In the Eye of the Storm

Few days ago my hometown experienced the strongest typhoon yet to hit the Philippines. At that time, I had the strangest feeling and actually, the final remains of what I felt still linger inside me. This is how it felt like – being away from the place of my birth when the only thing I wanted was to be there.

On Tuesday, I have heard from my grandfather that there was a super typhoon expected to cross the northern part of the Philippines. He said it in a way that he was reciting an old folk tale. He said those words without a hint of worry because we are used with typhoons. In fact, to live in the North means to grow up with the so called, “extremes”. Nevertheless, the years that have passed never prepared the country for Lawin (i.e. internationally known as Haima). In our native language, Filipino, lawin translates to hawk. The name itself was indicative of how tenacious the typhoon was. Hawks are birds of prey and when Lawin hit, it was the most savage of all predators.

Lawin landed at Cagayan (my hometown) last Wednesday evening. I was trying to contact my family, trying to get an update of everything. It was 23:00 when we last talked and it was mostly: Are you all safe, do you have enough food, stock up gasoline for the generator in case Lola (grandma) needs the nebulizer. I could not hang up the phone. Then, the voice in the other line, which was my aunt’s, produced a sound similar to that of a dying firecracker. A hissed came on next and then, the line totally went dead. It was extremely quiet. Then I thought, it was too much of a silence.

As the silence continued, my mind was racing. I have been living in Japan for more than one year and I know to my core that I find home in this country. I have found myself here and I know that I have yet to find more. However, the emptiness from the phone made me want to board the next plane bound for Manila (not to mention all flights were cancelled). It is a pain to be away from people closest to your heart but it is agony when you fear for their safety and you cannot do anything. Japan is home as much as Philippines is and right at that moment, the latter seemed to be calling out my name. It was excruciating.

I attempted to call again but, it was futile. When I went online, I found out that the phone towers were knocked down by brutal winds. I also saw recent video clips from live news reports. I started to feel fear – true fear. You see, I was baptized and raised to be a Catholic. Although, I have no idea if I should be considered one because I know, for real, that I have been lapsed for too long. Nevertheless, I still remember what I was taught and I apply what I learned whenever it falls under my definition of right. The fear I felt led me back to one particular thing I learned when I was young.

I learned that if one’s faith in God is firm then, there is no room for worry, doubt and fear. So I asked myself – Was the fear I had for my family worth it or, was it irrational? You see, I am a realist and at the same time, I also believe in God. I walk everyday on the phase of the earth by finding the balance between these two ideologies. I believe that the best chance we have to live this life, however short it is, to the fullest is to create our own philosophy. Hence, I was rattled when I felt real fear that night. Could it be possible that my fear was triggered by lack of faith?

I am answering the previous question now – yes. In the pursuit of seeking answers to the questions I encounter every day, I have lost the equilibrium between realism and faith. The fear I had for my family’s safety was a product of my wavering trust in God. So now, you may have guessed what I did next. I closed my eyes and prayed – God, I apologise if I took too long. Please protect my family and all other people who experienced the surge of Lawin. Strengthen their hearts as they implore Your help. May they find solace in Your name, always and forever. Finally, guide us as we find our way towards Your Home. Amen.

The next thing I knew was the sun has risen, reminding me to never stop hoping. I called my family again and still, I was unable to contact them. Later that Thursday, I talked to my father (who lives outside our hometown) and he reassured me that the rest of our entire family is safe. Although Lawin preyed over the North, it was a relief to see the people rise from fallen and sunken homes or, just to see people at evacuation centers share food with smiles on their faces. Although it will take time to get back up again, I already said my goodbye to worries, doubts and fears. Filipinos are, after all, strong and, the words “to give up” are nonexistent in our dictionary.

I have felt tremendous fear these past few days but, I have also assessed the status of my faith. If you asked me where I currently stand then, I will tell you – I am getting there. This is how Lawin affected me. Although I was one country  away from the actual location, I have felt the storm inside me. In the eye of the storm, I was reminded of how important family is. In the eye of the storm, I have to take a few steps back, keep still and breathe. In the eye of the storm, I know Who I needed most.

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