Author’s Note: For any foreign readers out there, if any, for the sake of cultural reference, Juan Dela Cruz is often used as the personification of the Filipino, thus the title.
This year has been especially hard for the Philippines. It has been documented that this year alone, at least three tragedies of epic proportions all hit the three major islands of my country within a span of a month.
First off, September 9, when factions of the Moro National Liberation Front or MNLF laid siege to Zamboanga City in Mindanao and a standoff occurred for close to three weeks, resulting in at least 100,000 families being displaced from their homes and businesses.
Less than a month later, on October 11, Typhoon Santi devastated the provinces of Aurora and Nueva Ecija in Luzon.
Then a mere four days later, on October 15, a magnitude 7.5 earthquake shook Bohol and Cebu in the Visayas region. The result was more than 200 dead, thousands injured, and thousands of structure, even historical ones, destroyed.
Just when we thought the worst was behind us, the monster typhoon known as Yolanda came to ravage the Visayas area again last November 8.
Weather forecasters warned us that it was the strongest typhoon to ever hit anywhere on the face of the planet, not just for 2013, but in the history of mankind.
The final number of casualties has yet to be determined as of this writing, but estimates have pegged the total number of people affected by the catastrophe at 9 million.
Try to fathom that.
Numbers do not lie, but numbers can never ever tell the real story, because people are not figures, but real flesh and blood.
The world has seen or heard of this tragedy through CNN, BBC, Facebook, and other media outlets. Those who have been there personally say it is much, much worse up close.
One prominent pastor described it as ‘’worse than hell.’’
Rodrigo Duterte, long time mayor of Davao City, a tough leader, a man’s man, came to Tacloban City, which many consider Ground Zero of the typhoon, to bring some relief goods and 7 million pesos in donation. When interviewed, he was seen shedding tears. Nobody makes Duterte cry, nobody. If this tough mayor cries, you know it must be very, very, bad indeed.
A mentor of mine, who works in the government, is at this moment at Ground Zero as well. He wept at the sight of seeing entire towns wiped out and the suffering of the people, both the dead and the survivors, with some people he literally described as going crazy because of hunger and shock.
President Noynoy Aquino, when briefed by Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin as to the extent of the damage and the number of casualties, was reported to be rendered speechless for a few moments before he regained his composure.
Such unimaginable and unspeakable pain.
Many, including me, have asked God why has these tragedies happen to our nation?
Answers, mostly theories, vary. I do not wish to add to that. There may be a time and place for that later, but not now.
I’m quite sure discussions, debates, and blaming would not help a bit, especially to those who lost loved ones and houses in this nightmare.
What they need right now are tangible expressions of love like food, clothing, and shelter. And a lot of human touch, not necessarily voice.
Even in the midst of all these weeping and wailing, there is a ray of hope. The International community has begun to respond. As of this writing, an estimated 6.2 billion pesos have been donated or pledged to the victims.
There is a saying in Tagalog, “walang tutulong sa Filipino kung hindi ang kapwa Filipino din.” (In the end, no one can help the Filipino the most except his fellow Filipino).
We have heard of reports of millionaires and movie stars donating huge amounts to the grieving; and even smaller companies, and common people foregoing their Christmas bonuses in order to give aid to the victims.
Even our Congressmen, often perceived to be corrupt by the masses, have pledged to give up their pork barrel funds and align it to the President’s Emergency Fund instead.
I know this is but temporary, but better to have unity and cooperation even for just awhile, compared to none at all.
I declare Psalm 126 over my beloved country and my beloved people..
1. When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion
(may the Lord understand if I change “Zion’’ to the ‘’Philippines” for the moment),
we were like those who dreamed.
2 Our mouths were filled with laughter,
our tongues with songs of joy.
Then it was said among the nations,
“The Lord has done great things for them.”
3 The Lord has done great things for us,
and we are filled with joy.
4 Restore our fortunes, Lord,
like streams in the Negev.
5 Those who sow with tears
will reap with songs of joy.
6 Those who go out weeping,
carrying seed to sow,
will return with songs of joy,
carrying sheaves with them.
Amen and Amen.