Killer thirst: Firefighter David Tree shares his water with Sam the koala at Mirboo North in Victoria's Gippsland region. Picture: Mark Pardew
I only believed it was that damaging when my fiance SMS me Sunday afternoon that the holiday house we stayed in Marysville, owned by his friend Carol, was already gone - burnt, in the horrific bushfires that swept that part of the Victorian state.
Flashes of lush green sceneries came back to me. I saw those on our way to Marysville to spend the Australia Day holiday last year. It was a refreshing sight for someone like me whose idea of sceneries are mostly the cold flyovers, the steel-laden train ways, massive buildings that dot the cities I cross over on my way to work or to any of my appointment.
The horror, the Australian officials say, is too much to handle and they are grimly expecting for the death toll to climb to 300 (as of yesterday, it was confirmed that two Fil-Aussies have perished in the fires).
I remember before asking my fiance if they encounter bushfires there (as massive as what they deal with in parts of the US - where I get my idea of bushfires, beamed through global media reports). I had no idea a year after my first visit to Australia, a horror of such magnitude was to happen.
It will take years, many years, to rebuild the towns destroyed, to revive the environment, to recover from the lives’ lost, considering the current extent of damages the bushfires made.
Arson is also suspected for one of the bushfires that happened. Fiance said he wishes the death penalty to be reimplemented in their country, to punish the one or those responsible for the bushfires. I say, it will not be enough considering all that was lost in that tragic event.
My fiance said Carol is all right, and is considering to build a new home in the same site - a site, a home, that hosted fond memories of her childhood, family, and grown-up friendships. To me, it was a place where I was welcomed by her and husband Bill, by my fiance and his friends, and it was a warm home to me in that short stay I spent there.
I am no stranger to disasters. The closest I can deal with was the July 16, 1990 killer quake that hit the greater part of Luzon (I was in Grade 3, at school, after that massive rain, there we saw our teacher was like dancing in front of us, then the trophies in the wooden cabinet fell, and we’re told to go to the school grounds, and all I remember I was really crying. And whenever it rains hard here, the images of that day 18 years ago come alive to me).
The Philippines is a natural disaster-prone country - lying in the typhoon zone and including in the Pacific Ring of Fire. While I haven’t experienced other disasters most of my fellow Filipinos endured in the recent past, I say, we have the resilience to withstand any crisis, to move on from any disaster, to rebuild, little by little.
Such we can share to those who are affected by the bushfire disaster in Australia. Be strong in spirit and all that was lost will be gained back, and hopefully more.
To Carol, if this is of any consolation, I say, your lovely house in Marysville was more than that. It was a home you graciously shared, and you shared it with me. And while it was gone, the memories you have, and the memories I have of my stay there, will forever remain.
Yes, hope shouldn’t be robbed from us no matter what problem we have. And Sam the Koala and the good samaritan, volunteer firefighter David Tree touchingly taught us that. This also made me hopeful I will still see a koala like Sam (my past two visits I haven’t seen a koala yet), and reminds me a simple act of kindness can truly, improve lives.
Let that photo of Sam and David inspire us, and hope for the best to come, not only from the disaster there in Australia, but let us always remain hopeful (and work for the best) to better our daily lives.
For the video of Sam and David, click here.
Photo of Sam and David, from The Herald Sun.
For my photos of Marysville and the rest of my stay in Melbourne, click here.