Monday, November 11, 2013

Remembering Tacloban

I cried this morning as I saw on television images of the ravaged city of  Tacloban. It was no longer the same city we went to first on November 4 and then on November 6 when we returned from Biliran Island for a family vacation. On November 4, from Manila, we flew and landed at the Daniel Z. Romualdez Airport in Tacloban, Leyte and then traveled by land for more than two hours to get to the island of Biliran. Because of the coming typhoon Yolanda (international name: Haiyan), we decided to return to Tacloban City a day earlier. It was almost evening when we returned to Tacloban City but after finding an accommodation, we had time for dinner and coffee at downtown and a walk to the pier near the public market to have a taste of their barbecue. The following day, November 7, it was already raining so we decided to buy umbrellas and some pasalubong (local delicacies and souvenirs) for family and friends. 

Now as I hear news of death and saw collapsed buildings and survivors lining up for relief goods, I remember the locals I met in Tacloban. The tricycle and jeepney drivers who brought us to our destination within the city. The crew of Kitchenitos who served our dinner. The people at Jose Karlo's who prepared our delicious, hot coffee. The street vendor of  sweet binagol and moron.  The hawker who sold us three umbrellas. The woman fanning the flames on her barbecue stand. The hotel staff. The sales clerk at the souvenir shop in the airport, and the many other nameless people we met on the streets. How I pray that they too, have survived the destruction of super typhoon Yolanda.

The thought of losing loved ones in a disaster like this is heartbreaking. But slowly, I hear reports of friends who have finally received text messages from their relatives in Tacloban that they are safe, though without water and food supplies. This brings much relief to our hearts and I pray that many more have survived. A lot more needs to be done to help these people who are in distress. This is also a reminder for us to turn to the Lord who alone can really save us from all forms of destruction. Let us surrender our lives to Him before it's too late. 

Turn to the Lord and pray to Him,
    now that He is near.
 Let the wicked leave their way of life
    and change their way of thinking.
Let them turn to the Lord, our God;
    He is merciful and quick to forgive.
Isaiah 55:6-7

Friday, November 8, 2013

An Opportune Time to Trust God

Our family trip to Biliran Island, which is across the province of Leyte in Eastern Visayas, was planned seven months ago after seeing a travel show featuring Biliran. The island province was described as an unspoiled paradise with waterfalls, white sand beaches, hot springs, and mountains. Coincidentally, there was a Cebu Pacific promo fare at that time so we booked a flight in November. 

But our excitement over our vacation was challenged by a series of unexpected events. A day before the trip, my husband had a slight fever. But after praying for healing and taking medicines, he was up and about. My daughter had motion sickness on the plane and had to endure another two-hour dizzying ride aboard a van to get to Naval, Biliran. But our biggest challenge came in the form of a super typhoon that was approaching the Philippines, and reported to be going towards the direction of the Visayas region, right where we were. This would have dampened our spirits had we not heard the message of 2 Thessalonians 3:3 last Sunday in church. Our pastor preached on 2 Thessalonians 3:3 which reminds us, "But the Lord is faithful, and He will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one."

It was an opportune time for us to trust God's faithfulness to provide, strengthen, and protect us in our situation and truly, we saw His favor. My husband and daughter regained their strength enough to climb mountains and frolic in the waters. Although our schedule for chasing waterfalls and island hopping had to be adjusted because of the weather, we were happy that the sun shone. It enabled us to make the short boat trip to a small, beautiful island in the province. Moreover, God prompted us to leave Biliran a day earlier so as not to be caught by storm Yolanda (international name Haiyan). And even when all the rooms in the hotels, pension inns, and lodges in Tacloban (the capital of Leyte) were full the day we arrived there (a group with many delegates was meeting in the city), a kind lodge staff called a tricycle for us and instructed the driver to bring us to a nearby hotel where we were accommodated. At the airport, we, the passengers en route to Manila sighed in relief and a few clapped their hands when our plane finally arrived. 

As I write this, we are now home, safe and thankful for God's protection. But we pray earnestly for those who were terribly hit by the storm and wish that the government's target of zero casualty is reached. We entreat God to help the victims to recover. God is merciful to all who call upon Him. 

"He made the storm still, and the waves of the sea were hushed. Then they were glad that the waters were quiet, and He brought them to their desired haven. Let them thank the Lord for His steadfast love..." Psalm 107:29-30

Downtown Tacloban on November 6, two days before typhoon Yolanda hit the city