Beyond the Storm: Love

Where God leads, He provides.

As my sister, Myrel, keeps on saying, she and the kids made it through to a safer place through God's providence. The whole experience was like crossing a raging river without a stepping stone in sight, but every time they took a step a stepping stone comes up for their feet to step on. And so, getting out of Tacloban was made possible through God's guiding hand and His love was evident in all His provision for the survivors' needs.

Three days after Haiyan, with no food, no water, no electricity, no clothes, violence breaking out in the city and citizens cowering inside their broken homes with any weapon they could find to protect themselves from intruders, everything wet and dirty, and the children-survivors needing medical help and none to find, my sister decided to get out of Tacloban. But how?

With three wounded and wearied children with her, she could not possibly walk through miles of debris and dead people to get to the airport where military C-130 planes were transporting survivors to either Manila or Cebu. Besides that, she heard that they were too many people waiting to get out of Tacloban that people had to wait for four or five days before they could get on any of those planes. She couldn't afford to let the children starve without any food or water in that airport.

Thankful that she still had some money with her, and with my aunt's help who came over to find out about their whereabouts, they decided to try just about anything to go out of Tacloban and move to a better place.

They went to the city terminal to try to find a vehicle to ride on. There were no buses, no cars, but a lot of people, just like them, waiting and hoping to get out of Tacloban.

After some time of waiting, a van rolled along. My aunt ran after it while my sister watched after my daughter. The van stopped. My aunt asked the driver if they could take a ride. The driver said that all the seats were taken or reserved. My aunt pleaded with him, telling him about three children-survivors who could not walk on their own because of the wounds they got from the storm. After awhile, he obliged telling her that they could take all of the seats at the back but they had to pay double the amount of the usual fare, just as everyone was doing on that van. She agreed.

Then gunfire broke lose. People started screaming and running and taking cover. Authorities were chasing after some people. They must be chasing fugitives who have gone out from the prison during the storm. The driver shouted, "Lock all the doors! Lock all the doors!" as he jumped in to the driver's side of the vehicle and cowered under the wheel handles. He was obviously very scared. Everybody was scared.

When things got quiet, the driver right away commanded his passengers to get into their seats, then he started the engine and they went on their way. My aunt asked the driver to go to the place where the other two children were waiting. My niece got so much cuts from the floating debris during the time they were fighting to survive in the water that she could barely walk. She had to be carried. The wounds were still red and raw. So my aunt asked the driver to go to them. But he missed the place. He had to go back. He told my aunt that there was no way he was going back as it was too dangerous for them to go back with all that gunning going on. Other passengers, fearing for their lives, agreed with him and told him not to go back anymore.

But what about the children? So my aunt and sister pleaded with him harder.

Without a word, and after driving and probably thinking what the possible consequences would be if those children were left behind, the driver turned the vehicle around and asked for the right directions to the children's location. And so, reunited, my sister, aunt and the three children sat at the back of that van, praying and hoping they could get to a much safer place without any more incidents happening unexpectedly.

The van rolled on as the children's stomachs growled in hunger. They hadn't had any food for some time now. During the past days, they only ate twice in a day or depending on the availability of food. If there was none, they went without any food. Some of the passengers in the front seats started opening some packs of cookies or biscuits. They must have thought about the children who were with them in that van for they started passing the food to the back were the children were sitting. And so, when I asked my daughter if she had eaten anything after the storm, she answered, "Yes, I ate." Surprised, I asked her what kind of food she ate. She replied, "Cookies. Because there was no food."

They got to Mahaplag where my aunt and her family live. The effect of the storm was not as severe as in Tacloban but still, food was scarce and there was no electricity. Anything they needed, like charging their phone to connect with family or the use of internet had to be waited on. Long lines were everywhere. There was no place they could get or receive money, and there were no relief goods being distributed to people at that time yet. Food was also scarce there. They had to move again.

So they lined up to get tickets for a ship going to Cebu. When they got the tickets, it was set on the next day ride. They waited and finally the time came. The children were excited to get on the ship and, perhaps, they were excited to leave their harrowing experience behind, but sad that they were going without their grandparents.

During the day, right after the storm, my nephew, Lance, walked along the debris. He was obviously looking for something. A friend asked him what he was looking for. He didn't say anything, but after walking around, he came back and asked her to go with him and look under some debris. He said, "Maybe my lolo and lola are there." The friend couldn't help but cry. My nephew went to his teacher in the school, which now was all broken, and asked her to help him dig under the debris so he could save his grandparents. He believed that somewhere under there, his grandparents were waiting for him to rescue them, just as he did with his sister and cousin.

Three weeks after that dreadful day, I heard him join in my conversation with my daughter after hearing her say, "I miss your parents, ma".  He butt in, "I miss lolo and lola, too." I know that these children will always be thankful for being alive, but they would also be missing the two wonderful people who had been a very big part of their lives, just as they had been mine. 

While I was gone for three months, my daughter was secured in the knowledge that her grandparents would take care of her in my absence. But now with them gone missing, she asked me, "Who will take care of me now when you go outside (she means: abroad)?" Before I could assure her of my presence, she smiled a most serene smile and gave me a perfect answer, "Jesus will take care of me. Right, ma?"

There was no doubt that she believes what she said. Yes, God has been taking care of my family and is continuing on taking care of us. You see, in the days following the storm and even up to now, God has been there ahead of us even before we call. So many instances, so many happenings which I don't believe are just mere coincidences. God provides and all that has happened are providences because He cares.

My family would not have experienced God's love and abiding care if not for the many people who have opened their hearts and generously done all they could and are doing now to help us.

First, there was that man who unselfishly allowed himself to go down into the waters to get my daughter out of that raging water and angry winds, without thought that those water and wind might sweep him away or hurtle danger and death at him. Angelika calls those kind men workers but they are more than that. They are heroes...

Second, families who were in a terrible shape after the storm, as terrible as my family was in, took them in, cared for them, not minding their own lack of food and resources, and not even their own comfort...

Third, people who thoughtfully spent effort to contact other people just so they can share to us any news regarding our family, spent days even weeks to look for our missing parents, accommodated us, comforted us in any way that they could and can...

Fourth, people from all over the world, those who we don't even know or have lost contact with us for many years, reached out to us through their prayers, comforting words and supported us in any way they know how and as best they could...

Fifth, all those who rejoiced and grieved with us...

If there is one thing that this storm has taught me, it is that, I have a great, big and loving God and I belong in His great, big and loving family. I thank Him. I thank Him for all those who have loved us.

And all I can say is...

"... but the greatest of these is love" (1 Corinthians 13).

You may also want to read...

Beyond the Storm: Hope
Beyond the Storm: Faith


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