Christmastime for most Filipinos is one of the happiest times of the year. People look forward to parties, family reunions, exchange gifts, and everyone feels the festive mood all around. In a few days it would be Christmas, but some people may not be feeling the Christmas spirit for various reasons, including the loneliness of not being with their families, particularly for OFWs. Putting up Christmas decorations may have felt like a chore, and waking up early to attend the “Simbang Gabi” has become more difficult each coming day.
Then suddenly – Typhoon Sendong wrecked its havoc!
What sounded just like a regular typhoon warning more than a week ago, has now turned out to be one of the worst crises the Philippines had to face. Initially there were 300, then 700, now more than a thousand dead, many injured and more than a hundred thousand families homeless, with many children orphaned. Initially it seemed to be just another Ondoy but it turned out to be a lot worse. Each day the news on television showed the extent of what has happened, and how much destruction the typhoon has caused. There are wiped out towns and cities, hundreds of people in body bags, traumatized children who couldn’t sleep, people living in evacuation centers without blankets and mats, and people searching for lost family members, dead or alive. To make matters worst, drinking water has become very scarce, and more people are getting sick in evacuation centers.
Think about this.
For people who feel sorry for themselves and depressed about their personal lives – think about this. The victims of Sendong are homeless. They have no food to eat, water to drink, or any personal belongings to start their lives again with. Their basic needs to live have been washed away with the flood. It is Christmas, supposedly a time to be grateful for what we have, or for others, for what has remained from one tragedy after another. Many are lucky to have a safe and comfortable place to live in, clean water to drink, enough food to eat, and the resources to buy simple pleasures, more so, a family complete and everyone in good health.
Each of us will surely have a lesson to learn with this experience, especially the people who were directly affected, including those who chose not to listen to the warnings. Even government officials who should be accountable for the disaster (hello illegal logging, irresponsible mining, politicking, etc.) have a lot to learn. Those not directly affected by the typhoon may choose to look at this tragedy as just another calamity that needs to be dealt with, or take the time to reflect on new life lessons.
How we choose to be a part of this experience is all up to us. We can go out of our way to give donations in kind, cash, our time, our services and even our physical presence. Our prayers are also important since more than the physical tragedy, there is a larger message being sent to us. Many times when the Philippines was in crisis we used the power of prayer to help us survive and yes, we did survive!
It is very timely – with Christmas around the corner and a time for giving. Filipinos again bond with each other to reach out to other Filipinos in need. It is always a wonderful feeling to see a lot of people going out of their way to reach out, making everyone proud to be a Filipino. Unfortunately, in general, we still have not learned our lessons well. I guess that’s how we are as Filipinos. From the highest of leadership to those below, despite the reoccurrence of major disasters – people have chosen to react to situations rather than be proactive.
What has Sendong taught us?
A lot of us were awakened to appreciate more what we have and be grateful for all the blessings we have received and continue to receive. We have realized the importance of how important it is to be prepared for any natural calamity whether it is an earthquake, typhoon, or flood. We are able to appreciate more the meaning of giving to others in need, even if we have only enough, or hardly have enough, for our own needs.
Watching, listening and learning more about what has happened to the lives of the people affected by typhoon Sendong has made a lot of us reflect on our own personal lives – seeing Christmas in a different light.
Why focus on personal concerns? Why be lonely when you are not without a family. There may not be extra money to buy gifts, but there is enough to eat and celebrate. There may not be enough money to pay for bills and debts, but there is a job and a home to live in comfort. Life may not be at its best, but a lot have the gift of family, gift of friends, and the gift of health. All of our struggles now seem negligible compared to what the Sendong victims have to face for days, weeks, months and even years to come.
Christmas is a season. Sendong is a typhoon.
God has a way of putting both together in ways only He knows why. He must be sending a message to give a new meaning to Christmas amidst the tragedy. For weeks since September the Philippines has been in a festive mode going about preparing for the Christmas season. The count down from 100 days to Christmas is almost over, malls have been full with people buying gifts and spending money; companies have been busy planning and holding parties, while others are preparing themselves spiritually to have a more meaningful celebration of Christmas.
Christmas and its true meaning has always been a mystery. Sendong happening at Christmastime is one of its mysteries. I guess now, we are all just being asked to take time to stop, and to spend a few minutes off our busy day, to simply reflect on what life lesson God wants to teach us today.
Despite Sendong, despite the many struggles of every Filipino, Christmas is here to come. We at Blog Watch Wish Everyone a Merry Christmas!