Amid a tragedy, we laugh

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By Stella A. Estremera

Spider’s web

Saturday, May 10, 2014

I WAS trying to get a handle on it while listening to Palo Archbishop John F. Du recall that morning when “washing machine” waters from the sea rose up and swallowed their people, exactly six months after typhoon Yolanda decimated huge portions of Samar and Leyte. He was smiling.

I saw the same as Fr. Kelvin Alupillo, parish priest of San Joaquin in Palo, Leyte, and on our van driver on the second day, Jasper, who is also from San Joaquin.

We had loads more from Tanauan Mayor PelTecson.


Archbishop recalled how they were running around dodging debris falling all over them at the Palo Cathedral; hugging posts lest they be sucked out by the 350kph winds, him leading a crowd of at least 300; with children hanging on their mothers’ skirts, and mothers running hither-thither like mother hens to grab every child that goes astray.

Jasper recalled how his youngest child, just three years old, learned how to pray for salvation as they were hanging by the beams of their tiny house. Again with laughter in his voice.

Fr. Kelvin can just shake his head in describing what the storm surge was that sent them hanging on the beams of the parsonage as well. No, it wasn’t a wave, he said. It was… he could only gesture, turning both fisted hands in circles around each other before giving a short laugh.

Mayor Tecson was laughing as he recalled how he snaggled a helicopter-load of relief goods even without knowing if there is even a space to land a helicopter on in his town whose roads were covered in debris as high as six feet.

Then I remember how we’d most often smile or giggle when we trip and fall while walking.

There is more to the human than just grim determination and courage. There is humor, and in that humor we find strength.

Is that Filipino? I don’t know because I still have to meet and listen to foreigners recovering from tragedy. But if it is, then we are blessed.

Maybe it is, because a lot of people have taken note of this and called it resilience. Many foreign aid workers are surprised at the smiles and the laughter that surrounded them amid the squalor of death and diseases.

Being Filipinos, we may sometimes be exasperated by this because it will appear that we do not take anything seriously. But then, with the tragedies – whether man-
made, nature-wrought, man-worsened, or God-created like a president called PNoy – that our ancestors and we have been going through, how can we even blame our people?

Just look at the circus we have for our senators, congressmen, and yes, my favorite President. That tragedy by itself can send every Filipino on the floor, tears in their eyes, laughing helplessly.

That was where I was (on the floor), as I listened to President Aquino blame the Mindanao people for not paying high rates and thus are found deserving of the blackouts we have been getting, as if we even have the facilities to generate the high rate he was demanding of us. I was back on the floor, holding my tummy in sheer helplessness as this same President was back on the news again blaming Mindanao leaders for not investing enough on power. I have one word with four letters for this guy. It starts with letter G and ends with O, and it’s not go-go.

Thus, as I’m again flying home, all set to grope in the dark like millions of Mindanaoans were in the four days I was gone, I will be laughing out loud for the tragedy called President. It’s how I cope. It’s how we cope, and looking at how the people in Samar and Leyte are doing, laughter it seems is all that we have and will be getting. Lah-di-dah!



Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on May 11, 2014.


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