The Art of Encouragement

The past 3 days – August 7-9 2012 – have been trying days for Filipinos in the largest island in the archipelago. It’s the rainy season now, but the past 3 days were another first. Even with monsoon rains, it usually takes a storm to bring on serious flooding. But this time, there was absolutely no storm in the country’s area of responsibility. An outside storm enhanced our southwest monsoon, locally called Hanging Habagat – but even that is misleading, as the main noun, hangin, actually means “wind”.

But the really impressive thing was how everybody just pulled together. Because it was *just* rains and no strong winds that are typical of storms, electricity, internet and cellphone lines stayed alive for majority of the areas, including ours. Facebook was full of reposts of news updates on weather conditions, river and reservoir water levels, news of areas that were in dire need of help and relief – and, as is typical of Filipinos in a crisis, funny photos of the crisis-stricken coping through humor:

Photo credit: Leo Antonio Viloria Vaquer on Facebook
Photo credit: Pinoy Laugh Page on Facebook
Photo credit: The Manansala Photography on Facebook


And of course, there are some truly inspiring and encouraging pictures as well:

Photo credit: Construction Suppliers and Materials Directory
Photo Credit: When In Manila on Facebook

And this was my favorite:

Photo Credit: Eboy Refuerzo on Facebook

Mr. Refuerzo puts this caption on this picture, which he had posted October 2, 2009, after Typhoon Ondoy:

REPOST: An American who lives here said to his fellow Americans: “I wish you all could see the amazing community spirit, charity and compassion in the Phils. What I see happening here totally blows away the response to hurricane Katrina. People here …have less to give, yet they’re giving ABUNDANTLY. There’s such a greater story than just the ‘death toll’ that the lame american media fails to capture.”

Of course, there were those who were still blaming the national government for “bad urban planning”, local governments for “inadequate preparations”, and the weather bureau because “you said Ondoy wouldn’t repeat itself for another 40 years – it’s only been 3!” One of them had posted a reply on my husband’s repost of Mr. Refuerzo’s picture, and her reply to my “what’s the point of posting that here? Unless her second point is to discourage those trying to cope with the crisis by encouraging themselves” implied that we were ignoring the darker realities of what caused the problem (to her, it was “no good at urban planning.”)

My reply, which I think she didn’t see anymore (after Irl told her of our personal worry that we can’t contact his cousin who was staying in a dorm near UST – she’s been reached by this time), made me realize how much my government, national & local, are really doing to try to cope with the possibility of another Ondoy-type calamity. I don’t think she’ll read my blog, but I wanna post my own words here, more for my own sake:

So people who can look at the brighter, lighter side are ignoring the darker realities that led to the problem, and forgetting what they could and should have done before the calamity struck…wow. Thanks for pointing out that our choosing to face the crisis with a smile and a laugh, and receiving encouragement is pointless unless I do something about the problem – which, of course, you didn’t see, did you? The darker reality is simply that disaster struck, and we got caught in it again – and that Ondoy was not something ANYBODY was ready for, just like that earthquake in Japan that had a different tectonic movement than what they had always had, so that even if they had planned their buildings well, they still collapsed. Also, let’s ignore the fact that our government officials have been bothering us with traffic because they HAVE been planning and working on making sure than Ondoy’s disaster does not happen again, and those plans are so massive that even after 3 years, they’re not finished. No, let’s ignore all that. Let’s just stick with “no good at urban planning.”

Funny how God lets us learn from ourselves too…

But there’s nothing like seeing with your own eyes the resourcefulness and camaraderie of neighbors during a crisis. These are my own photos, part of my FB photo album to document our little corner of the world’s adventure during the flood (click here to see the full album). I posted this status early yesterday afternoon: proud of my neighbors: resourceful men made makeshift ferries to help those who needed to leave, bakeries & stores that have stock are still selling & not raising prices, people smiling & cajoling as we waded through the flood, as if relieved to see that each neighbor is still up&about…should’ve brought the camera when I went out earlier… *sigh* Later, I did go out again, this time armed with the camera, and managed to catch these scenes.

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I thank God I’m a Filipino. Sure we may not be the best people, race or country on Earth. But the Filipinos are my people, my race, and the Philippines is my country. And I am grateful to be here! Our newest tourism tagline, as in one of the photos above, is “It’s more FUN in the Philippines.” While I will not promote going through any kind of crisis as a tourism stunt, I just have to say this:

FACING CRISES: It’s more encouraging when you’re with Filipinos, in the Philippines.



3 thoughts on “The Art of Encouragement

  1. Looking through your pictures, I was chuckling to myself and saying”hey, it’s not that bad.” Seriously, it’s not that bad. I mean, you and I survived Ondoy, right? And we were still generally okay.Seeing your pictures, I do believe I can honestly say that this is a cinch for us living in the Philippines. Okay pa yan, pramis.


    1. For both Ondoy and 2012 Habagat, our area did not receive aid — it was neighbor helping neighbor, a story that doesn’t get to the front page or the primetime news, but one I have always been humbled and proud to be part of. : )


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