Belarussian journalist and writer Svetlana Alexievich's body of work consists of nonfiction but she specifically got this year's Nobel Prize for her book, Voices from Chernobyl. Originally written in Russian which follows her country's oral tradition, the book gave voices to the victims of the largest technical disaster of the twentieth century.
I was able to read a short but already riveting portion of the book in Paris Review, and I quote here the portion which I believe can represent the pain of 2.1 million people:
I was twenty-three. Two months later I went back to Moscow. From the train station straight to the cemetery. To him! And at the cemetery I started going into labor. Just as I started talking to him—they called the ambulance. It was two weeks before I was due.
They showed her to me—a girl. “Natashenka,” I called out. “Your father named you Natashenka.” She looked healthy. Arms, legs. But she had cirrhosis of the liver. Her liver had twenty-eight roentgens. Congenital heart disease. Four hours later they told me she was dead. And again: “We won’t give her to you.” “What do you mean you won’t give her to me? It’s me who won’t give her to you!”
and this is heart-wrenching already. Why? Because it gave a voice and a face to the millions who died and suffered from the effects of the radiation which are only cold statistics in my mind. I realized that all I knew of the "1986 Chernobyl nuclear power plant explosion in Russia" is just those short facts which more likely came out of a quiz during my high school history class.
Then, the Jalaur River dam project in Calinog, Iloilo came to me once again.
What if Drilon's grandson is residing in one of the barangays which will be submerged when the dam is constructed? What if the President's nephew Bimby is always playing in one of the streams leading to the river? Will Drilon and the President still push through in constructing a dam perching near an active earthquake faultline?
I doubt that they will. Barangay Agcalaga, Calinog where the dam is located is just 11 kilometers from West Panay Faultline, the epicenter of one of Panay's most destructive earthquakes which led to the total collapse of 17 churches and the damage of 38 others in 1948.
Again, will Drilon and the President still push through in constructing a dam in a clayish area which studies show that the same is susceptible to landslide? Again, I doubt that they will.
They will not push through not because of the faultline or the susceptibility to landslide. They will not push through because Drilon sees the face of his grandson while the President hears the voice of his nephew Bimby. The two relatives will give faces and voices to the 17,000 peoples who will be displaced and the residents of Baratoc Nuevo all the way to Passi City who are all threatened with flooding once the dam is opened to avoid being wrecked.
What if the Korean bank's highest official had a son who was once drowned in a wrecked dam? Will he ignore technical studies from the opponents of the project and push through with the granting of the loan? I doubt he will. Because the most unacceptable statistics in this project is that the Jalaur river dam project is perching near an active earthquake faultline, and probability-wise, it is a huge disaster waiting to happen to many Ilonggos.
Photo Credit on Panay Bukidnon children: Gerlie Uy