By Tinay Mamaril
YFL Mission Volunteer
I’m not one to claim that I’ve been through a lot that has weathered me and attained for me great wisdom. No. In fact, I am aware that I have much to learn. Coming from a convenient lifestyle in Dubai, where my parents provided for me and my brothers our every little whim, I became prone to either feeling ‘overly’ sympathetic for the plight of the poor or one of those who choose to turn her back on the less fortunate, silently pleading for the moment to just pass to avoid any guilty feelings.
For my past years here in the Philippines, seeing the poor struggling to get by has become an ordinary picture to me. I see it everyday, and the longer I stay here the more helpless I feel in my attempt to lend a hand to them somehow. It’s like if as a youth I can’t help them, why bother at all? It would just frustrate me, and it would leave me feeling worse of, and their situation unchanged.
When “Ondoy” hit Manila, God called my heart again. This time it was going to be more personal and more real. The picture that “Ondoy” painted over Manila was one of mixed colors, which required one to uphold a bright perspective of things to appreciate the wisdom behind it all. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not a sadist finding joy in the suffering of others. Of course not. Devastation was still the emotion that flooded me when my friends and I decided to bring food and pay a visit to a batchmate whose whole first floor was wiped out, leaving his family with more expenses , and emotional hurt from having to see everything they worked for damaged and gone. Sadness was what overcame me when I watched the people who were washed out after the roof they were relying on for survival, hit a bridge, leaving only one alive. Horror was what I felt as I read the comments of people online who had nothing better to do than to criticize the government, or even account the calamity as an ‘act of God’.
In spite of all these emotions though, hope was what I saw, felt, sensed and claimed for myself and the people affected by the flood. It was a result of seeing people ready to go beyond their conveniences to donate food and clothes, to pack goods and deliver these to the victims of “Ondoy”. More than anything, I saw youth bringing their faith to action. The office CFC-FFL office was filled with the bustle and urgency of people wanting to reach out to their friends and their families.
One of my life-changing experiences during these times happened when YFL were asked to help the Ang Kapatiran Party deliver ‘lugaw’ and water to around 1000 evacuees in Pinagbuhatan Pasig. Much to my surprise, the flood we encountered was above knee level and we had to take ‘creatively-made‘ rafts to get across. Taking almost 3 hours we reached the school in where those affected by the flood stayed. It was a picture of people who wanted to be helped, and from our part (those helping out) it was God’s excuse for us to be humbled. I had been complaining in the first part of the journey that I might die of suffocation of carbon monoxide but seeing my brother and my friends give of themselves in such a simple way, yet creating such an immense impact on the people affected; it moved me.
On the way home, having been emptied of food and boxes of water, we rode the catering truck being used to go back. As we went our way, I was beginning to contemplate on what God was trying to make me see but He made me realize that it wasn’t over yet. The truck we were riding in kept stopping along the way due to the high levels of water outside. After about the 6th time, we all decided that if we wanted to reach our homes before the incoming typhoon “Pepeng” came we would have to wade through the flood and in the rain. Although we didn’t end up doing that for long, the experience of walking, shivering cold in the rain in the company of youth who believed that heroism transcended recognition, I was at peace and I knew that what we were going through was what God wanted to experience. At this point, I thank God for the way my parents raised my brothers and me. My parents would support and remind us that to whom much has been given, much is expected and that it the greater scheme of things, it would all come back. They are people who taught us that God’s favour in his children cannot be boxed, and that we shouldn’t keep it to ourselves because just as the flood wiped out much of Manila because of our wrong choices, much blessings will flood back if we let God use us.
Until today, people have not moved on from the tragedy of the typhoon. Perhaps precautions have been taken by government and people’s perspectives towards nature have changed. At the end of the day, the reality is “Ondoy” called for change. “Ondoy” challenged people to put their faith into action. At a time when theories and plans stop making sense and require one to stop trying to explain something they will never understand. That incomprehensible thing is called the wisdom of God. The actions of people to go beyond themselves to provide for the needs of the others, couldn’t have happened without something beyond the human person-it’s called God’s grace. And the beauty of learning from the experience, from experience a change of heart, and a faith in the beauty of things in the aftermath-all that, that’s God. Not me. Not you. Just God.