In the Holy Bible, angels appeared to a group of shepherds to announce the birth of the messiah more than 2,000 years ago in Judea.

Guided by a bright star, the shepherds were led to a baby lying in a manger where they found the infant with his father and mother, just as what the angels told them.

For Christians all over the world, as narrated by Evangelist Luke in his Gospel, this is the story of the first Christmas.

For many Filipinos, a bright moon and stars gave them the only light above their heads on Christmas day as electricity went out more than a week ago after a monstrous typhoon “Odette,” internationally known as “Rai,” struck the belly of the country.

Traditionally, Filipinos celebrate Christmas Eve with bright and colorful lights, lively music, lavish food and noisy banter with family, relatives and friends.

But many in the northern Mindanao and the Visayas regions spent Noche Buena with little or no food and water at all and with no roofs above their heads. Some lost everything, including their loved ones.

Odette was a much different weather disturbance. It gained strength in just a matter of hours, slamming the surfing island of Siargao with peak center winds of 195 kph and gusts of up to 240 kph. It slightly lost strength and speed as it moved westward, pummeling eight more Philippine islands, leaving a trail of death and destruction.

It was like an atomic bomb was dropped, Kidapawan Bishoip Jose Colin Bagaforo said as he described the flattened coastal villages along the path of Odette, the 15th storm to hit the country this year.

It would probably take some weeks for the authorities to restore power, water, communication and other services but it would take a much longer time for the people to pick up their lives.

It was like November 2013 when the most powerful typhoon, “Yolanda,” slammed Eastern Visayas, killing more than 7,000 people and leaving 200,000 households homeless.

It seems like the Philippines has never learned how to cope with typhoons. Every year an average of 20 storms visit the country, ravaging crops, destroying public and private infrastructure and claiming precious lives.

Yolanda should have taught the government how to build back better and the people how to construct typhoon-resistant structures that could withstand destructive winds of 250 kph and above.

But Odette showed how some local governments cut corners in some infrastructure projects when roads, bridges and structures were damaged or destroyed by the typhoon.

There was one gymnasium where many people had sought shelter as their houses were made of light materials, but Odette’s winds blew off its roofs, leaving twisted metal that exposed how substandard the materials were used for the building.

There were other horror stories in other areas outside the capital where government neglect and corruption were inadvertently exposed by nature’s wrath.

It is a crime for public officials to dip their hands into funds for roads, bridges, and structures, siphoning off even a small percentage of the budget intended for projects. The public deserved good infrastructure projects that would last for years.

But unscrupulous government and private contractors had to design roads and bridges that could be repaired so often to regularly make money. It’s a cash cow for corrupt officials.

Public works are also the most visible and tangible projects to show to the people every three years during local elections, and funds chipped off infrastructure also go to campaign war chests.

This has been a vicious cycle and explains why roads and bridges are substandard, leaving them at the mercy of destructive typhoon winds and powerful tremors.

History will show the Philippines is one of the most disaster-prone countries in the world. It lies within the deadly Pacific ring of fire and at the door of annual tropical cyclones. Climate change has made it worse. The country can now expect Yolanda and Odette-like typhoons in the years to come.

The government and the private sector have to prepare for the worst by designing disaster-resilient structures or by thinking of ways to minimize damage during natural calamities.

They could start by burying under ground power distribution and communication lines, avoiding erecting electric and telephone poles that could be toppled during typhoons.

They should also invest more in alternative power sources like solar and wind to ensure an environment-friendly, reliable, and stable power supply during calamities.

Quick response emergency teams should be pre-positioned in areas near the typhoon’s path for rapid mobilization, to clear debris in vital lifelines for rescue and relief operations.

The government should also refocus the military’s missions to more humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR) operations, taking advantage of regular training and exercises with allied countries, like the United States, Australia, and Japan.

It can start by acquiring assets, like transport planes and vessels, and heavy equipment for construction and disaster relief operations. The military also needs more rigid-hulled rubber boats and riverine crafts to rescue marooned citizens in areas cut off by rising flood waters. Rising seawater brought by climate change will also submerge many coastal and low-lying areas in the country.

Lawmakers should hasten the passage of a measure forming another agency dedicated to addressing disasters, pouring more resources to prepare for and mitigate the effects of natural and man-made calamities.

Recreating the first Christmas is very dramatic and nostalgic. But it is better celebrated with much fanfare, color and sounds, not with grief and miserable darkness caused by disasters, partly to be blamed on remiss officials.

Think of future storms and other disasters. Let’s build back better and do away with corruption on public infrastructure.