Even as I write this, thousands are again huddled in evacuation centers in the Philippines – cold, wet, and hungry. Many have been driven out of their homes by typhoon Mario which has inundated the low-lying areas in the main island of Luzon. This has been our life in the Philippines ever since I could remember. And somehow these natural calamities, specially the storms, have become more frequent and more severe in recent years.
The Philippines will always be a paradise for me. This is where I was born and grew up. When I think of the Philippines, I see all her beautiful places, the wonderful people I have lived and been to these places with, the memorable experiences we went through together and the lovely memories that have made up my life. But this delightful paradise sits at the crossroads of calamities and disasters. The Philippines is located right smack at the center of typhoon alley. We get enough storms every year to go through the whole alphabet naming them. This is exacerbated by the fact that most of our coastal areas are below sea level, notably the capital city Manila. There are a string of live volcanoes from north to south. In fact, Mt. Mayon is now acting up again. And the cataclysmic eruption of Mt Pinatubo is still within living memory of many. Added to this natural calamities are the man-made disasters like the widespread floods and massive landslides caused by the degradation of our forest cover because of unmitigated logging.
And yet, Filipinos have remained happy, contented and ever hopeful of the future. As I imagine my countrymen huddled wet, cold and hungry in the many evacuation centers, I can also hear their songs and prayers that are always and forever on their lips. In good times and in bad times, Filipinos have these two jewels to rely and fall back on: our music and our faith.
Not a week passes by that a video of another new Filipino singing sensation is posted on YouTube. A number of them will go on to be a world-class act, like Arnel and Charice. When we Filipinos are happy we sing; when we are sad we sing; at work, when we are busy we sing; when we have nothing better to do we sing; when we feast and celebrate, we sing; when we are hungry and have nothing to eat we sing.
Life in the Philippines is punctuated with religious feasts and prayers. There are fiestas celebrated the whole year round in honor of the patron saints of the different localities. Every province has a favorite Marian devotion. Whether we are sad or happy, we pray. In hunger or in plenty, we pray. In good times and in good times, we pray. When we leave the house, we pray. Even when we just pass by a church, we pray. When we are confident and moving forward, we pray. When we are stuck and do not know what to do, we pray.
I may not sing very well but I love music with a passion. I try to pray everyday but it is always a struggle. And like most Filipinos, I cling to music and my faith to keep me going in this ever changing world in which we live in.
Lord, when your glory appears, my joy will be full.
Jesus journeyed from one town and village to another,
preaching and proclaiming the good news of the Kingdom of God.
Accompanying him were the Twelve
and some women who had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities,
Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out,
Joanna, the wife of Herod’s steward Chuza,
Susanna, and many others
who provided for them out of their resources.