Category Archives: Tragedy

Eastern Visayas Moves Forward

Two weeks after the super typhoon, things are looking up in Eastern Visayas. Residents, with the help of the government and volunteers, have begun clearing the affected areas. In  Samar, a Merry Christmas sign is seen among the signs that ask for help. A perfect reminder of the message of Christmas. One home has already set up Christmas lights using a generator. Though there is still sadness over what happened, at least people now have a more positive outlook.

Metro Manila continues to gear up as hundreds of survivors arrive everyday. Private sectors and civilians volunteer to take the survivors to their relatives & friends around the metro, and even to the nearby provinces in Luzon.  Some homes have temporarily adopted families that do not have relatives in Luzon. Sixteen Metro Manila cities have agreed to adopt Eastern Visayan towns that were battered by the typhoon. The Filipino bayanihan spirit (spirit of communal unity) is alive everywhere. Things are indeed looking up. Eastern Visayas is still far from total rehabilitation, but no matter how long it will take, the Filipinos will endure and rise up. We still need help.

To all countries that have extended their help to the Philippines. We will never, ever forget this. Your kindness will be told even to the next generations to come. MARAMING, MARAMING SALAMAT!

But the biggest gratitude is to the Lord. His hand continues to move and uplift us. He alone is the strength of the Filipino people. YOURS IS THE GLORY, OH GOD!

God is our refuge and strength,
    a very presenthelp in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,
    though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,
 though its waters roar and foam,
    though the mountains tremble at its swelling.

Psalm 46:1-3

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The following are encouraging pictures amidst the disaster.

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Maj. John Orio went to Samar to help in relief operations, and was surprised to get a taste of Filipino hospitality despite the devastation they face. He received coconuts & a giant crab from the people as a sign of their gratitude.

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Typhoon survivors cope by playing basketball amid the rubble.

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Ref Raft: Filipino ingenuity at its finest.
Fishermen have started using refrigerators in place of the boats that were destroyed just so they could start all over again.

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Children from Tacloban have found their smiles again.

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Little Heart of Gold. A boy is seen carrying this little girl during the distribution of food in Tacloban. The boy said they are not related, but he had to remove the little girl from the crowd fearing that she might get lost or even hurt in the surge of people. He promised to just get food for her.

tindog

Taclobanon signage:
Tindog Leyte. Tindog Tacloban. (Rise up, Leyte. Rise up, Tacloban)

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Laban Pacquiao! (Fight, Pacquiao!)
Despite the devastation, Taclobanons are still in full support of Manny Pacquio in his fight this Sunday. Congressman Pacquiao, on the other hand, dedicates the bout to Visayans and vows to visit Tacloban and stay with the people there after the fight,

A big MARAMING SALAMAT from the Filipino people.

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Slowly Rising from the Rubble

It has been a week after the typhoon hit the center of the Philippines. Thousands have died, thousands more are injured, and many are still missing. Over the week, reports of chaos, hunger and slow response & relief operations of the government dominated the news everywhere. But after a week, things have started change.

Relief goods are starting to reach the affected areas. Clean up operations are now in motion. C130s and Philippine Marine ships that deliver the goods return to Manila or Cebu with survivors who have chosen to leave the devastation behind. Bodies are now in cadaver bags and longer covered with blankets or what used be to house roofs, and are being buried in mass graves. The presence of the military is now evident. One female soldier even went as far as breastfeeding some of the infants in an evacuation center. Volunteers from different countries have set up soup kitchens & makeshift hospitals. Amidst the tears, a lot of the survivors have regained their golden smiles Filipinos are known for. Precious laughters are now present as one news reporter interviewed some women who joked about their slippers that do not match & how they scrub their teeth with their shirts.

It’s still a long way to go before central Philippines fully recover. It’s still a long road to rehabilitation. But the journey to this recovery has already started. Everyone is looking forward to a brighter tomorrow. There is hope. And as if to make this hope more visible, a rainbow was seen a week after the typhoon; a rainbow painted across the Tacloban sky.

