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People from different walks of life including children were all waiting for more bodies to be retrieved. I heard a girl sobbing at my back. Her name was Remy. I stood beside her, and asked why she was crying. She told me what happened and broke into more tears. Her mother was found dead but her father and two other siblings were still missing. I regret I asked because I felt helpless in the end. I didn’t say anything anymore. I squeezed her shoulder and turned around to wipe my face. I could not picture anything as devastating than hearing Remy’s cries.
Everything in words and images have been said and seen about the immensity of the grief of the people who survived last weekend’s calamity. But there are no enough words and images to describe their loss and despair. Sad to say, more than a thousand died and thousands more remain missing. The counting continues. It’s totally heart-breaking.
Personally, it was challenging to capture stories and images of devastation while your heart was breaking. It was challenging to talk with the wailing and the weeping while you wailed and wept too. At the short span of time, I think I’ve seen too much—quite disturbing--dead people, dead animals, debris, mud, water, wreckage, decay, hunger, thirst and worst of all, immeasurable loss. However, after death and destruction stared in my face, my soul cringed from empathy and my heart was awakened enough to immediately help. My channels are my stories and images. I realized how powerful they can become.
Despite the disaster, I see Bayanihan (a spirit of communal unity) among us. The government, non-government, and private individuals and groups are jostling to respond to their immediate needs. I’m thankful World Vision has been quick to respond. Food, water, and non-food were being distributed to the families. A lot of kind-hearted individuals also signed up to donate and volunteer with World Vision. Child Friendly Spaces have been conducted in some areas already. Somehow, I’m grateful to see some smiles of the families and kids. But I know those were just temporary smiles because behind those smiles were the pain of loss and the anxiety on how to move forward. Nevertheless, I see hope. Nevertheless, I see God working gracefully in the midst of suffering.
Like the affected families, I also experienced an immeasurable pain this Christmas season. But the positive side of this is the quick reaction and support of the local and international communities to find concrete ways to send assistance to the affected families and children. The government cannot do it all. Nor any non-government organizations like World Vision cannot do it all. It is individuals, with or without connections who can make the difference. There is no need to say how. It’s time to be creative.
Last Christmas, I know many families who have drastically simplified their Noche Buena in order to share with those families who were affected by Washi. At home, we offered prayers before enjoying our Noche Buena. I knew many who have also sacrificed Christmas parties. Few fireworks were bursting up in the sky. Indeed, it was not an ordinary Christmas compared to other years. But I guess, it’s more meaningful that way because we experienced the true meaning of the season—a time to share and to show love to those who are in crisis. And as New Year comes fast, I pray God will wash away the tearing grief and the despair.
There’s more work to be done. We should carry on as we continue to bring the message of hope.
To read the stories of hope Crislyn found, click here.
As we continue to pray for the survivors and also those providing aid, rescuing & volunteering to serve thousands of families greatly affected by Tropical Storm Sendong.
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