Lessons ‘Paeng’ taught us


Once again, we are picking up the pieces of our collective lives shattered by a severe tropical storm.
“Paeng” left a path of destruction this past weekend – a time many had expected to be the kind of “long weekend” one can enjoy with family as they leisurely prepared for the observance of All Saints’ Day.

As we write this column, the death toll brought about by “Paeng’s” wrath was estimated at 60. Many of the fatalities were from the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao. Most of them perished from floods triggered by torrential rains.

“Paeng” traversed the CALABARZON region, inundating the region’s main highways and road systems, as well as inflicting damage on homes, buildings and other vital infrastructure.

As usual, local governments, in tandem with national government agencies, did their best to prepare for the aftermath of another major weather disturbance. “Paeng” taught us that no matter how well we are prepared, we will have to face the fact that nature’s wrath is unpredictable. We will have to embrace the uncertainties that come with them. We will have to learn the lessons they continue to teach us.

And, yes, we will have to “normalize” resiliency.

After all, “resiliency” is what the tribulations brought about by natural calamities aim to teach.
What do we do when we hear there’s a storm coming?

Here’s what we learned – three things we must do: first, prepare; second, wait it out; third, get back on our feet and rebuild.

We learned we cannot escape life’s storms. We cannot even predict their path – “Paeng” taught us that “tracking” a storm’s path is never an exact science. We cannot even run away from them. We can only take shelter and wait for the storm to pass us by.

Perhaps, storms are meant to remind us that we are “never in total control” of our situation; that there are times when we will have to admit that we are vulnerable and are subject to the whims of nature.

Spiritual writers have given us timeless and time-tested advice on how to weather storms and the “storms” of life. “Let the peace of God rule your heart,” they counsel, reminding us of the biblical advice that we should not “let our hearts be troubled.”

Instead, we must let “the peace of God which surpasses all understanding” replace our anxiety.

“Don’t let fear replace your faith,” spiritual writers add. They encourage us to look at storms – both the physical and the spiritual types – as opportunities to “draw closer to God.” Storms are moments which teach us to pray from the heart. We will be doing that as we lead the effort to rebuild our communities which “Paeng” left in his wake.

Meanwhile, yesterday was All Saints Day in the Roman Catholic Calendar and many of our countrymen flocked to cemeteries to visit and honor the dead.

Except, of course, for people in some places like Angono and Binangonan in Rizal province.
The date for their customary annual trek to the resting places of the dear departed is today, Nov. 2.

The occasion, nevertheless, invites a little reflection on the meaning of “saint.”

To most of us, a “saint” is one who obeyed the commandments of God and is ultimately rewarded for such obedience.

Given the nature of the world today and the lure and allure of its material features, most people, it seems, have given up on trying to be one.

Perhaps this is because modern man would rather focus on life’s many powers and privileges rather than on his accountability to Him from whom such powers and perks have come.

But we take comfort in what many other Christians believe – that being a “saint” cannot happen solely on the basis of one’s good deeds.

“Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, says the Lord” is by far one of the most comforting tenets of the Faith which emphasizes that we cannot be saved from our sinful selves without God’s grace and mercy.

May more of God’s grace and mercy be showered on us on this day of Saints and always.

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