seats as the resident in the throne in your heart.

You can pray this short prayer -

Jesus I am a sinner and have sinned against You. But I believe you died for my sins to restore me to life. I now accept you as my Lord and Savior. Come to my heart and be the one in-charge of my life. I surrender my life to You. In Your mighty name Lord Jesus, Amen. 

If you prayed the prayer above and made the decision today to surrender yourself to Jesus then tell someone about it. You can email me about your decision or you can find a Christian church and pastor who can guide you in your new life in Christ.

Congratulations on your newfound freedom!