REFLECTION: Rising from the ruins PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, 21 October 2014 11:15

BY FR. ROY CIMAGALA

 

In my latest trip to my province of Bohol, a few days after the first anniversary of the deadly earthquake, I happen to pass by the ground zero of the destroyed church of the town of Loon. I was not really intending to visit it, but when I saw people literally crawling like ants over the rubble doing some cleaning up work, Idecided to stop and see.

I thought they were the usual paid workers, and I of course was happy that something was being done about the destruction. To my pleasant surprise, these were not the usual workers, but simple people from some barangay of the town who were doing volunteer work, as in, working without pay, completely gratis.

I was amazed to see even many old men and women, with grey hair, bent and legs already bowed with age, and also young boys who must have been about 10 to 13 years of age, carrying bags or sacks of the debris.

I learned from them that the different barangays of the town take turns in doing that volunteer work. The ones I met came from a mountain barangay, for example. I obviously was very moved to learn about this and went to their makeshift chapel where the image of their patroness, Our Lady of Light (Birhen sa Kasilak), stood on a humble pedestal.

There I prayed to give thanks. I knew some tears threatened to shed but I had to keep a happy face for the people to see. I was told that that image, which was at the very center of the reredo, was the only thing left standing after the temblor. Everything else fell.

I went to see the parish priest. We only had casual meetings before, and I immediately expressed my joy at seeing how the parishioners were offering to do some cleaning up work. He tried to compose himself as he started to tell me some stories about the earthquake and the response the people made to it.

He said that he could not start the reconstruction work of the church because the church is under the national heritage program. The government is supposed to take care of its reconstruction. Some initial work was done, but it stopped after a short while.

Since it was taking time and not even a backhoe appeared, he appealed to the people to do some cleaning up work at least. He told them that when someone dies in the family, the family usually takes care of burying the dead member, instead of waiting for other persons to do it. The people understood immediately and started to organize themselves to do this volunteer work.

I asked him if some better-off parishioners were giving some financial help. And he said, yes, but only a few and not much, since many of them were also affected by the earthquake. Many of them had to rebuild their own houses.

He then narrated some personal insights and observations about the catastrophe. He was in his ‘convento’ when the earthquake happened. At first, he thought it was going to a slight and short tremor. But when it lasted and became stronger, he first thought he was going to die but then immediately forgot himself to help the people get out of church.

He also said that the earthquake was actually a blessing.

Many people have recovered their faith because of it, and have begun to come back to church. More people now attend the Masses in their makeshift chapel even during weekdays. Many are beside themselves in thanking God for their survival. They could not explain how they managed to escape death when it looked so certain to them at that time.

The priest also told me that because of the earthquake, the people are now more united with the parish and among themselves. The factions that used to afflict the parish life have practically disappeared. They are now working and praying together and offering whatever help they can give to one another.

The priest also said that has stopped complaining about anything. He was just thankful for everything.

I usually do not bring big amount around for the simple reason that I just don’t have such amount. But at that time, I felt the urge to give him whatever I had in my thin wallet. I told him to buy some snacks for the volunteer workers.

When I left, I saw the volunteers with happy, smiling face, with no trace of self-pity at all. What a joy! I’ve just seen a resurrection in action.