A year ago today, Yolanda made landfall.
“Kamusta ka diyan? I just saw your report. If you can, please let us know you’re ok.”
Atom never replied to my message. I asked our common friend Chef Ed Bugia, and other close friends who have attempted to get in touch with Atom if they had received any news, but none of them had gotten a reply either.
Atom had gotten through with a live feed from Tacloban to ABS-CBN’s morning news program Umagang Kay Ganda. In his few short updates throughout the morning, he stood alone but with us in the rain, soaking and shivering, as we watched how the record breaking Typhoon quickly destroyed the city. We would see him, a dark silhouette amidst the white noise trying to cross the street avoiding the flying GI sheets. He would then bring us up into an empty building floor, with shattered glass everywhere, to observe the beginnings of the Storm Surge which quickly drowned the city. The next footage is of Atom, alongside other able-bodied men, neck deep in water, assisting an old and incapacitated woman out of her home onto a raft.
These would be the last images we and the rest of the world would see from Tacloban before the broadcast connections went out.
The little broadcast footage that Atom and his team got through would then be repeated endlessly by ABS CBN and other news teams around the world, not to mention Anderson Cooper on CNN. It was the biggest beat a local Newsman could get. In a matter of hours, as Haiyan’s surge flooded Tacloban, the Internet was flooded with support for the “Man In The Rain.” Memes, jokes, tweets, IG reposts, hashtags and Facebook shares trended the Net, all showing pride and concern for that team that braved the biggest storm in history if only to keep us all informed.
But we still haven’t heard from Atom.
But knowing Atom — a Milo kid, a boyscout, an activist, an athlete, a student-leader, a traveller and a friend — he didn’t give a rat’s ass about the break or the fame this exposure would give him. He wasn’t thinking about how the network would probably promote him after this, how maybe they’d raise his talent-fee and give him a new show, or maybe give him a more high-profile beat — this didn’t concern him. It didn’t interest him.
Knowing Atom, he was probably thinking about how to get food, at the very least crackers, for his crew to pass the storm by without starving.
He was probably looking for ways to charge his phone, give updates to all his superiors, get back on line and prepare for a more thorough broadcast.
But more than anything, he was probably looking for ways to save lives. Even if it meant for him and his crew to lay aside the microphone and camera, so their hands were free enough to lift debris and lift people.
As far as I remember, he was always about lifting the people up. Even back in UP, I remember him running for USC under Stand UP, but then lost to Alyansa. It was his final years on campus, and even then he wanted to participate in something progressive. On occasion, he’d ride with me after work from Breakfast @ 23 to go back to UP and we’d lightly talk about what we thought were societal problems and what possible solutions we could come up with. Sometimes we’d agree, other times we wouldn’t. I remember asking him what his plans were after graduation and he said he was considering going full-time in an NGO. He has such high regard for his Mom and Dad, both known activists and advocates, and it didn’t surprise me that this guy would take on such a selfless vocation.
The rain stopped. The surge settled. The water receded.
I turn on CNN and see an american field reporter walking us through the aftermath of Haiyan. There is death and destruction everywhere, not to mention chaos. We watch a montage of heightened shock, a very frustrated DILG Secretary, a castrated police force, a sobbing mayor and a broken city. The field reporter attempts to hitch a ride from one part of Tacloban to another with a local news van and he asks a man in the crowd for some directions… that man was a cleaned up Atom Araullo — another couple of seconds again on the world’s biggest News channel. But he couldn’t care less, he was onto another mission, another report.
I was just glad my friend was one of the very few who survived that ordeal. Since we didn’t hear from him at the height of the storm, it was comfort enough to see him dry and moving even just for a moment on cable TV.
We all know how the story continues. More and more personalities have hogged the limelight in the days that pass — Korina Vs. Cooper, Romualdez Vs. PNoy, Mar Vs. Netizens etc. Finger-pointing, donation-stealing, senate hearings, all the usual circus acts we see when our government knee-jerkingly reacts to a National tragedy. People’s attention shifted to arguably more important issues like the lack of Risk Management and Disaster Preparation; the National Government’s lack of participation and Duterte’s emotional and frustrated on-cam interview.
Atom eventually went back home to Manila, made his report and went on to his next assignment.
I don’t think he was ever after the attention, the limelight and the circus. He just wanted to do his job because he knew it would help more people — even if it meant standing alone in the rain.
We at Berto in Brogues wanted to honour, not just Atom Araullo, but what he reminded us to be — the ‘everyman’ that insists on staying relevant.
We are working with HOWL on an image that reminds us of what it was to be that Man In The Rain. We are so excited to launch these designs on the anniversary of Yolanda’s landfall, if only to remember not just the National tragedy, but more importantly, the possibilities of what we ALL can be.
These shirts and umbrellas are currently in production with special Partners. We will announce when and how to get these items and where the proceeds will be directed to. For more information please contact NOEL FERRER through +639178390768