“Hindi pa nga kami nakakabawi, bagyo na naman. Prayers talaga ang kailangan,” the lady merchant spoke gently as she showed me her beautifully woven items. Though there was some fear in her eyes over what might happen, her voice remained steady and hopeful.
It was the same sentiment echoed again and again, stall after stall, at the National Trade Fair at SM Megamall. Annually, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) brings together artisans and handicraft shop owners nationwide to showcase their merchandise a few weeks before Christmas.
This year’s fair highlighted the crafts and wares of the towns badly hit by “Yolanda” over a year ago. Think Basey in Samar, Baybay and Tanauan in Leyte.
It was heartening to see how many of the merchants there had been able to rise again or had found new means of livelihood after having lost everything. Many of them were very grateful for the help provided by DTI during the past year.
“Tinulungan nila kami at binigyan ng pag-asa,” said Delsa, a shop owner from Basey, Samar, who told me that the booths of those who had been gravely affected by Yolanda were heavily subsidized by the DTI. I thought that was a wonderful example of a government agency truly serving the people.
“Ruby” weakened from being a supertyphoon to a typhoon— still strong enough to wreak havoc but not of devastating proportions like Yolanda did. Learning from last year’s devastating tragedy, we were also more prepared now.
It was interesting to watch how Ruby hovered about the Philippine area of responsibility for several days, menacing, threatening, her eagle eye on all of us, her unpredictability driving many people to fear the unknown. It was also a test, I’d like to think, of our country’s faith and preparedness.
As someone who, like countless others, has been through many storms in her life, Ruby’s presence and behavior make for a great metaphor. One day it can be all sunny and peachy, and the next day, there are gray clouds of foreboding. You can’t fight nature; as my driver says, “Wala talaga tayong laban sa kalikasan, ma’am. Maghanda at manalig na lang tayo.” This, from the man whose entire house and all its contents were washed away by Yolanda.
In life, there are situations where you are completely helpless, when there are people or organizations that won’t budge or give in. Sometimes, you have the energy and the means to slug it out, but at what cost? I’ve learned through the years that sometimes it’s just best to let go, and let God. And it has served me well each time.
In a situation such as this giant storm, it’s always good to remember that Jesus sits with us in the boat. We went through the worst a year ago, and somehow, we all managed to pull through.
Before the storm, as I thought of all the family and friends I have made and met along the way in all the provinces and towns that were hit by Yolanda, my fervent prayer echoed that of my friend, Alya—one of a Christmas miracle: for Ruby to weaken as much as it could so that by the time she hit our country, it would be with a whimper, and not a roar.
I hold on to the promise that He will be with all of us in the eye of every storm. The captain of our ship will see us through. I think of the lyrics from a song by the Christian group Hillsong: