Yolanda: Where does the time go?
(The Philippine Star) - November 7, 2015 - 9:00am

Nov. 8. Exactly two years today. Where did the time go? I grew up so much in those 730 days — stretched to the point of almost breaking, emotionally battered and bruised, humbled. There were days when I just felt old and weary, as if I had aged a thousand years.

A tragedy in the scale of typhoon Yolanda can do that to anyone. The lines I now see on the sides of my eyes and the way I seem to be “lost in thought,” as my daughter Juliana observed, must be from that event. On the flip side, the same period of time has also been dotted with many beautiful moments, and thankfully enough of them for me to have the fortitude to carry on, difficult as the situation was. 

Life goes on, as it always does. The sun rises and sets each day. Lessons are learned. New friends are made, old friendships rekindled. By God’s grace, sometimes even broken ones are mended. I look back at all that has transpired, the good and the bad, the ugly and the beautiful, and life just seems so tender from where I stand.

Everything is so fragile. I have never been one to sweat the small stuff but in two short years, I have learned to detach myself from trivialities even more, so much so that I am at that point where I question how and why I’m able to “let go” so easily. Is this all just Yolanda’s doing? Or is it really part and parcel of that phenomenon we all call “growing up”? Perhaps the biggest lesson I cherish is this: not everything is under my control, no matter how hard I try. Things can happen my way or not, and that is all good. I cannot be brighter than God. I cannot question His timing. I cannot question His ways. I just have to submit to His ways. And pray every day that my will is aligned with His. May I want nothing more than just (and all) that.

Let me share with you a beautiful story. A friend of mine, Ditas, went to the district — daughter, son and yaya in tow. She wanted to meet the fisherman she had helped. She went to see Manong Elsiefonso I. Apostol, and spent two hours in his house. That one small space was their living room, dining room, bedroom, study area — all rolled into one. He has three children, six grandchildren. Ditas brought gifts for his grandchildren — a Nerf gun, dolls, remote control cars among many others. The children were beyond joyful. One little boy said he had prayed for an RC car for many birthdays and Christmases past. Manong Eldiefonso shared with Ditas his trade, how much he earned from fishing, how through the years it was able to put his children and grandchildren through school. He showed her where they slept, led her to the yard where he raised chickens. Elisa, Ditas’ daughter, cried when she found out a chicken had to die whenever a member of the family celebrated a birthday. They stayed on well into the night to see how the grandchildren studied. The solar lamp they brought for the family came in very handy at that point. Ditas says it touched her so much to see how everything they owned was precious to them — the textbooks that had been passed on many times, the well-worn pencils (just one each) and erasers. They studied on a mat on the floor. That night, the bedtime story between mother and daughter was one that reiterated contrast, as such highlighting compassion, gratitude, generosity. Being grateful for an easy life but gaining perspective in terms of paying it forward.

While there, Ditas also went to see another fisherman another friend of ours had helped. Jaden, all of seven years old, had come to the house shortly after her birthday party to give me money for one boat. It was part of the ampao she got from all her guests. She wanted the boat blue, and with a little flower beside it. Manong Diosdado Bangcoyo wept when he learned that Jaden was a little girl, deeply touched that his second chance to earn decently by the work of his hands was through someone the age of his grandchild. Ditas took a photo of him to show Jaden, but he was too shy to smile because he had no teeth. He was joyful in his heart though, his eyes twinkling even as they were wet with tears. He wanted Jaden to please know he was very happy the boat could fit two people sleeping, for those times when they would be out at sea for two days. 

There are many such stories that tug the heart. Of donors going the extra mile for the fishermen, embracing them like they are family. Some have gone back to give them fishing nets, or food baskets. There is a lot of good will going around. The cycle goes on and on. Indeed, the best of humanity shines through the most after the most trying of times. Yes, sunshine always comes after the rain.

Two years. Much still needs to be done. But things are looking up. Hope lives on. I will remember the pain but I will also remember the joy that came after it in bits and pieces, in short and long stretches intermittently. I will remember the kindness, appreciated so much more by the indifference that was also sometimes present. May I one day not remember any of those sad parts. And if I do, may it be with a knowing that it had to happen, and that some good did come out of it still. When I am old and gray, I will remember how, when I was so young I already knew what it was like to feel old and gray on the inside. May I also always choose to remember not to take anything for granted — people most especially, and the privilege of being in a position to help and do something to make life better, never mind if sometimes it is just one person, one day at a time. May I remember that resilience is every Filipino’s middle name, that courage is not just a word, and how taking a leap of faith is so much more than just a big step forward. Over and above that, may I remember that there is nothing to fear when it comes from the heart.

ACIRC BY GOD DITAS JADEN MANONG DIOSDADO BANGCOYO MANONG ELDIEFONSO MANONG ELSIEFONSO I MAY I MUCH ONE REMEMBER
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