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A rainbow appears over Tacloban a week after the typhoon.

There’s so much to learn from this tragedy. I’ve come to appreciate more the resilience of the Filipinos, and the strength of the Filipino spirit. Acts of heroism are all over, and how the whole country responded to the cry of help is overwhelming. There are students skipping meals and donating their lunch money. Companies cancelling their Christmas parties and giving their budget instead. Little kids bring their piggy banks filled with money they saved for Christmas. The list goes on and one.

More overwhelming is the support from different countries around the world. Moved by compassion, they did not only send financial help, but they also sent volunteers and equipment. These people, Filipinos and foreigners alike have brought back my faith in humanity.

The development in Visayas only proves that God is not blind to the suffering of people. He sees. He listens. And he responds. He is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. (Ps. 46:1) He is why we have hope.

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A tattered Philippine flag flies as a reminder that Central Philippines will rise from the rubble.

An Appeal to my Fellow Filipinos: Please Stop Bashing the Government

The situation in Visayas is still devastating. Communication has been restored, but relief operations have been extremely slow. On Facebook, Twitter, and other forms of social media, all I can see are posts & comments blaming the government for their slow action. There’s a lot of comments of complaints & blames in the cyberworld,  and sadly, Christians are also part of the bashing.

Now I have to admit that I am one of those people who have lost their confidence in the government. The immense corruption is as unspeakable as the devastation caused by Haiyan. However, is this really the time for bashing? Does it solve anything at all?

No, it doesn’t! Our countrymen are still dying of thirst & hunger. Some have died because of infection cause by wounds left untreated. They are still exposed to diseases because most of the bodies are still left unburied. Locals have already dug mass graves for their dead, no matter how painful that is.

I am not saying that the government is faultless. But they are not heartless. They may be slow. They may lack strategy. There may be lapses in judgment. But they are not heartless. Government officials and government agencies are working 24/7 trying to alleviate the situation. Some of their families are also victims of Haiyan. Of course we want prompt action. We want things quick because we are talking about the lives of our fellow Filipinos. But we have to consider that communication was down for a few days. Electricity until now has not been 100% restored. Roads were blocked and until now, some roads are not passable. I’m sure the Philippine government is doing its best to clear the roads, and restore whatever needs to be restored.

International media has put the Philippine government in bad light. I don’t blame them. They report objectively, and they report what they see. But surely, there are things that they do not.

I appeal to my fellow Filipinos, most especially to my fellow Christians, to stop the complaints. Let us stop blaming & bashing our government. Let us just work together & help our government in their relief efforts. There’s just so much pain and suffering out there. Let us not add hatred.

Let us pray not only for the victims of Haiyan, but also for our government. Pray for guidance and wisdom that relief efforts will be done more effectively and more promptly. To my fellow Christians, this is the time when we can show everyone that there is Hope amidst the destruction. Instead of taking part in the government-bashing, let us spend our time helping the victims, praying for them, and making Christ known to them.

President Aquino with Department of Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas surveying damages in Tacloban Airport.

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My deepest gratitude to the countries who have donated and sent help to the Philippines. You have helped my countrymen immensely. God bless you all!

Prayer for the Philippines

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fG4uLwuCW1E

Sovereign God,

Unspeakable disaster has come upon our country, and such disaster has never been experienced here before. I come before You in humility, but in confidence that You will listen. It is hard to understand why this has happened, especially since Bohol and Cebu are just starting to pick up the pieces and rebuilt their lives after the October 15 earthquake. No one knows Your purpose and why You allowed this to happen, but I believe this happened for a reason.

And while I trust in Your wisdom, that something good will come out of this devastating situation, Lord, I pray that You cause help to arrive in Eastern Visayas soon. May they be given ample supply of food, water and medicine as soon as possible. The survivors may not have died of drowning, but they are dying of hunger.

Lord, please comfort them. They have lost their loved ones, their homes, their dignity. I know You hear their cries. May those who are still missing be found and be reunited with their families. But if they are already gone, may You bring closure to their families. Help them recover for the emotional trauma they are suffering from right now.

