Flashflood Aftermath: Suffering and Silence

“After Auschwitz, there must be poetry, in which language is torn and broken, into which words are pulled, but in which there is also an essential address: the words and the silences are pulled toward an other.”  

Karmen MacKendrick

A story or two in words of some survivors, a single photo, are enough to move me to tearful silence. Their suffering, the depth of their sense of loss, the trauma so marked up in their bodies, in their faces are unspeakable. No human language can contain their grief;  the survivors themselves have no language for it except by way of stammering, wailing, broken, torn ones. By way of tearful silence, of tears and silence. Movement in silence and through silence could have been the best response.

But how does one make sense of the constant interviews of the survivors, asking them “how they feel,” often cornered to respond in a language (in Tagalog) that runs against their tongue and their manner of speaking it, the source of stigmatization? How does one make sense of the closed-up corpses that sociologist Randy David and a fellow blogger so poignantly pointed out that is so disrespectful of their dignity? Of the constant scrambling for photo opportunities and endless chatter in sensationalized media voice as if it is a climax of a soap opera that TV sells? In this kind of situation, often, one doesn’t know where charity ends and self-promotion begins.

And I have one perception on this malaise – it is a desacralization of the sacred silence, no matter how marred by the reality of loss and death, that the dead and their survivors so deserve along the river bank, by the single post of the house left, in churches-turned-evacuation-centers, before a mass grave. Let silence reign in the midst of such unspeakable suffering. But no because the Filipino pathos is always cast and cultured in the Hollywoodish climactic, the sensationalized ‘underdog’ of a soap opera whose upcoming triumph could happen through a sudden twist of the whole drama. Before any donor knows it, media and some charitable organizations have been telling them that the first tall order in the midst of a tragedy is to fix the damage, to fix people’s suffering. Abate? Yes. But to ask people to articulate their grief through interrogation, covering their tales by words or images as if “everything must be said; it must be said now, with nothing left – it has to get somewhere,” – isn’t this irreverent and violative of a very rich refuge in times of unspeakable suffering – silence and the need for someone to stay in their silent scream.

True enough, the dead need further autopsies and the survivors need food and shelters and movement through mobilization for its delivery are needed. But I’m convinced that this movement can be done in prayerful silence less the self-flaunting, and more reverential of the silence of the dead and the survivors.

But then, this silence has to start from within and has to be cultured also. Perhaps, those cameras can still keep going in meditative movement minus the reporters’ microphone. I bet it’s more powerful than any professional’s seemingly endless chatter.  And then through silence, lessons from the tragedy are better learned and absorbed as well, who knows. And by the way, one can also stay in prayerful silence from afar and be in solidarity with the suffering.


Photo credit: interaksyon


Climate Reality Project

Video streaming by Ustream

Moving Planet: A Day to Move Beyond Fossil Fuels

Moving Planet will be a day to put our demands for climate action into motion—marching, biking, skating—calling for the world to go beyond fossil fuels.

WHY: For too long, our leaders have denied and delayed, compromised and caved. That era must come to an end: it’s time to get moving on the climate crisis.

WHERE: All over the world.

WHEN: September 24, 2011

WHO: You, your friends, your family, your neighbor


Praying with Landforms and Waterforms

Collect for Landforms

LIFE-GIVER, we praise you for the many different kinds of landforms there are on the earth. Mother Earth has such a variety of features from the heights of Mt. Everest to the depths of the Grand Canyon and so much in between. We appreciate the landforms themselves and the life that each sustains, from the water lilies and alligators of the swamps, to the frogs of the fens, to the cacti and snakes of the mesas, deserts, and dry places. Whether the form is high or low, flat or round or craggy, whether it’s near water and wooded or in a dry barren place, all add to the health of the planet’s ecosystems. Guide us in being partners with the landforms that share the Earth with us.

Jensen, Jane Richardson & Watkins-Harris, Patricia. She Who Prays: A Woman’s Interfaith Prayer Book. Harrisburg, PA: Morehouse Publishing, 2005, p. 117)

Collect for Waterforms

JESUS, you were baptized in the Jordan River as a sign of repentance and of birth into new life. We praise you for the many waterforms on the Earth. We treasure the life that lives in the salt water of the oceans and the fresh water of tiny creeks, huge rivers and waterways, and lakes. We thank you that there are bodies of fresh water large enough to give refuge to unknown creatures of the deep and wee lochs that come from rain filling a depression in the land. May we treat the waterforms of this Earth with respect, so they and all manner of life dependent on them are able to thrive. Amen.

Jensen, Jane Richardson & Watkins-Harris, Patricia. She Who Prays: A Woman’s Interfaith Prayer Book. Harrisburg, PA: Morehouse Publishing, 2005, p. 117)

Mt. Banahaw


Photo credit: Bukisa

A Prayer for these times of natural calamities

Dearest God,
these are very uncertain times,
times of suffering for the people of Japan and the rest of humanity,
times triggering our deep-seated fear of death,
of the pain of losing,
or being swallowed into the immeasurable vastness beyond our space-time;
times fed by our human interpretation
of fire, water, earth, and wind going berserk
in their Biblical cataclysmic sense.

Our minds cry for clarity,
but we know not how Nature will move, reconfigure
in the coming days, months, years.

Our bodies cry for safety,
yet Nature shakes us, reminds us in a painful way
the fragility of human life,
for we are like “flowers quickly fading, here today and gone tomorrow,
waves tossed in the ocean; vapors in the wind.”

Have mercy on us and our human folly of arrogance and self-importance.
Help us toss into the vast humble Silence of Your self-giving love
the deceiving obstinate desires to become successful, popular, secure, important,
needed, ever-calculating Supermen and Superwomen.
Have mercy for we do not even know what really is worth-desiring – You and You alone.

Our hearts cry with the suffering, the grieving, the homeless, the orphaned,
the wounded, the hungry.
We cry for mercy with them.
We cry with them,
for their humanity is also our humanity,
the very earth they trod on is also the earth we trod on.

As we approach Your altar of Bread and Wine,
we bring our tears,
and our cries for mercy and forgiveness as our offering,
hoping that as the host is raised and the cup of wine consecrated,
our tears be transformed into our bread of steadfast faith in You,
our cries into our wine of deep trust in You,
that they may become our prayer with the Psalmist:

“Impregnate us with Love, O Comforter!
Let our fears be transformed;
let all that keeps us separated and confused flee!
As smoke is blown away, so let our fears rise up before You;
as wax melts before fire,
let our fears be melted by Love!
Then we will be released from bondage;
we will exult before the Beloved;
we will be jubilant with joy!

As the earth quakes, as floods strike without warning,
let your Presence be near.
As the mountains tremble and volcanoes spew forth ash,
let your Presence be near.
As rain falls in abundance on desert floors
restore the lands that they might flourish,
that the flocks may roam and graze on fertile fields.
In your Mercy, O Beloved,
You provide for the needy.
You are with us.”

Amen to your Presence…

Psalm 68 from Nan C. Merill’s Psalms for Praying