TOO consoling—and perhaps spiritually assuring, too, for the most of us who are the grips of fear, grief and uncertainty brought about by the Super Typhoon Yolanda—was the pastoral advisory issued by the president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, Archbishop Jose Palma of Cebu.
While he called for a novena of prayer and charity from November 11-19 for the victims of typhoon Yolanda and the earlier calamities, he assured the faithful that, paraphrasing St. Paul, the earthquake has no sting for one who hopes in the Lord. These are his powerful words: “The typhoon was the strongest in the world according to the reckoning of scientists, but our faith in the Lord is even stronger. No typhoon or flood can diminish the strength of the Filipino soul. No calamity or natural devastation can quench the fire of our hope. The Filipino soul is stronger than Yolanda.”
On the anthropological side of things, a netizen, perhaps a foreigner—who immediately posted a comment on the feature story of CNN about the super storm that was published online while the storm was raging on November 8—invested confidence on the Filipino psyche. Going by the alias “Dudesk001”, he wrote: “Time to get to know the hardy Filipino people…unbelievably resilient, long suffering, good natured, uber friendly, loyal, ingenious, and a bunch of survivors. At the end of the day, the Filipinos will just shake off the dirt from their clothes and thongs and go about their business…and smile. They do not complain much, they will bear as long as they can. Maybe this is why they were given the “privilege” of bearing the burden of the strongest typhoon ever recorded. The indomitable spirit at its finest.”
On the ground, however, six days have already passed since this most devastating typhoon in history left the country. And yet, dead bodies still litter with the debris in the streets of Tacloban City and neighboring towns as if, in the global reports of CNN and BBC, apathy has suddenly dawned on a people famed for family values and care for their dead—or perhaps everybody are just too preoccupied with survival and the government going in circles and blaming others instead of lifting a finger. People, getting hungrier and desperate by the day, are desperately clamoring for food and water which despite government promises of immediate relief have yet to be realized. A Tacloban resident was quoted by ABS-CBN saying that while he survived typhoon Yolanda, he is not sure to survive hunger due to government’s inefficiency. Lawlessness that may have been triggered by hunger and need, or sheer criminality as two senators involved in pork barrel anomaly pointed out, has driven people to loot business establishments perhaps because the national government has just been talking on TV instead of executing a crisis management plan.
The breakdown in communications is a catastrophe in itself, especially for Filipinos abroad whose loved ones are residents in heavily devastated areas. For days now, they have been calling radio stations no end asking for updates. A priest from Guiuan, Eastern Samar, Fr. Edgar Abucejo, drove on his motorcycle all the way to Manila just to be able to communicate the situationer of this town which was the first landfall of typhoon Yolanda. Since cell sites operate on wireless microwave or satellite technologies, mobile sites could have been temporarily installed in a day or two by telephone companies or the national government if this were given due attention.
In a situation such as this, hope is seemingly illusive especially for a government leadership that thinks differently—or sluggishly. It may not be easy then to shake off the dirt from thongs and go about regular business with a wide grin.