Ondoy and I

One Wednesday or Thursday morning, after Typhoon Ondoy hit Metro Manila on September 26, 2009, our family's gardener, Mang J greeted me with his usual: "Good morning, Ma'am," with a smile. He did not report for work the Saturday before so I asked: "Kumusta kayo?" (How are you?)

He replied: "Ayun, ma'am, muntik nang matabunan ng lupa." (We almost got buried in a landslide.) He then proceeded to relate how as soon as he saw some soil and land fall right smack in front of their door, he ordered his whole family to quickly get out of the house located in Taytay.

"Anong nangyari sa bahay ninyo?" (What happened to your house?) "Wala na ma'am" (It's gone), he said matter-of-factly. "Saan kayo nakatira?" (Where do you live now?) "Nakikitira muna kami sa kapitbahay." (We are living with our neighbors first.) And then he proceeded to go on with his work, realizing probably that life goes on and that if he is to re-build whatever he has lost, he must work and be productive. We are thankful that his whole family is safe and wish that the same could be said for all families. Sadly, that is not the case.

All of us have come across Ondoy Stories or perhaps, you have your own Ondoy Story to tell. Ondoy was just something we never saw before. Never have I personally known so many people who were directly affected, from relatives, to co-workers, to househelp, to friends, to my kids' classmates. In my son's school, boys who were heavily affected by the typhoon were allowed to wear casual clothes as some of them lost their uniforms. My son came home one time and asked if he could also wear casual clothes. I did not think the question was very wise and so I asked: "Were you affected by the typhoon?" By then he knew, it was back to his school uniform.

After he left the room, however, I thought to myself, but we were all affected. Numerous people directly, others indirectly. The effect just varies in terms of degrees. Those who have been spared are in the best position to help those who now have to re-build. If I have personally communicated with you by e-mail at some time, you would probably have noted my standard signature where I highlight my top signature themes in terms of the Strengths Finder. The Strengths Finder is a tool by which a person is able to identify his or her top 5 strengths. My first strength, as revealed by the Strengths Finder is Connectedness and I state it by always saying: "I believe that we are all connected."

Typhoon Ondoy highlighted this to me even more. We are all connected, in more ways than one, in ways greater than we can ever imagine. The bad or the good that a single person does will have an effect on another person, somewhere, sometime. That is why we cannot live our lives thinking of just how things are for ourselves and for our families. We need to take care of others as well. That is what stewardship is all about. That is precisely what we talk about when we differentiate between "giving to a need" and "the need to give."

I have observed the Filipino. When there is a disaster or a calamity, everyone comes together. Everyone is willing to help in their own way. That is why my favorite writer Conrado de Quiros says that the best in the Filipino always comes out in a crisis and that point, I will not argue with. I know it is true and I expect it. Give a few weeks, months, or years even, after the disaster, however, and everyone is back to their usual ways. Think Milenyo. Remember Reming.

Complacency and lack of concern are habits and so is generosity. Someone once said that we must all have a lifestyle of giving. We do not need disaster to stare us in the face before we do something. Before we give something. Share what you have regularly. Share your time, your talent, your treasure.

One of those who were badly affected by Typhoon Ondoy was a former boss of mine. The water had gone into his home, forcing his family to stay in the second floor of his house. I texted him a few days after to see how he was. He replied by saying that they were doing better and that God will give a fresh start.

When people lose loved ones and things that they have worked a lifetime for, the situation can be hard to understand and explain. Those of us who were not directly hit cannot even begin to imagine how they feel. But I do hope that in our search for connectedness, we can all take comfort in Revelation 21: 3-5 (TEV): "Now God's home is with people! He will live with them and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and He will be their God. He will wipe away all tears from their eyes. There will be no more death, no more grief or crying or pain. The old things have disappeared.

Then the One who sits on the throne said: 'And now I make all things new! He also said to me, 'Write this because these words are true and can be trusted.'"

May the above verse inspire us to strive to lead lives that will have the Lord say: "Well done, good and faithful servant. Come and share your Master's joy."

May you and your families always find protection and comfort amidst the storms of life and may we all regularly bring the Lord's presence and help to those we encounter daily.

[By Angelica Viloria | Sunday, October 25, 2009]

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