As I write this today, there is a number that constantly floats on my head, 10,000. That’s the projected number of people in Tacloban City and in Central Philippines that may have died at the onset of the strongest typhoon to ever hit landmass; Typhoon Haiyan which is locally known as Yolanda. The news was startling given that earlier accounts only pegged the number at 100. The government of the Philippines really did exert their utmost efforts to prepare and engage in evacuation procedures one day before the typhoon hit. So what happened? Why did the number suddenly jump?
Communication was cut and the government people tasked with relaying damage and fatality reports have also become victims themselves. Now, what has this got to do with love, you may be asking. I’ll get to that pretty soon.
It’s wonderful to see the entire nation and the international community come together to help the victims. It’s wonderful to see all the diligent efforts by the national government to bring relief goods and services to the people who are most affected by this.
But the damage goes beyond numbers. It goes beyond the million dollar assessments of infrastructural damage. It goes beyond the loss of life, property and opportunity. The damage is more harrowing than that.
We were hit by Yolanda’s weakest part and only signal number 2 has been raised in Batangas province. We live in the South-Western part of Luzon Island which is far away from the eye of the storm. But still the winds blew and there has been some minimal damage. During the storm, I stayed up in the dark with only a candle and bible by my side. I watched as my wife and children slept soundly amid the roaring of the winds and the swaying of the trees. The pitch black darkness outside masked the harrowing violence that nature is bringing about seven hundred ninety one kilometers to our South.
It was only after the second day when the power went back on when news accounts started trickling in. At first, the atmosphere was cautiously optimistic as everybody prepared so everybody thought that everyone was okay. But then the grim details of the Tacloban situation began to trickle in. A whole city decimated. Images of looting, dead bodies rotting in the open, destroyed airports and an eerie landscape seen only in apocalyptic movies began to fill our screens.
The Real Damage
Now what’s in a number? Suffering and pain can only be multiplied by so much. Stories of children being whisked away by the waters and the wind from the arms of their mothers and fathers struck a chord in me.
The real damage is in love.
Somewhere out there, a child who used to play under the watchful eyes of her parents will no longer play. Somewhere out there, a diligent father will no longer come home to his family bringing ‘pasalubong’ of all sorts after a day’s work. Somewhere out there, a mother will no longer be able to give her child a hug. Somewhere out there, where there used to be a home filled with memories of love and of family, there will only be emptiness.
To the survivors, they would be dealing with a totally rearranged life. Every family and every community has a system of living or a way of life. People know the baker, the carpenter, the barber, the policeman, the storekeep, and for thousands of communities there will be huge gaping holes left unfilled by the people taken by the storm. The biggest gaps would be of family. How many orphans will there be after this?
How many widows and widowers?
Family is the Cornerstone of Filipino Society
It is what has traditionally bound us to each other through times of turmoil and suffering. Never mind all the odds and all the hardships for as long as the sacred bond between family is kept intact, we Filipinos could face anything and everything that can be thrown at us.
But what if that family is no longer there?
We will come together as a nation and as a member of the international community. That is one sure thing that I have learned and witnessed over the years. We will rebuild things from the ground up as we always have throughout the ages. Lives will be restored and soon the wonderful magic of market economies and kindness will begin to work its way to the system. But some wounds are harder to heal. For those of you who can give help to my Filipino brethren in the South, thank you. For those of you who cannot, I thank you still.
I do not know the answers for the questions I have made above. For now, I encourage anyone and everyone who values love, to give their loved ones a hug and tell them in words that you love them. For we will never know when the winds will take them away from us.
Give love and give hope more than anything else.
“Free Hugs” Creative Commons Image via Flickr