THE VIEW FROM RIZAL
As we write this column, many of our countrymen in various parts of Luzon are picking up the pieces – literally and figuratively speaking – in the aftermath of the onslaught of Typhoon Ulysses.
The magnitude of the fury of Ulysses was somehow unexpected. We were told that this typhoon would not be as strong as Typhoon Rolly. We were also hoping that since Ulysses was coming in the heels of two typhoons, its impact would not be significant.
Ulysses’ winds were strong enough to knock down electric posts and other light structure. What caused much damage was the amount of rain that Ulysses poured into several parts of Luzon, including the Calabarzon region and Metro Manila.
As we go to press, our neighbors, Marikina City and Rizal towns San Mateo and Montalban, are yet to recover from the shock of what seemed to be a repeat of their ordeal in the aftermath of Typhoon Ondoy several years ago. The images of people on their rooftops asking to be rescued evoke the same fear we went through as we surveyed the destruction brought about by Ondoy 11 years ago.
We are one with Marikeños, fellow Rizaleños, and our countrymen in other typhoon-hit areas as they summon their individual and collective strength to get over this most recent adversity.
As our team attended to the damage inflicted by Ulysses in Antipolo, I remembered a conversation I had with a friend more than three years ago.
In that conversation, my friend said:
“Ang buhay ng tao, parang Pilipinas” (Man’s life is much like the Philippines).
My friend had dropped by my office at the Antipolo City Hall on a rainy afternoon.
While sipping his piping-hot coffee, he paused to look at the downpour outside, then said what I knew would be a “hugot” line.
“Bakit naman” (Why is that so)?” I had to ask that expected, obligatory reply to a “hugot” line.
“Ang buhay, parang Pilipinas – kasi laging dinadaanan ng bagyo (Life is much like the Philippines – storms always pass over it),” he explained.
The line was funny – and full of wisdom. Yes, typhoons are a feature of life in our country. This won’t be the Philippines without the perennial howlers which traverse the country, particularly during this time of the year. They destroy everything in their path, leaving a trail of death and destruction.
That conversation also resurrected another painful memory. It was also during Philippine typhoon season that a major storm of life passed over our family and left a trail of emotional destruction.
Eight years ago, my wife Andeng and I were looking forward to the birth of the baby who was supposed to have been our third daughter. On August 24, 2012, Andeng went to her doctor for a check-up after sensing that the infant in her womb appeared to be weak. That gloomy Friday, she learned that the baby inside her had died.
The cause of the baby’s death had been diagnosed as what is commonly known as an umbilical cord accident. The cord had wrapped itself on the baby’s legs, a rather rare and unfortunate occurrence. The accident had caused the flow of blood and amniotic fluid into the infant to be blocked and completely stopped.
We gave her the name Aubrey Anne. She would have been eight years old this year. The fact that she did not live to enjoy those eight years with Andeng, her two elder sisters, and me left us devastated – just like what happens to communities that lie on the paths of destructive typhoons.
That was an experience that helped us understand the “storms” are a fact of life which we must learn to be aware of, to accept and to adapt to.
We learned that no one is exempted from life’s storms. We cannot escape it. We can only learn to deal with it.
There are three things our family learned from the experience and which we use when facing life’s storms.
First, strengthen the “core.”
Second, strengthen the communication.
Third, strengthen the commitments.
Core. Communication. Commitments.
“Core” refers to the things that are central to, and which matter most” in life. Among them are faith, relationships, and our personal character. The “core” are the vital things that should and must be left standing after the storm. These are the things that must resist devastation.
I understood the essence of the “core” as my teams and I took part in disaster and risk management for the communities we serve. The experience taught me that communities have “core” structures that must survive the devastation. Among them are government buildings, evacuation centers, hospitals.
The “core” is where people go when their homes are damaged. The “core” is where they wait for the storm to pass and for the right time to return to their homes and rebuild.
Faith and relationships are the “core” which shelter us as we wait for life’s storms to be over and for the time for us to get up and go.
Communication is essential, too. In disaster and risk management, electronic communications are crucial in the evacuation and rescue of people. Human communication is what rescues us amid life’s storms. Life’s storms create a feeling of isolation. That’s when we need to hear two sets of calming and comforting voices – those of friends who care and that of God who assures as that “this too shall pass.”
Commitment refers to the human resolve to “hold on together” as we go through the storm and deal with the aftermath. “Storms” challenge our faith in one another and our hope for a new dawn. The howl of treacherous winds magnify our fear of the uncertain and the unknown.
The only thing that is certain and known is that there is power in faith and in hope.
Core. Communication. Commitment. That’s how we weather life’s many storms.
I remember one moment in the aftermath of a particularly destructive typhoon that hit the province of Rizal when I was provincial governor. That moment showed me that there are two ways to look at the post-typhoon scenario.
You can look around. And, you can look up.
You look around and you see the magnitude of the destruction. By looking around, you learn compassion. You learn to accept the reality that life presents many vulnerabilities.
You look up and you see the beauty of the sky in the morning after a storm has passed.
The post-typhoon sky is exceptionally beautiful. For some reason, the sky is bluer; the clouds more silvery than grey.
You look up and you appreciate the fact that the storm has passed. It’s a new day. It’s another chance to rebuild what has been damaged; to recover what has been lost; to preserve, protect, and value what has survived.
Then, your faith and your hope become even stronger. I guess that’s what life’s storms are for.
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