After The Storm Passes

It’s the fourth day of downpour here in Metro Manila. The tropical cyclone  (Maring) has moved away from the country but it’s still drawing the monsoon rains in, causing more harm than it should.

On the news, we watch images of people trudging through the flooded streets, and wallowing in muddied homes after the waters had subsided in some  areas. We see families in evacuation centers, stranded pedestrians huddling on higher ground, riverside houses of informal settlers being carried away by the current, children and women carted away on dump trucks and makeshift boats. Even the more exclusive villages of the rich haven’t been spared. And it is still raining. Everyone is just hoping the dikes hold up, and the rains ease up soon, or the dams will keep overflowing.

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And there’s the collision between passenger vessel M/V St. Thomas Aquinas of 2GO Group Inc. and cargo ship Sulpicio Express Siete in Cebu, that left many people dead and still more missing.  As of right now, according to abs-cbnnews.com, the death toll is at 71 and 49 are still missing. We see divers braving the waters to retrieve bloated bodies that are no longer identifiable. It is heartbreaking how many of those that drowned are children, some of them only infants.  

And take note, this is the fifth incident on record that Sulpicio Lines has been involved in a sea tragedy. Adding insult to injury, oil, which is toxic to marine life,  has spilled out of the sunken vessel and is slowly making its way into residential areas on the coastline. Fishing villages, mangroves, and once-pristine beaches along the shorelines will definitely be affected, and for a long time.

Then, we remember the still unresolved issue in the government about the “pork barrel” and the oh-so-impudent avarice of the rich “businesswoman” turned fugitive, Mrs. Napoles. “Walang nanggaling sa gobyerno, ni piso”, sabi niya. (“Nothing came from the government, not one peso,” she says) But why then, are you on the run?

She’s a persona non grata in mine, and no doubt, many other sensible-minded Filipino’s books. Her sudden decision to take flight and hide is just so typical of a guilty person’s behavior. Does she really think Filipinos are that dumb? We may be easily manipulated, even gullible at times; but that’s because most of us like to believe the best of people. But we do know when we are being lied to.

Yes, she may be a small fish in a lake of bigger, and dirtier fishes. But it isn’t a reason to just let her go. She has to take account for her part in this ridiculous debacle.

There are so many reasons to feel miserable this morning. And this dreary, soggy atmosphere doesn’t help at all. What I would give for clear blue skies! For sunshine, to come and make those rain clouds disappear!

But here I am, staring at an angry cumulu-nimbus, smelling the scent of rain and mud in the air. I’m studying the puddles on the ground, as they ripple into pictures of imagined monsters. I look up, and the dark patches on our leaky ceiling seem to hide little shadows that could start materializing anytime soon.  Meantime, the scenes I see on the news channel are like one big horror movie on its own.

Speaking of which, I watched James Wan’s ‘The Conjuring’, yesterday (while “Maring” and the Habagat wreaked their havoc outside). I found it to be one of the better horror films I’ve seen so far recently. And the dark theme seems to be in keeping with the last few days of gloom in the Island Country.

But, yep, this film was crafted with surprising good taste. I liked it. There was no desperation to terrorize its audience, or to execute too much dramatic gore. It was just the right temperature.

Tihe movie’s scare factor was its basis on an actual documented case of haunting (The Perron Family). Being told from the perspective of the paranormal investigators and demonologists (based on real-life couple Ed and Lorraine Warren), was a pretty effective technique, too.  It lends the story an aura of credibility. The plot is solid, and everything seems to be connected in the movie (including the Annabel doll).

The film employed a more subtle approach in building terror, that when you do see the scenes of the actual ghostly activity (like when one of the daughters was flown violently across the room by an unseen being pulling her by the hair) and possession (the mother, Carolyn, was driven to murder her child, like the past owner herself did) the psychological horror had already sunk into the audience’s mind, convincing them all that was real, and they were part of it. 

At first, I didn’t want to watch it because of some bad reviews from friends. Most of them said it was either too terrifying. I didn’t want nightmares. But then I thought about how I had vowed before not to ever let anything scare me away. And so I gritted my teeth and sat my ass down in front of the screen to watch it. Alone.

I survived. And then, I realized something, in the process.

