A nationwide heartbreak

To say that last week was stressful is an understatement.

In a way, it almost felt like last week didn’t exist, with all the stress and devastation I saw on TV and online. But to bury it all and pretend that it didn’t happen feels like some kind of injustice — the kind that I promised wouldn’t happen to me because grace is not about forgetting, but knowing you can start anew.

In the midst of keeping myself up to date, seeing photos, checking which news articles to believe and fixing our own relief efforts in our book club, I came to this conclusion to what this feeling was, the one that bugged me and drove me to tears every now and then when I read news, see photos and hear stories.


This thing that’s stirring our hearts? This isn’t just a simple sadness over what happened to our country. It’s not just sympathy.

It’s heartbreak.

I don’t think anyone’s a stranger to heartbreak. We’ve all had our hearts broken at some point — by a friend, a family member or someone you love. We’ve all had that, and while every heartbreak is different, it doesn’t make it less painful.

What we had last week, and what we’re still having now, is a nationwide heartbreak.

I wrote this last week, during one of those nights when I was feeling a little too much and thinking a little too much (but in a good way):

We are like lovers reeling from a fresh heartbreak, reacting in different ways we know how: lash out, rant, mope, judge. We wonder how people can be so happy and seem so apathetic by posting anything unrelated to the typhoon, while a third of our country suffers. We talk about sensitivity and inefficiency, we curse the people who continue to steal and lie in this tragedy, and make it hard for the people who need the relief to get what they need.

But some of us move, organize things, reach out, help. We move because not moving makes us feel the heartbreak even more, and moving makes it easier for us to breathe, somehow.

We have our own ways to cope because a heartbreak comes unexpectedly, no matter how ready we are, no matter how strong we think we are. Our hearts break, and we do what we can do to heal.

We move, and we wait for healing to come.

And it will come. We just have to wait a little bit.

If healing was fast and easy, then how would we learn the things we ought to learn in the face of heartbreak? If healing comes in a flash, how would we learn compassion, kindness, generosity, strength? Would we be able to appreciate the tireless efforts everyone is doing to heal from the heartbreak? If things become okay in a snap, would we even appreciate what kind of people we become after this heartbreak?

It may seem so far away, but I believe we’re slowly, slowly starting to recover. It’s going to take a while. A long while, probably. And this road won’t be smooth — definitely bumpy, and will probably mean more work for us. Possibly with tinier heartbreaks; small waves of grief that will make us cry again, and punch us in the gut.

But it will not steal our hope.

It will not silence our love.

The thing about heartbreak, I learned, is not really about waiting for things to stop hurting before you do something. A broken heart can and will heal with time, but for time to actually do its job, you need to move. Movement will heal you, free you. In movement, you will learn, and in movement you will be wiser. In movement, you will find people who will move with you.

And you will heal.

swirlOur nation’s heart is broken. But if there’s another thing I learned about heart break (and I quote ((From Corpse in the Mirror by A.S. Santos)) ): Even when hearts are broken, they still keep beating.

Our hearts are broken, but it’s beating. Loud and strong.

P.S. – Not too late to make a difference! Keep on helping, keep on praying!

You can’t silence our love

Look, it’s 11/12/13!

I’m a sucker for dates, which I have proven through some of the posts I made in the past years (except for 11/11/11 — totally wasn’t able to blog then; I wonder why), and today is no different when I got home past midnight and started seeing tweets saying, “Hey look, it’s 11/12/13!”

So look, it’s 11/12/13!

I was thinking of something to write today on my way home last night — you know, something personal and thought provoking and maybe a little dramatic, something normal for me — and then it hit me how selfish it seems to think of that now, in the light of the recent events that happened in my country.

So none of that now. Today is a good day to start doing something. If you haven’t started yet, that is.

Last weekend, Super Typhoon Yolanda (International Name: Haiyan) wrecked havoc in the Philippines. I’m pretty sure everyone knows about this already, and if you haven’t heard, then here’s a little infographic from UN-OCHA to give you the facts:

source - UN-OCHA Asia Pacific
source – UN-OCHA Asia Pacific

We were spared in Manila, and my friends and family are all safe, too. But the typhoon hit the area of the Philippines that doesn’t have enough capacity to bear with this kind of storm. WAIT, SCRATCH THAT. There is NO place here that can really take that kind of typhoon and not come face to face with devastation. Not to mention that’s also the part of the country devastated by a 7.2 magnitude earthquake a little less than a month ago. It’s just truly horrible and heartbreaking.

Today is a good day to start doing things, or to keep doing things. I’m a sucker for dates, and maybe you’re also amused with 11/12/13. If you want to do something different today, then I implore you: HELP. Every single help you can give is important and will go a long way. Donate your money, your time, your talent. This is not the time to be shy, or to think you can’t give something because everyone can give something.

