Prepper is better (forever)

Preppers are paranoid! That was the misconception, pre-COVID-19. Now, they are part of the “new normal.” For a country constantly ravaged by super typhoons, volcanic eruptions, and tectonic earthquakes, the Philippines is still struggling to be prepared. 

We rely too much on resiliency and the bayanihan spirit. Instead of following the Boy Scout motto “Laging Handa,” Filipinos veer towards the fatalistic “Bahala na.” I once overheard a reluctant participant in a “Big One” drill say, “Kung patay, patay.”

The Big One

In fairness, the government has been regularly reminding the affected citizens to be ready for the Big One which is a worst case scenario of a 7.2 magnitude earthquake from the West Valley Fault. Although the prognosis for this major disaster spells doom and gloom, many Filipinos are just too concerned with daily survival.

There may be a small community of Filipino preppers, rescuers, and outdoorsmen but I don’t think anybody was preparing heavily for a biological pandemic.

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs

A good foundation for preppers would be Maslow’s hierarchy of basic needs. On the first level are the physiological needs of food, water, warmth, and rest followed by safety and security. 

Another guideline would be the rule of 3s namely:

  1. Three minutes without air 
  2. Three hours without shelter in a harsh environment 
  3. Three days without water 
  4. Three weeks without food.

Bug-in or bug-out

The first decision you have to make is to bug-in (stay at home) or bug-out (get out). Sensible preppers discourage bugging out unless there is forced evacuation enforced by the government due to volcanic  eruption, super typhoon, or civil unrest such as the Marawi siege. Another reason to bug out is if your house is on fire.

Those bugging out will just be glorified refugees unless they have skills and resources to survive in the outside world. Discuss evacuation plans with family such as where to meet, what to bring, etc. Know the evacuation centers designated for the Big One. There are open spaces such as the Veterans’ Hospital Golf Course and the University of the Philippines.

Prepare a bug-out bag that contains basic necessities good for at least three days and important documents such as land titles and insurance policies. In case of flood, wrap your items in small plastic then put them in one big plastic, making your bag a flotation device. If you have a car, put provisions in your vehicle good for one week. Bugging out is a last resort and in case you’re doing it, make sure you have a bug-out location with all the amenities.

For those bent on hunkering down in their homes, remember the principle of redundancy: two is one, one is none. Do not be overwhelmed and stay clear from Ramboesque and Zombie Apocalypse plots. Remember the first quarter of the pandemic when alcohol, vitamins, and bleach went out of stock. Prep before everybody panics.

Prepare based on possible disasters depending on your location. However, there are general guides common to all possibilities. Prep for at least three days because that is the average time before government aid arrives. Before the pandemic, preppers recommended one-month supply. Now, it seems one month is not enough. There are even religious groups that encourage their congregation to store food such as rice and beans which can last for decades.

Proper packing and storage should be learned. Records must be kept to avoid spoilage. It may initially be tedious but you will be rewarded with peace of mind. Another important issue would be the storage area. Bunkers and panic rooms are beyond the reach of the average Filipino household. The best storage is to spread them out in inconspicuous places around the house.

First priority is water. A good guide is one gallon of water per person per day. Store them in small and big containers including some in the bathroom. Aside from boiling, learn two other ways of purifying water. Use counter top water filter and buy a portable water filter. 

When it comes to food, store familiar food that you like so that you won’t feel miserable during the rainy days. MREs (Meals Ready to Eat) used by soldiers should be the last choice. Store a combination of canned meat, fish, fruits, and vegetables. Take note of their expiry dates. Rice, pasta, and dry beans last for several years. Honey, which has many uses, almost doesn’t spoil. Apple cider vinegar can be used as anti-fungal and cleaner. Baking soda is another versatile item with multi-uses including cleaning.

Other survival food are rolled oats, powdered milk, and protein powder. Add some herbs and spices for flavor. Alcohol like vodka can be used as firestarter, hand sanitizer, and sterilizer. It is also good for bartering. Freeze dried food and dried fish will last longer if put inside the freezer. Don’t forget salt and cooking oil. I always have a supply of peanut butter, jelly, coco jam, coffee, tea, biscuits, and candies. Buy a vacuum sealer and learn canning.

Safety and security

After storing food and water, next priority would be safety and security. Develop situational awareness by observing, orienting, deciding, and acting. Learn self defense by using everyday items such as flashlights, pen, belt, and umbrella. Install CCTV cameras and adequate lighting. Have a guard dog. Don’t forget your  personal hygiene and medical needs. Assemble a first aid kit. 

Prepping doesn’t have to be expensive. There are items such as candles, matches, and lighters which are readily available.

Prepping can also be fun. You may not know it but you may have started prepping when you were a Boy Scout. Volunteer with the Red Cross and learn first aid and swimming. Get fit at the YMCA. Go fishing, hunting, and trapping. Learn sewing, gardening, and beekeeping. There are many recreational ways to be self-reliant. Those hobbies can even be your source of income during an emergency crisis. Don’t wait for an emergency to happen. When in doubt – be prepared!

JP Ordona (Manilakad) leads Manilakad Walks in Intramuros, Binondo, Quiapo, and more. In between, he writes, climbs, dives, and more. Let him guide you to several walking destinations in Manila. Manilakad (JP Ordona) can be reached on Facebook Messenger or through text at 0916-3597888.