A storm of Ondoy’s proportions, the news say, is going to hit us tomorrow. Billboards all over EDSA have been taken down. We are charging our batteries, anticipating a brownout. Everyone is preparing. I guess no one wants to get caught offguard once again, just as in Ondoy.
Now, I myself was also taken offguard. No, our family was unscathed, thankfully, for our house stood tall and the floods in Pasay were not as high–but I was literally surprised to hear the news of woe and destruction all over, for while the storm was raging I was in my room, playing Sims 2. That I was enjoying myself, not minding what I thought was a “little too strong downpour,” while many lives around me were ruined, caught by the Deluge!
Deluge becomes a key word here. Papa objected to my use of the word, of course, even as we talked about this. My parents are quite unnerved whenever things like the end of the world are brought up. (Maybe that’s where I inherit my strong fear of death.) And yet, I countered: isn’t the end of the world happening all the time? For those hit by Ondoy, it was, literally, the end of their world. Their houses collapsed, their families sundered, loved ones dead, their lives shaken, forever changed–everything that the had known was wiped out.
Now, I do not know whether I am merely imagining this or not, but people are preparing against this incoming Deluge. We are taking every means necessary to prevent exactly that: the end of the world, the wiping out of everything dear to us. We are storing things, taking things down, bracing our walls, bolting our doors. This is prudence. This is putting our best foot forward, hurling all our strength in front to meet the crashing winds and the heavy rains head-on.
And yet, I wonder: what about those who have nothing in their coffers, those who do not have walls, those who live below us? What of them? How are they to prepare themselves? What are they going to prepare?
Thunder roars even as I write. The skies darken. The rain, we have been told, is about to begin.
Perhaps it is just as well that we have been caught offguard, disturbed. Like an unwanted guest knocking in the middle of the night, the incoming storm awakens us, reminds us that wide and strong and high though our homes are, there is a world outside, and that this world, thrown open against the mercy of the unforgiving storm, is to drown yet again.
We have been called by an Other. Are we to let those outside be? Are we to be prudent and lock our doors?
After the Ondoy incident, a classmate (you know who you are) told me of a story that both amused and amazed me. Having learned of the ravages the storm caused in the area of M–, he went out of his way, driving to the area if only to be sure that his loved one was alright. Upon hearing this, the first thought that crossed my head was: well, supposing the flood there were too high, what could my classmate have done for so-and-so?
But perhaps it is enough that he went out. Having gone through the storm of this–and I can say it now–past semester, I have heard, I have seen, both in books and in experiences, how it is important to make that choice, to make that commitment, to make that risk. One must engage not only himself, but also his community: this is what Christianity means. This is what hope means. To hope is not to be solipsistic: it is to respond to the call of an Other, and to hope in that Other. “I hope in Thee for us”–it is not “I hope for me.” A You and an Us are involved.
We must take the risk of getting blasted by the storm, as long as we are able to find our way outside our own selves. We must break the walls of our identity, our limit-ation (the strength of Stoicism), and win our way back to the others. We must remember that our loved ones, our friends, our neighbors, and our brothers are outside. At the least let us speak to them of this: of hope, of love. At the least let us hold hands.
In the face of this incoming storm, perhaps this is what we must do: we must open the doors.