I pray for peace and order. People are in survival mode and are ransacking establishments just to find food. I pray for the safety of the people there, and of the volunteers who are there to help.

May the victims of Haiyan see you amidst their sorrow. May they find You in the darkest hour of their lives. May they know that You are their only hope. May they realize that You are more powerful than the strongest storms. And may everyone see Your glory in this situation and worship You!

In Jesus’ name,
Amen!

Farewell, Steve Jobs

It is a sad day for the world today for we just lost a man who has contributed so much to humanity: Steven Paul Jobs.  Mac user or not, everyone has benefitted from his genius.

His death is a reminder that no one is immortal. Rich, famous, a genius, or all of the above like Steve Jobs, everyone is subject to the brevity of life.

Farewell, Mr. Steve Jobs. You are a proof of God’s common grace.

Living the Life

I received a call from my sister early this afternoon informing me that one of our pastor friends, one of the first elders of our church, have gone to be with the Lord. The last time I saw this pastor was January of last year during Michael Horton’s conference in Manila. He was probably surprised that I was attending a conference on Reformed Theology.  We talked a little and he asked when I became reformed. Before we went our own way he encouraged me to press on but also cautioned me to be careful. On the first Sunday of this month I learned that he was taken to the hospital on New Year’s day, and was diagnosed with acute leukemia. This morning, after 2 weeks, he’s gone.

I have blogged about the other two who passed away during the holiday season, and now, our pastor friend. Three unexpected deaths in four weeks. That’s a record. Two of them had been part of our lives. I cannot deny the fact that I am affected by all these. Losing friends or even people whom you knew isn’t something you just brush aside. I am writing this blog not devoid of intense emotions. I feel sad that they have gone, but in a way, I envy them for they have gone ahead of us. They need not see through the eyes of faith for they are already in the presence of the Lord. These events reminded me of the brevity of life, and have made me think about how our lives should be lived.

I have known the Lord for most of my life. I have been active in various ministries ever since I can remember. But I know that for years I never really lived the Christian life despite my claims of being a Christian. I look back and see how I spent my life enjoying what the world had to offer. I remember spending time in my own version of a Vanity Fair kind of world. I was a Christian, but I lived only for myself. It was only by the grace that God rescued me from my pretensions, my pathetic double life.

I see this kind of lifestyle in a lot of young people today, and that gives me insurmountable amount of grief. There is so much of the world in some young Christians today that if not for their being members of a church and occasional references to God, you might not even recognize them when they are outside the church. It is a terrible thing that a lot of Christians willingly commit adultery with the world. Willingly because they are aware of it, are consistently warned against it, but will not forsake it.

I agree with J.C. Ryle when he wrote about this kind of Christianity is worth nothing.

There is a common, worldly kind of Christianity in this day, which many have, and think they have enough – a cheap Christianity which offends nobody, and requires no sacrifice – which costs nothing, and is worth nothing. 1

In his sermon Getting Used to the Dark, Vance Havner mentioned that young people who attend conferences almost always ask the same questions:

How much like the world can I be and still be a Christian? How much of this world can I enjoy and still go to heaven. How near to the precipice can I walk without going over, instead of asking how much like the Lord can I be and how little like the world?… The point really is how much like the world can I incorporate into my program and still get to heaven? 2

Sad, isn’t it? These questions are familiar because I used to ask them, too.

But the call of the Christ is that of self-denial in order to follow him. Daily we die to ourselves, having no room for the world. The apostle Paul knew this all too well. He knew that “those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires” (Gal. 5:24). He no longer had an identity of his own for his identity was now already found in Christ (Gal. 2:20).

We are also short-sighted and shallow. We are easily satisfied with things that do not last. We are interested with the right-here’s and the right-now’s rather than the things that are eternal. It was different for Paul who “pressed on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:14), and reminded us to set our minds “on things that are above, not on things that are on earth” (Col. 3:2).

