September 2005


How does one spell Hawaii? With an apostrophe (or 'okina in local vernacular), stupid!

Hawai'i.

How does one pronounce Hawai'i? Like a South Asian, stupid!

Hava-i.

Well, one learns something everyday, yeah? stupid or otherwise. 

Reading The Collected What If? (subtitled Eminent Historians Imagine What Might Have Been) while tuned to CNN’s marathon coverage of Hurricane Katrina’s aftermath in the US Gulf Coast, I couldn’t help but give thought to my own What Ifs on what is being touted as a humanitarian crisis akin to the Great Depression of 1930s.

1. What if – and this being the biggest What If wildly whirling in my head right now – George W. lost to John Kerry in last year’s presidential election? Would Kerry pass the buck, too, onto the federal government of Louisiana or FEMA for the lack of preparation and action? Would Kerry appoint inexperienced, ineffectual FEMA officials (as many charge embattled director Michael Brown) as political pay off? Would Kerry be caught in a prolonged vacation in Texas and survey Katrina's aftermath on a presidential plane than on ground with the displaced people?

Would the reported 3,000 of Louisiana's 11,000 National Guard troops stationed in Iraq make a difference in the rescue and recovery operations had Kerry won and withdrew American troops in the Middle East to usher in what he calls 'a smarter, more effective war on terror'? I mean, helping displaced fellow Americans from problems caused by a natural disaster would look more honorable than fighting insurgents in Fallujah – a problem arguably caused by the US itself, wouldn't it?

2. What if Louisiana took the necessary precautions, i.e. early evacuation of all residents, sufficient logistical support such as transportation, accommodation, and emergency supplies? Would there be as much social disorder (e.g. looting, violence, death) as reported?

3. What if France didn't relinquish Louisiana in the early 1800s? Would a French-built levee (which is French for lever, by the way *geek!*) stand stronger than an American one to not collapse in a Category 5 natural disaster as Katrina and skirt the displacement of millions of Americans (okay, French then) altogether?

4. What if Katrina didn't change course and hit Florida instead? Would there be as much damage, destruction, displacement, and deaths as those in Louisiana? Would oil prices be steeply pegged as nowadays (Man, I stopped checking at $4.05/gallon!)?

Ah, so many What Ifs to ponder heavily about. But for all its worth, these 'counterfactuals' (as historians call them *geek yet again!*) are, as the book suggests, 'tool(s) to enhance the understanding of history (…) reveal, in startling detail, the essential stakes (…) and potentially abiding consequences.'

Indeed.

Otherwise, Katrina (and its purpose as a big wake up call for reforms) will just be that: a big What If?

Timing could not have come at a better time when wearied and burdened Pinoys from the political storm in Manila witnessed Manny Pacquiao emerge as a salvation-in-flesh with his stunning triumph against Hector Velazquez in today’s boxing match in Los Angeles, California.

The match lasted only six rounds in 12 short minutes for Pacquiao to outpunch and outscore Velazquez to the delight of thousands watching in Staples Center and millions more who shelled-out 15 bucks for the pay-per-view event on TV (me, included). Too short and too intense, in fact, that I didn’t get a chance to touch the hotdog sandwich, chips, and beer I prepared for what was supposed to be a long 12-round match! Geez, now I appreciate the long commercial breaks and delayed telecast of boxing matches in Manila.

Gloria Arroyo should be thankful as she probably heaves a heavy sigh of welcome relief with this spectacular win-of-a-diversion from the worst political turmoil she has embroiled herself in.

Pacquiao put a scare in the first round as he wriggled his way out of tight confrontations only to corner Velazquez in the succeeding rounds with a rally of heavy punches and precise hits, forcing the Mexican boxer down to his knees, glassy-eyed, and scatterbrained. The score was 49-46 before the referee announced a TKO win for Pacquiao.

Aside from giving Pinoys a respite from the chaos that resembles Philippine politics, Pacquiao restores lost glory and pride pilfered away by Mexican boxer Erik Morales (who, in the following match lost to US Olympian Zahir Raheem) in a controversial and grisly match earlier this year.

Well, today indeed is a triumph for all Pinoys. Time to take off the beer caps and celebrate. A big kampai to a true champ, Manny Pacquiao!

See related blog entry: True Champ (Posted 20 March 2005)