When we start facing our fears, we start taking away their power over us. And honestly, I think, this is the only way we can ever get over them. Burying them in the deepest recesses of our subconscious only serve to make them stronger.

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Our fears are our weaknesses. They are like the dark side’s leverage over us and our moral decisions. Fear can cripple us and take away our willpower. Fear can suck the life out of us and leave us empty. But when we face our fear, we take back part of ourselves we may have lost in the past. It gets us one step closer to who we were supposed to be in the first place.

Don’t get me wrong. I think fear has always served its purpose. We humans, and other creatures were wired in such a way that we will find a way to live, thrive, and multiply. Despite the odds. And part of our own evolutionary survival mechanism, was to fear what could harm or kill us. We feel fear, so that we can avoid something potentially fatal.

However, most of us become so overtaken by our fears, it blocks everything else to the point of irrationality. Instead of being a means of surviving, it now becomes an impediment to life.

I don’t claim to be fearless. I was always such a fearful kid who got easily spooked.

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I’m still afraid of flying insects, especially wasps and bees. I have this overwhelming conviction, once I hear that familiar buzzing sound, that something was definitely going to sting me. I’d always scramble away gracelessly, screaming like a banshee, to cower in a corner.

I’m also afraid of strangers who stalk and leer from across the street or on the MRT. It’s worse, when they smile and try to get close enough to make small senseless talk. Or egads, cop a feel! The worst is when you can’t move away because the train is too damn crowded. Creeps!

(But you can always accidentally elbow them on the ribs. Or hit them with a solid knee to the groin. You can also stab their feet with your stilettos.)

Then, there are dark places. Especially, enclosed, cobwebby spaces that smell weird. Accordingly, I’m also scared of old houses that look like Amityville. Particularly those with old, black and white photographs that stare at you wherever you go. And where the antiques look like they move of their own free will. And I am also absolutely scared of old graveyards at night.

But all these things I’ve mentioned are survivable. They are petty in comparison to the fears that leave me sleepless and unable to eat (which is something of a rarity for a food-lover like me).

I fear failing my children, or disappointing my husband. I fear losing the people I love. I wouldn’t want to see them go. I would rather be the one to say goodbye. I fear losing my sanity. I fear going back to that dreadful abyss of helplessness and worthlessness I was able to come out of.

But most of all I fear losing my faith; Faith in myself, in others, that there is goodness inside of everyone, and out there in the world. But more than anything, I fear losing faith in the One who made me, who breathed life into me, armed me with His strength, and has been loving me unconditionally, and unceasingly .

faith

I can lose everything and still have a chance at living. But without my faith, where would that leave me?

But that’s the thing about good old faith. Once its seed is planted, it’s a stubborn organism that just won’t give up and quit on you. It would nag you when it seems easier to just surrender. And no matter what befalls you, or what other people throw at you; Faith is going to be your one constant, indomitable thing.

In the movie, The Conjuring, faith is what helped them all overcome the dark evil that wanted to consume their family. Only by faith, were they able to stand firm against their terrors, and eventually free the mother from the demonic spirit’s possession.

In as much as fear is a tool for our survival, I think that faith is still humanity’s most effective weapon against extinction. Because where fear paralyzes us, faith presents a most effective antidote. 

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Faith dissolves our fears into nothing. It gives us wings to fly and moves us to do incredible things. It constantly reminds us that we are an essential part of something bigger, more magnificent and eternal than we can ever understand. And that whatever it is we are afraid of, God is bigger than all of that.

I think, that faith is what buoys up most Filipinos in times of crisis. Like this three-day downpour that had eighty percent of Metro Manila submerged in muddy waters. Or the tragic maritime accident that has claimed so many lives and caused so much heartache; Or even in this ongoing saga of pork barrel scams and misappropriated funds. Filipinos have faith that there will be better days, there will be remuneration, and there will be justice.

floods-morefunphilippines  Filipino humor does get us through the hardest times. But I say, it is our God-given disposition to have faith in all that is good and just, that gives us the ability to see the lighter side of things. No matter how ridiculous it seems. We are so blessed to be such a positive, and stubbornly hopeful people.

We know will have our time to celebrate, mga kababayan. After all, it’s always more fun in the Philippines, right? ;-)

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