We have no sense of urgency, too. We live our lives as if God would wait for us to turn our attention toward Him. It is as if we say, “I will enjoy this for now. I can live for God later.” Or our version of “living for God” is when we’re in church doing  church stuff, or with Christian friends. What if Jesus comes?  What if the time He has given us is up, and we’re still pursuing the temporary pleasures of this world?

The early church awaited with eagerness the return of Jesus Christ. They had a sense of urgency that fueled their ministry. The apostles preached the gospel as if Christ was coming again any time then. They lived their lives as if each day was the last.

“This is what I mean, brothers: the appointed time has grown very short. From now on, let those who have wives live as though they had none, and those who mourn as though they were not mourning, and those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing, and those who buy as though they had no goods, and those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it. For the present form of this world is passing away.” 1 Cor 7:29-31

Are we living our lives in the light of eternity and with a sense of urgency? Are we living for the One who gave us life, or are we living for the world that killed Him?  Life is too short, and if it is not lived for the Lord then it is only wasted. John Piper said that, “It is better to lose your life than to waste it.3 Being involved in a ministry alone doesn’t mean living for God, nor does regularly going to church. Rather, it is living in constant faith, trusting in the finished work of Christ and being changed in His image as its fruit. It is a life committed to giving Him the glory He deserves.

All I  want in my life right now is to bring glory to my King, though my life is far from perfect, and still incredibly rough around the edges. So when the time comes for Him to take me home, then I will have lived a wonderful life.

We are justified by faith in Christ alone, and no amount of “work” will score us brownie points before the Lord. However, it is one of the marks of a true Christian to desire to live his life for God. it is out of gratitude that we desire this and by the sanctifying work of the Spirit. The pleasures of a life that is lived for God far exceeds the pleasures of this world.

The opposite of wasting your life is living life by a single God-exalting, soul-satisfying passion. The well-lived life must be God-exalting and soul-satisfying because that is why God created us (Isaiah 43:7; Psalm 90:14).” 4

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1 Vance Havner, Getting Used to the Dark, Sermon.

2 J.C. Ryle. Holiness, (Grand Rapids:Baker, 1979),  204.

3 John Piper, Don’t Waste Your Life (Wheaton, IL:Crossway, 2007),10.

4 Ibid., 43.



Tragic Weekend

The recent typhoon Ondoy (international name Ketsana) caused a massive devastation here in Metro Manila and 25 other provinces in Luzon. No one thought this would happen. Yes, we are used to having flash floods but this one came as a shock. The rain started on Friday night. PAGASA-DOST declared that the typhoon will hit land on Saturday morning, and typhoon signal #1 was raised in Manila and some parts of Luzon.

typhoon ondoy

reuters

I woke up on a dark, rainy Saturday morning, and the rain did not stop until the afternoon. None of us at home could go out because the water is waist deep outside our subdivision. We heard on the news that there were flash floods in Metro Manila and everywhere else. Even the main thoroughfares in the metro were not spared. On TV, we saw that people were already on the roof of their houses as water rose to an alarming level. Cars looked like toys being carried away by the strong current. My brother who left his work at 5pm arrived home a little past midnight. Traffic was terrible and some highways were closed.

It was on Sunday morning when I really realized the gravity of the situation. We got an SMS from our pastor informing us that Sunday service had been cancelled because even our church was not spared. There was no electricity and the water level was high. Then we found out that a lot of our church mates were affected by the typhoon. Some students were stranded and were not able to come home. I worried more because those students (like Mark and NR) are part of our youth ministry. We learned that some families from church were also up on the roof of their houses waiting to be rescued. They were not able to save anything, just the clothes that they had on. Communication was also down.

reuters

reuters

Perhaps most of us are asking how this could have happened. This could have been prevented. At this point, everyone is disheartened.  It is so easy to point a finger and blame others for what had happened. We can blame our government that is surprisingly unprepared. Only a few rubber boats were available for the rescue operations. We can go on asking why we lack the equipment when it is expected that a certain budget is allotted for it.  I have also read a lot of negative comments and hate messages against the Filipinos in Facebook, youtube, and other sites. They said we deserved this because we are undisciplined. We lack the discipline for waste management that causes clogged drainage. Illegal logging is rampant, and that causes the landslides. Although there is truth to all these, I don’t think now is the time for such negative comments. If they don’t want to help, I hope that they would stop lambasting us. I hope they will extend some compassion to the victims first, and when all this is over, then we can accept all the rebukes and reprimands? We can later face the reproach and set things right.

