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Forgiveness and trust

/ 10:30 AM November 17, 2013

The last few days have been a period of emotional stress and not a small amount of guilt. You feel it like an ill-wind blowing through the net, through Facebook and the words we exchange between each other.

He was wondering whether to write this at all given the fact that words do not directly feed the stomach or quench the thirst when you have gone days without food and drink. But in the end, he decided it was best just simply to do what was immediately in front of him and do it as best he could. And if his time might have been better spent repacking relief goods somewhere then he would have to apologize and beg for forgiveness.

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He expects to be forgiven even by himself. This is a time of forgiveness and understanding, for Yolanda had blown us to where we had never been before. And there will be many things we will have done wrong or too late to keep Yolanda’s last victims from dying. And it is from them that we must ask forgiveness, most of all. For we always could have been better and we were not. And after everything we can only promise to do more next time. And there will be a next time.

Now is not a time for recriminations. We trust everyone will be doing a lot of that in the course of all this. Even CNN was asking if it might have been more expedient calling the storm surge a tsunami (which it is not) if that might have moved people to “head for the hills” when the winds started coming. There was obviously a clash of cultures here, a clash of words and their correct meanings. And equally obvious, we could not put it into our heads what a wall of water five meters high would do to houses and people.

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It must have been unimaginable. Or why would the mayor of Tacloban put himself and his family in their beach-front house to wait out the storm. And if he could do that to himself, what could drive him to move his people from their own beach-front homes? Even after CNN told everyone days in advance that the tide would be high when the storm comes, a storm surge was most likely for a category 5 hurricane, and it would render uninhabitable for two weeks any area in its path. We read the text. We could not imagine its meaning.

We will from here on. It is how nature teaches. We must all be forgiven, even so. And we must not be hard on government, not the Tacloban mayor and even less so Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas for not being able to do more with his 10 working trucks four days after the typhoon. We trust he did all that he could do. They had not been there before either. Like all of us, most of all Cebuanos. We should not blame, least of all.

Imagine all the precautions we took. Now imagine typhoon Yolanda veering a few degrees downwards from its path so that its eye would pass directly over our beloved city. No one can say the same storm surge would have hit us. But who can absolutely say it would not?

So imagine, if you will, a 5-meter-high wall of water running up the coastline, up over Naga city where we had housed refugees in the municipal gym just a few meters from the sea, up the SRP to the houses at Inayawan, up the shores of the Pasil area, up Carbon-Ermita, up San Nicolas bulldozing its way through the Guadalupe river passing through Sambag, Calamba, perhaps all the way to Guadalupe itself, up the port area to Lahug, up Camputhaw, up the Mandaue coast, up Liloan perhaps as far away as Danao city.

Now imagine what that would have done and where we would be. It would have been Tacloban packing relief goods and us burying our dead. We would not want anyone asking: What were we thinking?

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TAGS: column, opinion, Supertyphoon Yolanda
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