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


Flashfloods: The Human Culprit

1. The red circle is the approximate area in Kalatungan and Kitanglad ranges where heavy Sendong rains fell. It is also the approximate area where logging is rampant e.g. Vicmar Dev’t Corporation and Bualan Cooperative which was exempted by DENR in April from EO23 or the PNoy logban.

2. The two red lines to CDO and Iligan is the water flow from the denuded forests.

3. This would show the source of the flood waters that hit simultaneously Cagayan de Oro and Iligan, and sparing the coastal municipalities in between Iligan and Cagayan de Oro. Heavy rains brought by typhoon Sendong fell in the Kalatungan range. If you observe the light green-brownish color, it indicates thin vegetation. This is where massive logging is happening for the last 30 years. If you notice it drains straight to CDO. If you go to the left of the map, down Kalatungan is Kapai and Mandulog, this is the part that drains to Iligan. There are ridges and gorges there that feed directly to the Mandulog river.

I’m sending my little help with these odious facts in mind…


BenCy G. Ellorin of Help CDO

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

Places and their silent stories…

“Places can be teachers too, carrying the cumulative wisdom of all that has happened over time in a particular location. You can ask yourself: Which places speak most strongly to you? Are you a forest person? A desert person? Are you a lake lover or river watcher? Which places have offered you wisdom and drawn you back again and again? The wisdom places whose smells and sounds offer specific teachings that “fit” for you are places most deeply entrained in your heart. We don’t always know why certain places feel so powerful or alive.

Sacred places have been described by poets, shamans, psychologists and naturalists. We know each place to be a unique geography of landforms, weather events, and hundreds of criss-crossing paths of people, birds, winds, and insects over time. Specific places hold specific histories whose stories carry meaning from one generation to the next. What makes a place numinous or filled with wisdom energy is more than anyone could ever completely explain, and that mystery itself is a teaching.”

Stephanie Kaza

Mindfully Green: A Personal and Spiritual Guide to Whole Earth Thinking (Shambala, Boston: 2008, pp. 90-91

                   Coron, Palawan from onlyyoutrust

Garbage Avalanche in Baguio

The death toll that Typhoon Mina left rose to 14 lives as of yesterday, most were buried by landslides in mountainous Baguio. The most unexpected culprit however was not entirely the rolling of boulders but by the avalanche of garbage from a dumpsite above a residential area.

As I was watching the news and the local government tried to respond to the mammoth problem and work of rescue and clearing the area, one point punched by the Mayor of Baguio, Mayor Domogan struck me. He said that there would have been no need for dumpsites had the people been compliant and consistent with the policy of recycling and waste segregation.

One commendable eco-work my parish is endeavoring currently is partnership with the multinational company Uniliver. The parish is encouraging parishioners to bring all plastic products, empty sachets to the church which are turned over to the company. The company recycles those plastics into concrete pavers given in return for free to the parish. It takes me 10 minutes to walk to the church but I am committed to bringing a bag or two now and then.

Care for human life and the environment can only happen piecemeal…


Photo credits: MSNBC and The State