IT IS day five since Yolanda hit central Philippines. And in those five days all media has covered are death, destruction, hunger and despair. You’d think by now you’d see a ray of hope, but no. The most positive news I’ve chanced upon on TV is that government is continuing to study what to do.
I have two 90 year old aunts in TaclobanCity, Leyte, who miraculously survived the typhoon’s onslaught, especially the devastating storm surge. But what really got to me is how they survived three days after the storm without food or water. They were finally reached by our cousin’s people who traveled 24 hours straight over land, by motorcycle, to check what had happened to them and other members of the family. Others were not so lucky.
In these past days I’ve had this growing pain in my heart, the kind that you have holding back the tears and lashing out at the world for all its unfairness. I particularly wanted to vent against the so-called leadership of this country, detailing the top to bottom – but mostly top – ineptitude of the national government for its failure to ease the burden of the people.
Good thing I didn’t have to, save for a few potshots here and there on Twitter and Facebook, because many have already done so, in much better forms than I could do. One noteworthy column is that of Manila Times’ Ben Kritz who was able to piece the whole “Fumbling Another Disaster” in the simplest, most understandable terms. (http://manilatimes.net/fumbling-another-disaster/52361/)
Just to give you an idea, here’s a small excerpt from Kritz: President Aquino first suggested that the people of Tacloban were partly to blame for their own misery for not preparing adequately, used the tragedy to highlight the necessity of retaining his personal control of a large proportion of the national budget under the so-called “Disbursement Acceleration Program” (this according to one of my The Times colleagues covering that particular meeting of President Aquino with disaster-management officials), used the same availability of funds—which most expect will be declared illegal by the Supreme Court in the very near future—as an excuse to off-handedly dismiss offers of recovery aid from foreign donors, and then angrily walked out of another briefing after hearing complaints from a Tacloban businessman about being held at gunpoint by looters who are overrunning the city, to which President Aquino is reported to have sarcastically responded, “But you’re still alive, right?”
I had to do something to let off steam. Yes, I gave to the Red Cross. Yes, I made calls to contacts to help move resources. Yes, I prayed… and prayed.
In these past five days I prayed so much, yet I forgot that my prayers had already been answered. And here it is:
Psalm 34: 17 – 20 – When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles. The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all. He keeps all his bones; not one of them is broken.
You see, shit happens (to be crude about it). We are after all in this world – this physical, temporal world, with all its flaws and natural events and catastrophes that will happen whether or not we want them to happen. Now God, being God, can easily brush this away. But what good is that for us?
Now God has given us the immense capacity, intelligence and knowledge to prepare for these if we want to. If we are righteous – if we sought Him first – then our leaders should have truly attended to this without all the politicking and corruption they succumbed to. In fact, if we are righteous we would have seriously and honestly voted for the right people and not sold our votes, whether directly through their vote buying or indirectly through ensuring that our personal agenda is met and not the national interest.
But, as God said, even the righteous are afflicted. While we are here in this flawed physical, temporal world we will be afflicted no matter how prepared or righteous we are in the Lord’s eyes. And with this we must look beyond our own earthly existence. Yes, catastrophe will befall us, but how we act upon that catastrophe is what’s important. This righteousness gives us God’s hope and assurance of his blessings when the time comes for us beyond this world. And that is forever.
As I reflect on this I recall that in the mid 1990s, as executive director of the Policy Research and DevelopmentCenter (a think tank helping President Fidel V. Ramos and some top corporations) one of our key projects was a development master plan for Leyte. Basically it would have transformed the province into the regional center for business, government and education. Part of it was a full land use plan, including transforming Palo into an ultramodern regional hub.
The plan, quite voluminous and formulated to near final, never made it past the political bickering in the provincial board, much to the dismay of the governor who was supportive of it.
What if it had pushed through? I used to think then that it was Leyte’s loss that they never had the chance to have the glossy, ultramodern regional presence that would have evolved in a decade.
But now I realize it all would have been wiped out of the face of the earth anyway, if not with Yolanda then something bigger and stronger down the road.
Only God’s word rings true. And only God’s promise remains.
Psalm 9:10 Those who know your name will trust in you, for you, LORD, have never forsaken those who seek you.