Wednesday, October 7, 2009


The recent tragedy that befell our Filipino brothers brought about by the onslaught of a double up of typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng make me call to mind the beginning of creation. Like in a song that goes, "In the beginning the world was so bright perfection was there for all men. Then He created the sun and the stars, the land, the birds, the trees..... Then as he rested the Lord sanctified the seven days for men...... Born in the image of his Maker, man shall have dominion over all. But because we were nothing but only human, sometimes we stumble, sometimes we fall".

It was a very beautiful song I used to sing when I was in grade school. Now I hardly remember the lyrics. The above is just a broken string of words I would like to start my thoughts with and hope to come out with some personal opinions that might be of help to our grieving brothers out there. Recovering from a tragedy needs both human effort and Divine intervention. So this is not very easy. Expect more disappointments. It's only when you face problem right in the eye that you will see a clearer path toward recovery. At least that's how I see things today in the face of disaster after disaster that visited our country.

When God created the world, he knew that He missed at some points. Like when he created Adam in His own image, God thought man was born to perfection, but was not. God saw Adam's heartbreaking loneliness, so He created Eve. But again there was a hitch. Eve defied God's first advice concerning the apple fruit. God was so angered that He showed both out of paradise and told them to sweat it out for everything they needed in order to live. God didn't punish them so hard as to banish them entirely on earth and never taste the fruits of His earthly creations, of food, clothing, and shelter. That's because God, our Almighty Father, loves us.

Like the good father that God really is, He made man to have dominion over all His creations, the land, the birds, the trees- despite man's first sin. He gave man his reasoning power to make decisions. He formed man with extremities- both hands and feet- to be able to work out on his own the things he needs. And in the beginning, God warned us to use the vast resources with care.

Like I said, God wanted perfection. But because of man's imperfection, I believe that things are really in place, don't you think so? If everything is perfect, will we have time to look up to Him who made all these? He gave us the brain power to be able to choose between what is right and wrong, what is good and bad, to differentiate feelings of sadness from happiness, to strive for success rather than for failure, to embrace security and protection rather than invite tragedy and disaster. God created everything for a choice, and He usually wants leads us to the right choice. Have faith in Him.

Disasters, natural and man-made, are among the things man has to live with. They are part of life (natural) - the storms, earthquakes, tsunamis, tornadoes, hurricanes and the results of imperfect living (man-made)- flash floods, landslides, fire, accidents, crimes, etc. An open acceptance of these sad realities will help us understand what happened and why things happened. It's very human to cry and even blame God for a tragedy that happened in your life." Why me?" There is a time to sulk, a time to be angry. "My God, why have you forsaken me?"But most importantly, we must find time to break away after sometime from grief, from anger, from fear, and all negative attitudes that will only sink us deeper into despair and nothingness. Before we accidentally create and widen a gap between us and God Himself, we must stand up and pick up the pieces and put back our life to normalcy. That's how God created us after all. He is our strength. He is our refuge.

God's plans are His alone to understand. Man is not created to share God's thoughts, but the fruits of His plans. We must put our trust in Him, so that our troubled minds will be spared from unnecessary evil thoughts. We have our choices to make within our reach . In our helplessness and seeming hopelessness, we need someone to listen to our hurts while they are fresh. We must find a trusted friend. We must unload our burden to people who are capable of giving us a helping hand, giving us advice perhaps to choose our next action from. We must be honest with what we feel and be thankful for whatever the other person is able to do for a time. Remember, we are in need of a shoulder to cry on. We don't ask that person to do the recovering for us or return to us all or part of what we lost. If the tragedy has rendered you immobile due to your loss- no decent house to return to, a loved one/s died, your source of income was shattered and went down with the disaster, fear for debts unpaid and mounting, no money enough to pull you up again, and your only reason to move on is you are alive, so be it. You're alive, my friend. And God is only a prayer away.

You might marble at how quick and easy I am at words to encourage you. You can even say, I don't suffer the way you do, because I was miles apart from you when that monster of disaster struck you, and I have no idea of how great that suffering is. Really? Then, my friend, this I say, I had been there ahead of you. In my youth, with my whole family, I experienced a string of destructive earthquakes, typhoons, twisters, and flash floods from very alarming rainfalls especially during rainy seasons when strong typhoons visited our province here in Pangasinan and neighboring provinces in Region I. I still have a vivid memory of how my father would tie the roof of our old house to the coconut trees to prevent it from being carried away by the storm. He would stay awake all night measuring the depth of the flood at the wooden stairs of our elevated house hoisted on wooden posts. Houses were built on strong posts, bamboo or wood, high above the flood level because we live near a tributary of the Agno River that overflowed year in year out after very heavy rains. Our house which stood out from the rest of our neighbors' houses because it was made of wood (few were built on cement those days) became sanctuary to our neighbors whose houses were made of bamboo and nipa which are light materials. Our old paternal house which was rebuilt somehow in a modest type out of cement and wood with galvanized iron roof is now vacant but it still serves today as " evacuation center" for relatives whose houses are always under threat by storms and floods. I built my own house adjacent to it and so the old house's care is my responsibility. Our annual family reunions during All Saints Day and barangay fiestas are held in our parents' house.