I have reflected on a few things in the wake of this tragedy.

  1. Money cannot save you. The rich ones who live in posh subdivisions suffered the same fate as the ordinary Pinoys, and the poorest of the poor. They all ended up either on the roof of their houses, hungry and cold, or floating lifeless in the flood. They had nothing to eat for almost a day. My aunt said that maybe God wanted to remind them that we are all equal.  Please don’t get me wrong. I am not gloating. I feel for them the same way I feel for the rest of the victims. But let this serve as a reminder to some of us who desire to be rich, even if it is in the guise of being “blessed to be a blessing.”  Let us always be thankful and content. Doesn’t the Bible teach us in 1 Thessalonians 5:18 to give thanks in everything? Rich or poor, we are all the same.  And when the time of judgment come, our material possessions will not impress God.
  2. While we are still here, let us be good stewards of the world that God has created. Proper garbage disposal will make a lot of difference.  As simple as throwing candy wrappers in the trash bin will help. Sadly, though, there are Christians who do not practice this. Let us remind ourselves that more than being Filipinos, we are Christians. So why not do something to take care of God’s creation. Let us pass it on to our children. Teach them to clean up their clutters. Ask them to throw their trash in trash bins and not on the streets.  This will be a big help. 
        
  3. Always remember that all things work together for good to those that love Him and are called according to His purpose. We may not understand why this has happened, but we certainly know that God is in control and He will use this for His glory. We are currently praying for our campus ministry to be restored but we don’t know where to start.  Then I learned yesterday morning that some students stayed overnight in our church. I firmly believe that this is the hand of God. I pray that it will open an opportunity for us to share the good news starting with those students.
  4. Last but not the least, we Christians have peace in the midst of tragedy because we know God holds us in His hand. We have joy that is complete because now it is His joy that dwells in us. We have hope because we hold on to God’s promises and we know that He is ever faithful. We love because His love overflows through us. If we have such peace, joy and hope in trying times, then let us tell the world who the Source of all these is. They need to know Jesus and what He has done on cross that may also find peace, joy, hope and love in Christ, and in Him alone. May we become intentional instruments for their salvation, for the salvation of their souls matters the most.

 

reuters

reuters

As of this time, there are over 140 casualties due to drowning, hypothermia, electrocution or landslide. A number are still missing. There are a lot of sad stories from the survivors. These are stories about how they got separated from their families, or how their family members died, and how they survived the ordeal. I don’t want to watch TV anymore because they always bring me to tears. I commend the brave rescuers who are involved in the ongoing search and retrieval operation. Sadly, some of these rescuers have died as they tried to save lives. Thank you, too, to those who donated and the volunteers. Thank you for keeping the spirit of bayanihan alive.   To those who are reading this and the Lord has touched your heart to help, here’s a list of  relief centers: http://www.gmanews.tv/story/173288/updated-list-of-verified-relief-centers-for-ondoy-victims. Per PAGASA-DOST, there’s a new typhoon coming. There’s nowhere to look but up. By God’s grace, we will get by. I believe that we will see the glory of God in the midst of this tragedy.

 

When the righteous cry for help, the LORD hears
   and delivers them out of all their troubles.
The LORD is near to the brokenhearted
   and saves the crushed in spirit.

Psalm 34:17-18

 

P.S.

My friend Anlen made this encouraging video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m9AQTTDXV7o&feature=player_profilepage

 

all pictures taken from reuters: http://www.reuters.com/news/pictures/articleslideshow?articleId=USTRE58Q0MO20090927&channelName=worldNews#a=1