NOTHING could better describe the year 2013 more than Charles Dickens’ famous line, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”

My elder sister and I recently had an engaging conversation about the tragedy that was Typhoon Yolanda.

She was a University of the Philippines student and had worked as a researcher for a senator for two years. I, on the other hand, am a UST senior Architecture student. \

Referring to the tragedy, she said it could not have happened at a better time.

“It happened now,” she said, “just as the Filipino people are starting to rise up against corruption. It happened now, just as the country is making progress economically. It happened now, just as we are coming together to make a better country for our generation. Not for the next, but this generation.”

Imagine, just as were making progress, Bam! We were suddenly hit by a tragedy as heartbreaking as Yolanda, then we realized how superficial those gains are when the government, local and national, is really weak. Suddenly, we are back to being a Third World country that depends heavily on foreign aid.”

Sometimes I hate how my sister’s perspective of things makes me feel small and simplistic, but then again, we come from very different disciplines. And the aspiring architect in me simply saw the devastation in the Visayas as the result of a lack of a more comprehensive building code and how it is not being implemented properly.

For a country as topographically diverse as the Philippines, in addition to the geo-hazard maps, it is only fitting to have a building code with provisions on how houses and buildings should be constructed in consideration of their aesthetic value, safety, identity of the different areas, and the natural hazards present or experienced in the different areas of the archipelago.

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Pagsisimula ng kursong P.E.

Filipinos have never been keen on consulting architects when they build their homes. The local government’s job should not end at telling their constituents where they can put up their homes and businesses, they should also provide them with guidelines on how to build them right through a more comprehensive building code and much detailed Comprehensive Land Use Plans (CLUPs).

While we come from very different worlds, my sister and I agreed on one thing. This devastation is a wake-up call for us. Now we know our foundations are weak. Now we know we have to work from the ground up.

The architect in me sees this tragedy as an opportunity for us, especially the people in Leyte and Samar, to reinvent and to come back even better.

Now, with the biggest corruption scandal in the country and the eerie timing of this tragedy, living in the Philippines may be the worst of times, said my sister.

But now may be the best of times to be a true Filipino. It is the best time for us to learn from our mistakes and to resolve to do better. Of course such lessons need not be at the expense of the suffering people of Leyte, Samar, and Panay. As it appears to have turned out. But with all our prayers and love for our suffering brethren, we can forge ahead for a better future. We can rebuild — this time, the right way.

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