Wednesday, January 29, 2014

A Penny's Worth: The story of a husband, father and a brother during the Haiyan Supertyphoon

As we mark the third month since Typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines, I want to share the story of Mark whose journey made him realize the real value of money.

In one barangay where we put up a Women and young Children Space, a young mother named Hope  (not her real name) shared the story of her husband (Mark). Hope said her husband is now bedridden after what she claimed was a traumatic experience for Mark (but I will reserve that for another story). She began by sharing that she and her husband Mark were local entrepreneurs who worked hard to provide a decent life for their family. But when Supertyphoon Haiyan hit their village they realized the real value of money. She said that during the supertyphoon, her husband was separated from them. She and all her children were able to find shelter in one of the elementary classrooms while her husband Mark still went to the field to make sure the coconuts were safe in the storage area. Mark then found shelter in the day care center which was about 20 meters away from the classroom. But the classroom was not going to withstand the supertyphoon and Hope was quick to decide that they had to run across the street and find shelter instead in the barangay hall. Mark was not able to see his family leave the classroom but he did saw how its roof was torn to pieces by the storm and the classroom walls collapsing slowly. People were screaming in fear and Mark wanted to run in the middle of the storm thinking his family was inside the classroom. Mark was held by his siblings telling him it was not safe for him. Mark was crying and he was emotional throughout the whole morning as he was calling out his wife and his children. He was repentant for making the crops safe first instead of joining his family and securing their safety. Mark could not be calmed the whole morning. When the wind mellowed a little, he ran into the classroom and was relieved to find out that his family was safe in the barangay hall.

The next day, Mark and 2 of his brothers decided to go to Tacloban to check on the condition of their youngest sister and other family members. They joined some other men from their village. They made sure they have enough money for whatever incidental expenses they might incur during that visit. They left their village at dawn to catch the early bus trip going to Tacloban. But they realized that no vehicle will be able to travel the highway with all the debris scattered on the road. Being physically fit and able, Mark and the other men from their village decided to walk the 40 kilometer stretch to reach Tacloban. What they did not expect was the horror they will encounter in the journey and the emotional and mental anguish it will have on them.

Hope recalled that Mark told him how he felt helpless during that long walk to Tacloban. Mark can only feel pity for the lifeless children and women lying on the roadside, over some trees and together with the debris. Mark shared to his wife how he felt  thinking these children and women could have been his family. He wanted to help them but the money he had in his pocket could not be of any value for them. Mark felt helpless.

The day long walk made Mark and the other men hungry. They did not bring any packed lunch thinking they could buy some food along the way with the money they prepared in their pockets.
They did not expect the extent of the damage to the properties and livelihood of the people in Leyte. No store was open. No food. No water. There was nothing to buy. Money has no value.

When they arrived at Tacloban, Mark and the other men went straight to the boarding house where their sister and other relatives were staying. The boarding house was totally destroyed. The owner was there but she did not know the whereabouts of her boarders. She was grieving for the loss of her property that she had invested in. It has no more value. She spent millions of pesos to invest on her rental business but it was all gone in just a matter of minutes. All her invested efforts, time and money were for naught. 

Mark was not able to find his sister. They searched the city of possible whereabouts of his sister. Other people were there too searching in evacuation centers, makeshift hospitals and worst, in the pile of dead bodies. People from all walks of life were there searching just like Mark. Mark and the men were tired. They had money but it could not buy anything. Money had no value. Mark reflected how the rich and the poor were made equal by the supertyphoon.

Mark and the men took another long day to walk back home to their village.  In that journey, they realized what was really important in life and the real worth of a penny.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Happy New Year


Celebrated New Year in Manila for the first time. I wondered how will we welcome New Year? There is not Ball Drop here like in Time Square? No, big parades nor any traditional public activity where people can go.

Will the church have some activity to welcome the New Year at 12 midnight? What can we do?

My family was present to celebrate with us.

The fireworks and the firecrackers were deafening. I wonder why most Filipinos light up a firecracker? Do they really believe that it will drive bad spirits away like the original intention was? Or it was a form of celebration? Or people simply want to hear a big bang? Or they just want to do what the pop culture dictates? How should Christians welcome the new year?

How will the church welcome New Year? What does your church teach its people?

Jesus said, "I am the light of the world." (John 8:12).

We reflected on this. We prayed and prayed for each other. And we claimed the light that is Jesus.

We light up this New Year as a symbol of our claim that Jesus will be our guiding light for 2014.

Happy New Year 2014