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.
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 can see when people are lying to our faces. And when someone is hiding the truth to spare their own hides. And yeah, Janet, we have access to facebook and instagram, so we can see the collection of bags, shoes, houses, and cars that your family flaunts so cockily.
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, sunshine, and a gentle summer breeze, to come and make those rain clouds disappear?
But here I am, staring at an angry sky, smelling the scent of rain and mud. I’m studying the puddles on the ground outside, as they ripple into pictures of imagined monsters. I look up, and the dark patches on our leaky ceiling seem to hide little dark shadows that could start materializing anytime soon. Meantime, the scenes I see on the news channel are like one big horror movie.
Speaking of which, I watched James Wan’s movie, ‘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. The dark theme seems to be in keeping with the last few days of gloom. But, in fact, this film was crafted with surprising good taste. There was no desperation to terrorize its audience, or to execute too much dramatic gore. It was just the right temperature.
What makes the 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. And because the movie was that good, it makes me want to read the book written by one of the actual Perron children who experienced the haunting that this film was based on. (House of Darkness House of Light)
At first, after I’d read the reviews and some comments about it from my friends, I didn’t want to watch it anymore. Most of them said it was too terrifying. I didn’t want to suffer through a week-long episode of nightmares. Plus, I would have to watch it on my own as my husband didn’t want to (he would rather watch a kung fu movie, and my kids are too young to watch horror movies). But then it came to me 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.
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 you were supposed to be in the first place.
Don’t get me wrong. I think fear has always served its purpose. We humans, and probably all living creatures, were wired in such a way that we will live, thrive, and multiply. And part of our own species’ evolutionary survival mechanism, was to fear what would and could, harm or kill us. We feel fear, so that we can avoid something that can be potentially fatal.
However, most of us become so overtaken by our fears, it becomes an irrational force driving our actions and behavior. Sometimes, the fear blocks everything else, that instead of being a means of surviving, it becomes an impediment to life.
I don’t claim to be fearless. I was always such a fearful kid. I got scared very easily. But as I grew up, I wanted to live as fearlessly as possible. And I did manage to overcome many of the things that I was afraid of. Although, I still have some of them tied to me like manacles, even now (shame on me).
I’m still afraid of flying insects, especially wasps and bees. I have this irrational belief once I hear that familiar whirring, buzzing sound, something is definitely going to sting me. I’d always gracelessly scramble away, screaming like a banshee, or to cower in a corner.
I’m still afraid of strangers who stalk and leer from across the street or when on the MRT.
It’s worse, when they smile and intentionally brush against you. Or cop a feel(Creeps!). And you realize you can’t move away because the train is too damn crowded. It is just plain violating (Infuriating is more like it).
But you can always accidentally elbow them on the ribs. Or hit their groin hard with your bag full of hardbound books. Or maybe stab their feet with your deadly stiletto heel.
I’m still afraid of dark places. Especially dark, enclosed, cobwebbed spaces that smell weird I. am scared of being trapped in their darkness until I become part of it. I’m also scared of old houses that look like the set from Amityville, where old, black and white photographs stare at you wherever you go. And where the antiques look like they move of their own will. 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). What I really, truly fear are the more critical things that have real significance in my life.
I fear failing my children as a mother, or disappointing my husband as a wife. 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. I fear depression and losing hope. I fear giving up after everything I’d survived, and consequently taking my life because I feel like I have nothing more to live for.
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 in His own image; who breathed life into me, armed me with His strength, and loves me unconditionally and for all time.
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 go away. It grows on you; you just have to let it. No matter what happens to you, no matter what tragedies befall you, or what evils 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 own terrors, and only by faith did they free the mother from the demonic spirit’s possession. Truth is, there are no happy endings for those who don’t and won’t believe in it.
In as much as fear is a tool for our species’ survival, I think that faith is still humanity’s most effective weapon against extinction. Because when fear paralyzes us , Faith is its most effective antidote. It gives us the strength to pick ourselves up after every fall, and keep walking.
Faith dissolves all fears into nothing. It gives us wings to fly and leave all those irrational fears behind. Faith 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 that. Truth is, He is so much bigger than everything else in this universe that He himself created. And then you realize, He has you in the palm of His hands, all along.
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 many of those victims’ loved ones so much heartache; Or even in this ongoing saga of pork barrel scams and misappropriated funds. Filipinos have faith that the corrupt “big fish” in this country will eventually be served justice on a plate; including small fry like Janet Napoles.
It is said that Filipino humor is what gets us through all the hard 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 funny side of things. No matter how ridiculous. We are so blessed to be such a positive people. Despite everything our country has been through, and is still dealing with, we still have faith. That after all this rain, we know that there will be sunny skies ahead.
So let’s keep calm, and just do what we can to help others who are suffering from calamities. Keep the bayanihan spirit alive. Let’s keep on smiling, keep hoping for a better future, and just have faith. We will have our time to celebrate, mga kababayan.
After all, it’s always more fun in the Philippines, right?