One of the worst ever floods I experienced was when I was a newly employed teacher. My father, a government employee then, was temporarily assigned to Tayug town, several towns away from home. My elder siblings were either away from home to college in Manila, or at work or with their own families. That was before the martial law days of the Marcos administration. I can't remember the name of that typhoon, but I can remember the details of our horrible experience. As I watched the floods went by, I thought the next day it would subside as it used to because the flood waters emptied down the Lingayen Beach nearby. But it did not.The heavy rainfall continued for days. Our kitchen floor which was a step lower than our main floor at the living rooms and bedrooms was only a finger away from the rushing floods below. At the onset of the storm, anticipating the event of another flood due to heavy rains, I bought our most needed necessities of grocery items and foodstuff. At least I just encashed my pay cheque and we had enough money to spend. My mother didn't want to leave house despite repeated pleas from our neighbor rescuers on boats to vacate house and join the other families at the evacuation centers in the vicinity of the Capitol which is on high grounds.

The rescuers tied the boat to one of the coconut trees nearby leaving instructions that should we decide to be evacuated we just shout for help. That boat made me sick the whole night as it knocked on the trunks of the coconut trees. It was a mistake to have even approved it be tied there. I was afraid that if it went loose it would just as knock out our house posts. My mother decided that we opened our windows wide to at least lessen the force of the wind against our walls. Before the rainy days my father had anticipated another typhoon and flood so he had changed the weak posts and repaired what was to be repaired in the house so at least I thought our house could withstand the storms and the floods.We stayed in one room that my mother thought was safer from the rest of the house. The heavy downpour started to soak us and everything that was exposed to the element. The howling typhoon made me cover my ears with my hands. The raging flood waters below our bamboo slats floor really frightened me. And the wild thought that we were alone in the place, no more rescue effort possible in the situation, was too much to bear that I just cried.

Before nightfall I heard people howling and shouting for help from distant houses. When I peeped through the window, I saw people climbing up the coconut trees. I froze and in silence I prayed as hard as I could. I put my ID in my pocket. I saw my mother with a rope in hand who said if anything worst happened, we would tie ourselves together to one of the roof beams above. the ceiling. We were alone with my mother, myself, and four of my younger siblings in high school and elementary grades. Mother tearfully announced that our absent father and other family members must find us where they left us.

My friends, God is really good. The fateful night passed and we were safe the next day. In the eerie silence of that very dark morning I knew that the Lord was with us all night and was there to protect us. We only needed to humble ourselves before the Lord and he guided us. Like what my father used to do, I monitored the flood level down our stairs. Inch by inch I measured how much water ebbed down. I also considered the time of the rising and ebbing time of the tides in the nearby river that caused the still irregular rise and fall of water level on the step of our stairs. The things my father did in such a situation, I learned to undertake for my family. The floods stayed for almost a week. My father couldn't come home due to the flooded streets on his way back home. He passed away time in soaked clothes as well. And there were no cell phones nor landlines those times. Imagine the pain, the feeling of helplessness and hopelessness we all felt not knowing what happened to each and everyone of us. My father stayed for few days at the bus station, the Pantranco, in Dagupan City because Binmaley, the town next to Lingayen was not passable by vehicles. He only atefew pieces of "pandesal" peddled on limited quantity at the station while people awaited for the flood to subside.

When he arrived home at last, he was carrying on his shoulders a sack half full of mongo that all sprouted because it was soaked in rain waters. He said he didn't know where to go at first. Were we in some evacuation centers or at home saving what was left of our house? He learned by words of mouth along the way that our place was devastated by floods. When the tragedy was over and we sat together as a family exchanging notes about our harrowing experiences, all our separate reactions pointed to one thing, we all prayed hard to God, asked forgiveness from our sins and professed our unending faith and love in the Lord, who created all things.

The floods, the storms, the typhoons come and go. Changes had been made by our local government that somehow addressed the answers to these problems. But as sure as the sun rises in the east and sinks to the west, disasters will come. God allows these things to happen because he wants to teach us to be prepared, to be more caring with our environment, and seek Him for strength and protection when tragedies strike. This is really an imperfect world made more at risk to disasters because of people's wanton abuse. Nobody is to blame but us. Do you agree with me?

Photo by IRRI images

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