It can be as easy as sending part of your salary/allowance for donation (and hey, it’s payday week, too). Or maybe even making personal sacrifices: bringing packed lunch to work so you won’t have to spend so much on food, or going for cheaper coffee instead of the overpriced ones for the rest of the month and giving what you saved to the groups organizing relief efforts. Or if you are going to eat out or get coffee, then dine at these places that promised to donate the proceeds for the typhoon victims.

Write about it, share information on your social media profiles.

Pray. And if you’re not the praying type, then just keep the people affected in mind for a few minutes in a day and let this be a factor in some of your decisions for the day.

Be kind, be patient, be gracious, be generous, be loving. Because we need to be this now more than ever.

We are never too poor not to give anything, or too powerless not to do anything.

Read More

All your dead-end fury is not enough

When Ondoy happened to us (and the rest of Metro Manila) in 2009, we had to leave our dog Batman at home as we evacuated to our neighbors. Batman wasn’t a friendly dog, so bringing him to the neighbor’s house is not really something we can do. So we left him at home, making sure he had food and water and he was on a table while we crossed the street through waist-deep flood to get to safety. Of course, Batman thought we were leaving him in the midst of that scary night, so he tried to follow us. But we were already gone, and he couldn’t climb back to his table…and I honestly thought I wouldn’t see him alive after that night. He was still alive the next morning, but he was petrified after that. He was so traumatized by the flood that he wouldn’t leave our side while we were cleaning up, and when we tied him outside so he was out of our way, he dug a hole and burrowed there, turning his white coat into…well, brown. Then he would start crying, whining at certain times of the day and we’d wonder if he was just hungry or something. As it turned out, he was whining because he could sense the rain, and he was scared.

Batman recovered from that soon after (but he still hated getting rained on after that), but me? I was terrified of tropical storms and typhoons after that. Like my dog, I was pretty much traumatized with what happened during that flood. I disliked rains with a passion, and whenever the rainy season rolled around, I would pray for the sun everyday, because I didn’t want a repeat of the flood. When there’s an approaching storm, I kept on checking weather reports, and I was the one who kept my friends updated with what I know. I wouldn’t sit still until the storm has passed, and I fretted, worried about so many things and so many people because I really just don’t want Ondoy to happen again.

(And it sort of happened again, with Habagat 2011 and Habagat 2012. But that’s another story.)

There’s a record breaking super typhoon right now. If you Google its name, you’ll see so many articles talking about how “catastrophic” this is, speculations on how much devastation it will leave behind. The world watched as it formed, as it grew stronger and moved — with only the Philippines, my home, in its path.

Image from  EUMETSAT via Flickr
Image from EUMETSAT via Flickr

There isn’t much to say right now, because as of this writing, I am at home, waiting for Metro Manila to feel the wrath of Haiyan/Yolanda. Honestly, I’ve been waiting for it to happen in the last few days, especially since there was nonstop news about it, in an effort to let the people along its path prepare. But as I read and waited and prayed, I realized something: I’m not that scared of rains anymore.

I don’t know exactly what changed, but somehow I started to not really mind it when it starts raining hard. Maybe it’s because I don’t feel as scared as getting flooded here in our house after we had it renovated. Maybe it’s because I know I can automatically head for my brother’s place in case I can’t go home from work. Or maybe I’ve just learned that there’s really only so much I can do with these rains and typhoons, except prepare and pray. It’s not like I’m Storm or something so I can move these weather disturbances away (can she do that?). I can worry myself to tears, but what can it do?

I’ve written about how I’m learning to pick my battles, and Haiyan/Yolanda is another exercise in that. Last night I was fretting about a lot of things, especially because I was supposed to have an event tomorrow, plus some friends were in or are heading for Visayas over the weekend. I felt like maybe I should do something, but I couldn’t come up with anything. So after I read articles, updated myself with the location of the storm until I could no longer take it, and then I sat down and prayed. Because it was really all that I can do where I am right now.

Maybe I’ve learned to not be afraid of the rains because it’s not useful. Maybe, in the past few months, I see the rains and these winds and these typhoons as an opportunity to learn, to prepare and most especially to pray and to trust God that He is still King over the storm. Any storm.

And that it will pass. It will always, always pass.

Sometimes, it takes something like this to teach you what surrender can mean in a more personal level.

I guess that’s what it means to “weather the storm” sometimes.

There’s a super typhoon here right now, and it’s not over until late tonight, or maybe even tomorrow. But like what one of my favorite bands wrote in one of their songs: Hello hurricane, you’re not enough / Hello hurricane, you can’t silence my love / I’ve got doors and windows boarded up / All your dead end fury’s not enough / You can’t silence my love.

Hold on tight, my Philippines.