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

Storm signals, compassion signals

“When Jesus heard of the death of John the Baptist,
he withdrew in a boat to a deserted place by himself.
The crowds heard of this and followed him on foot from their towns.
When he disembarked and saw the vast crowd,
his heart was moved with pity for them, and he cured their sick.
When it was evening, the disciples approached him and said,
“This is a deserted place and it is already late;
dismiss the crowds so that they can go to the villages
and buy food for themselves.”
Jesus said to them, “There is no need for them to go away;
give them some food yourselves.”
But they said to him,
“Five loaves and two fish are all we have here.”
Then he said, “Bring them here to me, ”
and he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass.
Taking the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven,
he said the blessing, broke the loaves,
and gave them to the disciples,
who in turn gave them to the crowds.
They all ate and were satisfied,
and they picked up the fragments left over—
twelve wicker baskets full.
Those who ate were about five thousand men,
not counting women and children.”

July is normally a typhoon month for the country, with an average of 5 of this kind of damaging wet weather. We got overloaded this July with 9 according to PAGASA. The consequences to human lives, communities and properties are tremendously burdensome – city and rural areas flooding, streets covered with mud or even lahar; people drowned in rivers or buried alive by landslides; houses gobbled up by the sudden monstrous rise of water; ricefields and fish farms devastated. Just when residents were about to finish fixing their houses, another storm would turn their effort into futility. How painful! How frustrating could it further get! The sense of devastation and loss are marked up in people’s faces like ashes on their foreheads on Ash Wednesday; they are drawn in their wearied faces.

Pinoys are no strangers to storm-induced suffering. We are quite familiar with it. Or over-familiar with it enough to numb the human capacity for compassionate action.

That over-familiarity could also become an inhuman habit is something not unfamiliar – souring relationships, unfinished meal at fastfood restaurants, boredom over repetitive Sunday gospel readings or “old” laptops. It’s a creeping disease even in social networking like Facebook where people are over-familiar with each other with all the photographic evidence and details but fail to connect more deeply like two friends engaged and interested in each other in an other-centered conversation, hearts out the way compassion is other-centered by nature. I wonder if with over-familiarity, the choices are reduced to two – relational depth or simplistic connection? Compassionate, heartfelt connection, or the shallow self-gratification by way of information?

But then, the gospel injunction to become “true neighbors” in the parable of the good Samaritan is by way of mercy, through the networking of compassion rather than the gathering of information that the priest and the Levite had cognitively modelled in the parable.

Once again, I heard the same timeless call for compassion in the story of the feeding of the more than five thousand. I imagine the Son of Man traversing the dusty roads from Galilee to Jerusalem, passing by familiar faces of people in pain. Anytime, the Son of Man could have fallen into the trap of over-familiarity to become heedless to every Bartimaeus or women hemorrhaging more than a dozen years. Anytime, the Son of Man could have excused himself using our modern phrase of “compassion fatigue” (a symptom of our lack of courage to pursue solitude, the source of compassion). Yet, one more time, I heard the Son of Man, likely to have wept in silence, coming out from a painful solitude occasioned by the beheading of someone he looked up to – John the Baptist – sharing compassion to the hungry crowd and the sick. Scholars may explain to us the meaning of “miracle” in this passage from a scientific sociological perspective of the crowd bringing their own provision. But the scientific information is not the spiritual bread in this passage. It was the Son of Man’s compassion born out of his sorrowful solitude, set in a secluded place conducive for silence – a case of solitude chased by the desire for him. It was the Son of Man’s compassion likely unleashing what was in the heart of every wounded member of the crowd. The spiritual bread here is the sense that every Eucharist is a celebration of compassion – the Holy extending mercy, cajoling every attendee to stay and need not go somewhere, to simply sit in the open field of divine generosity to be joyfully satisfied. The spiritual bread here is the sense that every time I honestly admit before the Holy, alone or with others, offering my wounds or lack: “I have here five loaves of bread and two fish,” I am already sitting in the field of the Eucharist for every Eucharist is but the begging of the Holy’s mercy, the encounter of God’s tireless compassion with the human need for it. Eucharist is not so much the rubrics nor the repetitions but the meeting of two desires. Exodus of solitudes. Communion. The meeting of two loves until a “good measure, pressed down,shaken together, running over, is poured out into one’s garment.”

“…and they picked up the fragments left over— twelve wicker baskets full.”

In every storm that left people in pain, I am invited to become eucharistic. It can begin with the honest admission of the figurative “five loaves and two fish” I have and done as an act of oblation. The rest is for Him to multiply, His mercy to fill, and purify my complacency born out of over-familiarity. Amen.

Breath of a prayer…

Dearest God,

the fire of faith and fidelity of Nanang,
keep it burning in her body and bed,
because it is Your fire,
until she returns Home.



A prayer for a friend’s mother I visited at the ICU of the National Kidney Transplant Institute last Sunday.


The Best Translation/Companion of Psalms for Praying

No other book in the world that not only outsells any bestseller, but also reworked or translated the most in many languages than the Bible. The Bible remains the ultimate library, and in this case, not only as a repository of ideas and knowledge on human nature and behavior, but more significantly, as a source of wisdom and comfort. Such is the case with the Hebrew Psalms – timeless as a source of strength, bold in its speech of the mess and sanctity of the human predicament. The more one prays the Psalms, the more one keeps praying them because they resonate so much with the meandering and groping in the dark of the human desires, the lostness and the longing to behold a Face steady enough in its loving gaze to make sense of all temporariness and vanities. The Psalms always remind me that “everything is in flux” said Julian of Norwich. Only one thing is permanent, if you excuse my banality for referring it to a thing – the loving gaze of the Beloved as the ground of my fleeting existence. 

