Christmas is just a few days from today. But the President has declared a state of national calamity for the whole nation. Not just in Compostela Valley or just for Davao Oriental, not just for Mindanao or for the whole Visayas but for the entire country. All these notwithstanding, there is no calamity, no disaster, neither hurricane, nor flood, not any rage or fury of nature can ever stop us, Filipinos, from celebrating Christmas. We will always find a way amidst all sorrows, all pains and all poverty. The genuine Christians always have some hopes in their hearts, even in these trying times. We manage to bury our dead, coffin or no coffin, mourn for the victims of fortuitous events, and then stand up and move on, to welcome the birth of the Messiah.
There are many among our brothers and sisters in Mindanao who are still grieving for the loss, the irreparable loss of mothers, fathers, husbands, wives, children, siblings and other loved ones. They also lost their houses, all their clothings and household utensils and cooking wares. Everything was buried under thick layers of mud and debris. Nothing is left for them. And yet, they are trying hard to rise and face all these with courage and faith, never losing hope. They seek refuge in hot, overcrowded and ill-equipped evacuation centers. They line up all day to receive their two kilos of rice and two sardines and biscuits from politicians who need to be photographed by the press and be covered live by giant radio and TV networks and syndicated print media.
Some of the mothers are still looking for their lost children, calling out, yelling in the dark, under heavy downpour, calling out loud, not unlike Sisa, calling for her Crispin and Basilio, not listening to those who urge these poor and unfortunate mothers to give up and let go. They run from here to there, traversing rivers, jumping over uprooted trees, and hoping, still hoping against hopes, trying to dig and search, asking strangers and neighbors, looking up to heaven for some miracles, then crying and sobbing and beating their breasts and pulling their hair in utter grief and despair. They have not eaten for days but the deepest sorrows have drowned whatever pangs of hunger in them.
The children, who survived the disaster, are out there, along the highway, stretching out their hands to strangers who travel from Davao City to Caraga. They beg for food, for clean drinking water, for medicines, and yes, for clothings because they are still wearing the dirty, mud-filled and wet clothes that they wore when disaster struck. They beg for mercy, they beg for a little compassion. These blameless children have been too traumatized, devastated emotionally, mentally and psychologically. They could not understand why the God that they worship every Sunday has allowed all these sufferings to come about. Many of them have lost their parents and brothers and sisters. Why is life too harsh, too painful to such innocent children?
The politicians come and go, descending from the sky via helicopters, and bringing along a retinue of government-paid staff, supporters and plain publicity-seekers, and media reporters. They distribute goodies inside plastic bags with their epal faces emblazoned in bold colors. They deliver speeches that are immaterial and impertinent to the hunger and anger of the people. With utmost eloquence, and self-serving audacity, they would dare to denounce the illegal loggers and the greedy miners who keep on devastating our forest and all natural habitat. Of course, these are all in aid of reelection. But they seem to forget that they are also the loggers and the miners. To our mind, this shameless hypocrisy is the true national disaster. These traditional politicians constitute the real national calamity.
And so, how in the world, are we going to celebrate Christmas amidst all these shams and pretensions among our trapos, while the whole nation is suffering, the people hungry and angry? Well, God is good all the time, we will manage, somehow, we will find a way. We are a brave people, resilient, persevering , with very high levels of tolerance for pains and troubles. We shall bury our dead, say a little prayer, and hope for better days to come. We shall celebrate Christmas anywhere and regardless of circumstances. Our minds are programmed to face disasters with both smiles and tears. We are stout-hearted men and women ready to face Christmas and New Year, come hell or high water.
Some crazy people say that the world will end soon, Others are spreading the word that God is punishing us for our fixation on the RH Bill, and our temerity to unwittingly encourage sins, by merely taxing them, instead of denouncing these vices. Some false prophets predict that the flood of Noah’s time is coming again. There shall be allegedly a repeat of Sodom and Gomorrah. But the spirit of the Filipinos will never yield to all these rumors of disasters and calamities. We are waiting for our Messiah, and there is nothing, nothing natural or man-made, biblical prophecies or plain stupid lies, that can ever, ever stop us from celebrating Christmas. Not disaster, not calamity or rumors of Armageddon nor trapos. Whatever happens, we shall have our ‘’noche buena’’, whether it is the best or the worst of times. To us Filipinos, Christmas is really in our hearts. There are no ifs nor buts.