On October 15, my husband and I were awakened by the shaking of our bed. It was about 8 in the morning. We would learn later that Butuan City where we are based has been hit by an Intensity 4 earthquake. And that our home province, Bohol, was shaken by an Intensity 7.2 quake, and so was Cebu City, a city which is also close to my heart (I was once based there for several years).
The succeeding hours of that day were filled with watching the news, calling and sending text messages to our families, relatives and friends in Bohol and Cebu. I learned from my older brother in Bohol that he and his wife were eating near one of the bigger department stores in Bohol at the time of the quake. He and his wife along with the other customers rushed to the street outside. And as the shaking continued to increase in strength, they, together with all the people in the street had no choice but to drop down on the ground. As he watched the taller buildings continue to sway, he kept thinking that this was a scene that he only saw in the movies before. Now, he was watching it live alongside a very real threat of danger.
As hours and days passed after that Tuesday, we continue to see images of damaged buildings, bridges and houses delivered to us by the media and from our contacts in Bohol and Cebu. And what was heartbreaking of all: lives that were forever changed because of the sudden loss of a loved one. But the sadness and loss that engulfed these places, I would say, were lifted up inch by inch as people from different organizations, from the government responded to the call for help and relief. Now, in this challenging time, these thoughts came to my mind:
Value of Life and Relationships. Yes, there are many damages incurred during the Bohol earthquake but we are just glad that our families and friends are alive, maybe a bit shaken but still doing well overall. Houses can be rebuilt, cars and house ware can be purchased again but we have only been given one gift of life by our Creator in this planet called Earth.
We mourn with those who have lost loved ones but may it be that we learn to treasure those who are still with us today. As we are all reminded how limited our life can be, may we grow in discernment as to what our life priorities really are and see what may need changing.
Grief and Recovery. Grief comes along after a loss. It is not only present for those whose loved ones passed away during the quake. I propose that there is also a very real sense of loss when what is familiar is suddenly gone or changed especially in a matter of minutes. And for Boholanos, this would not only mean homes or personal property but even the familiar historical and beauty spots around Bohol. We have seen friends and relatives get married, had their babies baptized and witnessed funeral rites in the churches of Baclayon, Dauis, Loay, Loboc, Maribojoc and Loon. These are not only places of worship for many Boholanos but they are also tied up with memories of loved ones.
It is also the same with the world-famous Chocolate Hills. Isn’t it true that we, Boholanos, only go there when we are with our family, relatives or friends? We never experience Chocolate Hills by our lonesome selves. I may have left Bohol at 18 and only came home for short visits ever since (the longest was 45 days after my time in Thailand) but whenever I come home to Bohol and check out those hills, I would only do so with my family and loved ones. And many times, just like most Boholanos, I have brought visiting relatives and friends from outside Bohol, from other countries to enjoy the hills. Thus, we are also affected with the changes in those hills not only because their beauty is somehow marred but because we have special moments with friends, loved ones tied up to our memory of those hills.
With loss and grief come a wide range of emotions: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and eventually, acceptance. But to simplify that further, I would just say that for anyone who is mourning, grieving or experiencing change (and for many Boholanos, a traumatic one), we just need to give the person a chance to share his or her story. This is the time to talk and listen to each other. There is healing in re-telling what happened and how it affected us (this is also a way of debriefing). It helps us better understand our feelings, our experiences and helps us towards recovery and moving forward.
Grieving and recovery is also a process and it may take time but may we be encouraged: our stories of recovery and rebuilding can serve as a balm of encouragement and healing for others in the years to come, in the generations to come.
Faith Realities. As centuries-old churches or church buildings crumble, it’s also a reminder that throughout history, there weren’t always buildings to worship in. We worship a God who is the Creator of all, One who can be present everywhere. Times of difficulty also calls for reflection: What do I really believe in? Where is my faith anchored? How real is God to me? Do I really know Him?
May it be that as we journey forward after this challenging time — we come out richer in our appreciation of life and relationships, richer in concern and kindness for others and much richer in our faith towards the Lord Jesus Christ.
May this be the time to say and live this out: Bangon Bohol (Rise up, Bohol)!
Below is a video from YouTube showing photos of the damages that happened in Bohol. Among the photos are that of the City hall of Tagbilaran (at the beginning of the video), the centuries-old churches in Bohol, the Bohol Provincial Capitol as well as the viewing deck in Carmen, Bohol of the Chocolate Hills.
Note: Your prayers and practical help for Bohol would be greatly appreciated. If you would like to help Bohol, you can drop me a comment below or contact me here so I can connect you with groups and organizations doing relief work there. As of this writing, close to 200 people have been found dead and damage caused by the quake has reached P2.5 Billion (57 Million USD).