There have been different reworkings or renditions of the Hebrew Psalms especially in the context of regular prayer times. In the past 25 years, I have encountered most of the mainstream renditions of the Psalms for praying – from the Liturgy of the Hours to the New Zealand Prayer Book touted as rendering a more personal approach towards an impersonal addressing of the Thou, from the Messenger’s Bible of the evangelicals to the People’s Companion to the Breviary, from the Protestant NIV version of the Bible to the more contemporary Catholic prayer book Pray Unceasingly. The Psalms for Morning and Evening Prayers is good enough for group chanting. But if you want to have a more contemplative and contemporary experience of incorporating the Psalms in your regular prayer times – go for Nan C. Merill’s Psalms For Praying. They are the most consoling renditions one could pray with, the language so alive and fresh for our antsy, contemporary senses. Here’s part of the preface of the book:

“Who among us has not yearned to know the Unknowable? For most, these moments are fleeting glimpses that may last a lifetime; in some, a Fire is kindled and life becomes a quest to live in Holy Surrender; and though fewer in number, saints dwell among us who know the Beloved, who aspire simply to co-create in harmony with the One, who is Love and Light and Power….

The Psalms have ever been a response to these deep yearnings: cries of the soul…songs of surrender…paeans of praise…”

Here’s part of the rendition of Psalm 62:

For You alone my soul waits in silence;
from the Beloved comes my salvation.
Enfolding me with strength and steadfast love,
my faith shall remain firm.

Yet, how long will fear rule my life,
holding me in its grip like a trembling child,
a dark and lonely grave?
Fear keeps me from living fully, from
sharing my gifts;
it takes pleasure in imprisoning my soul.
Fear pretends to comfort, so long
has it dwelled within me;
truly it is my enemy.

For You alone my soul waits in silence;
my hope is from the Beloved.
Enfolding me with strength and steadfast love,
my faith shall remain firm.
In the Silence rests my freedom and my guidance;
You are the Heart of my heart,
my refuge is in the Silence.

Trust in Love at all times, O people;
pour out your heart to the Beloved;
Let Silence be a refuge for you.

If words in prayer is the other half of Silence, then let those words best guide me back into Silence where words are given birth. This is basically the function of words. So a good translation does really matter.

Pastor Apollo Quiboloy

“Madre de Dios!”

Uncle Ian: Alvin and the Chipmunks

  • Salvation is through the Appointed Son of God.
  • The Son is the Temple of the Father, Jesus Christ. He is the residence of the Father on earth and heir of all things the Father entrusted to him, not only His words, name, life and kingdom, but also the lives of his enemies, the power to raise even the dead, riches, fame, power of the seas and power in the airwaves.
  • The Kernel or Ear in Mark 4:26-28 is Ministry of Pastor Apollo C. Quiboloy.
  • In the change of administration, now sits in the throne that Lucifer usurped from Adam and Eve.
  • Pastor Apollo C. Quiboloy is the King of the New Creation.
  • Pastor Apollo C. Quiboloy is the Father’s standard of righteousness.
  • Davao City is the New Jerusalem revealed.
  • Quiboloy has claimed he is the “appointed Son of God”.

    Now, presidential candidates who did not come to the Forum he organized will from now on incur the “wrath of God”.

    Madre de Cacao!

    Source: Wikipedia

    Happy Lent 2010 Everyone!

    Quite ironic a greeting from a country known worldwide for long Christmases, Holy Week processions and actual crucifixions right in the land of  those-who-drool-for-power Pampanga (a national symptom only).

    Seriously, should one deserve to be happy during Lent? I guess so if one has to bracket for a while those moss-covered beliefs that Lent is essentially more about human wickedness and the busy activities of whisking them off through self-denial (i wonder if most still understand what self-denial is because it sounds archaic to me with all its psychological overtone; a better term nowadays is self-forgetfulness or self-emptying); that Lent is essentially more about flagellating ourselves (even if only imaginatively) than about going deeper into our inner fields of alienation from ourselves, from our neighbors, from Creation, and ultimately from God and dwell from there, yes, happily, serenely, confidently more than miserably. I take it from Paul:

    “One of Satan’s angels was sent to make me suffer terribly, so that I would not feel too proud. Three times I begged the Lord to make this suffering go away. But he replied, “My kindness is all you need. My power is strongest when you are weak.” So if Christ keeps giving me his power, I will gladly brag about how weak I am. Yes, I am glad to be weak or insulted or mistreated or to have troubles and sufferings, if it is for Christ. Because when I am weak, I am strong.” (2 Cor 12:8-10 – Contemporary English Version)

    That Lent is about taking stock of the human condition with all its fragile, broken, wounded, ash-covered, dilapidated, debris-mantled, fear-driven, control-freak-populated landscape – yes. That Lent is about staring at our own mortal programming – yes. That Lent is more importantly about being silent and serene with my own weaknesses in order to allow the wounded God to meet me from there and raise me up – this, i hope will be the cause of my rejoicing this season. So, there’s actually a reason to be happy this Lent, ain’t it? Otherwise, i’ve got a lot of explaining to do with Paul.

    Happy Lent to you again…

    Photo credit: bighug