“Immediately, Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith," he said, "Why did you doubt?"
-Matthew 14:31

TRIALS facing the Philippines made me question the reality behind the expression “calm before the storm.”

When early warnings on Super Typhoon “Yolanda,” internationally known as “Haiyan,” reached the media, a feeling of anxiety came to me. I found myself sharing the negative foreboding about Yolanda with almost everyone I knew. I was on my way to believing that the calm before the storm existed merely in fiction.

And then it came. It was beyond what I had expected. The wake of the disaster made my troubles and complaints in life feel small. With millions of homes destroyed, thousands dead, and thousands more left with nothing but grief and starvation, a sudden shade of both guilt and remorse filled me. Moments like these are beyond the unimaginable, building up to an invisible tug of war between faith and desperation.

Even with the option to ignore the disaster, this was something that one could not just avoid. I was far away from both Tacloban and Eastern Samar, two areas that were most battered by the typhoon. But there’s an invisible string that continues to tug at every Filipino’s heart.

I realized I was in no position to escape these calls of help. It was only a few weeks into the second semester and there were already different programs, both local and nationwide, seeking to reach out to the victims of Yolanda, considered the second deadliest typhoon to hit the Philippines.

Mindanao campus to rise soon

It was impossible not to notice the establishments offering various products and services ending with the phrase “for a cause.” Meanwhile, social media became an instant gateway for charity work and social awareness.

The Pope’s tweet asking the world to pray for the Philippines touched me so deeply. I was teary-eyed.

I’m quite ashamed to say that I had been irked once or twice by the flow of events. I felt bitter and hopeless. I felt a strong strain on my faith. As a child, I was taught that my Lord won’t abandon everyone, even in the harshest times. I am also a believer of the signs and times. Questions raced in my mind. Is this the end? Why did God allow this to happen?

Watching television did not help. It broke my heart to see how Tacloban and other areas became a picture of tragedy and desolation. People were left scavenging for food, looting stores just to have their tummy’s fill for the day and even stealing from corpses.

But our God is a loving God. He never abandons His people, even in the most trying of times. Even as we find our nation in the trough, we should never lose hope that we will rise again.

I recall Fr. Fernando Suarez’s homily during his Sunday TV Mass last Nov. 17, in which he encouraged Filipinos to remain strong and faithful to God despite the tragedy caused by the typhoon. He urged the people to do so much more than to mourn, to be aware that God implores us to be one with our faith, and realize that these things happen for us to be reminded that there is God who is always with us.

Creating 'literary' noise

Despite the heartbreaking scenarios of the storm, it was also impossible to miss the inspiring stories in the wake of Typhoon Yolanda.

Rosaries and copies of the Bible were sent to Tacloban to strengthen the people’s faith. Elementary students helped in repacking relief goods during their break time. Foreign volunteers came from all over the globe. A doctor and her family left the comfort of their abode to offer help. People, young and old, from all walks of life, searched their pockets for something to donate.

Grieving for our fallen brothers and sisters is part of our collective pain for what had happened. Even when many are still in need of help, we should never forget that faith in the Lord and hope for our people can certainly make a difference. We live day by day, not solely for ourselves, but for the sake of our fellowmen, all our brothers and sisters.

One of St. Francis of Assisi’s famous quotations came to mind: “All the darkness in the world cannot extinguish the light of a single candle.”

I eventually realized how unfair and rather pessimistic my view had become of this situation. The idea of constantly looking for a silver lining had fueled my way of thinking. The Thomasian community reminded me to always give a helping hand to those in need. As they say, nothing is too big or too small in giving. A pack of noodles, few clothes, and maybe a few bottles of water could make a big difference. What do I have to be so hopeless about?

Libreng pasada ng bus para sa mga Tomasino

Who am I to lose both heart and hope? If those who were in deep dilemma were able to rise, why wouldn’t the rest of the Filipino nation be able to do so?

As we recover from our own “dark clouds,” we will soon find ourselves in another bright morning. After all, that’s what Filipinos are all known for: resiliency and faith. As Pope Francis said in his prayer for the Philippines, “Faith emerged from the ruins, it came from solidarity in the moment of hardship.”


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