Tacloban Diaries – Day 2

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Tacloban Skies

Teka lang, hindi ko nakalimutan magpost kagabi noh!!!! I was planning to write pero our team got into really interesting conversations last night, so pinagpaliban ko muna ito. Ngayon, tayo naman ang magkwentuhan.

For Day 1 I wrote a timeline of our activities, but I’m not gonna do that for Day 2. Let’s talk about something else.

As I have previously mentioned, meron kaming small groups. For Day 2 medyo lumalim na ang chika namin. You see, I have been avoiding asking them about Yolanda or anything related kasi I was afraid to trigger a horrible memory, and I did not want to bring up an old wound for them. They seemed to be healing.

While we were sharing, the topic of siblings came up and they asked about my brother, Jerry. I told them we are twins. The girls erupted in delight. They haven’t met someone with a twin before, they said. They asked me to pull up some childhood pictures, so I showed them some, the ones that were not burned when our house burned down 5 years ago.

They passed our pictures around. They were giggling and happy and sighing. One of them said that she liked baby pictures so much because she used to have some until Yolanda washed it all away.

Oh no. Yolanda. Here it is. Lord, help me.

I asked them what I’ve been wanting to ask ever since. And the stories came rushing out.

By the way, the ocean is a few skips away from the church. This is where the first storm surge hit.

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The girls took turns in telling their story. They held on to beams. To lampposts. They watched a parent or a sibling lose their grip and get eaten by the flood. One lost grip of a younger sibling and lost him forever, to the flood.

This place was a wreck after the storm, but there were no dead bodies here. They walked to the city several miles away, looking for family members, not knowing if they would be walking with them home or carrying them in a body bag.

As I was listening to these 15 year old girls, who were 11 or 12 back then, I thought about what I was doing during the storm. I thought about the destruction I did not experience. I thought about losing a parent or a sibling or never seeing your friends again. Or maybe, seeing them again, but lifeless, hanging on gates, hanging on trees.

I forgot to mention one thing about our chika sessions.

These girls were happy.

There were tears, but there were jokes too. Ang sarap sapakin ni Yolanda, ate. *giggles*. Kung alam ko lang na babagyo na yun, sana magandang tshirt yung sinuot ko, para di nawala. *laughter*

I asked them if they missed their families. They said yes. I realized that it was a stupid question. Then one of them quipped, “Mabait ang Diyos, ate”.

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These Girls ❀

I walked around the neighborhood. There are vacant lots with skeletons of cars. There are windows in kitchen countertops. But flowers are growing where lives were lost. The ocean glistens and the waves are music.

There are stumps of trees. Some were uprooted during the storm. But new sprouts have been growing everywhere and when we bumped into a papaya tree during a game, destroying it, we all burst into laughter. Tutubo rin yan.

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I think about Jesus, who was beaten to a pulp, hanged on a tree for sins He did not commit. I think about the silence of the Saturday and the grave that held Him, but cannot keep Him for long.

I see my Savior everywhere here. In new roofs, new clothes, new babies born. New life is not just a turning away from sins, and forgiven, I realized. New life is also being a son, after being orphaned. New life is finding family in a community who also lost theirs, like pieces of different puzzles coming together and looking beautiful. New life is Jesus, rising from the grave, bringing hope that death is not the last stop.

I was praying when I came here. I prayed for strength. I prayed for wisdom. I prayed that God will help me make sense of destruction. I am not fit to talk to these girls about God’s good plans, because I did not know how to connect their tragedy with that.

But here, I learned it from them. The locals are laughing. Children are playing in the black sand. Youth are helping new parents, those who adopted them, do household chores. Families have interlapped and they are living in harmony.

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There is a signboard hanging over the entrance of the church. They are holding on to this. They are holding onto God so hard, you can almost touch the connection. Our worship times here are electric. Hands raised in the air. You can hear the voice of a people once broken, now made beautiful.

I look back at my dark semesters, when I was away from God and struggling and wondering why God seems silent. But little did I know, just a few islands away, lives are being mended and wounds are being healed and people are meeting God for the first time. God does not run out of miracles. I am here, I am singing and laughing with newfound brothers, and finally realizing that God is big, His love is big, and He does not run out of miracles.

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