Stretching Forth our Hands in Typhoon Times

Fr. Emmanuel Borelli, SX | 6 November, 2020 – Marikina, MetroManila (The Philippines)

The night between 11 and 12 November typhoon Ulysses hit us. It was not so much the intensity of the wind as the huge amount of rain released in few hours that caused once again the Marikina River to overflow. The river is only 78 km in length and collects water from the slopes of the Sierra Madre, the mountain range that runs along the east of Marikina Valley. During the rainy season this river oftentimes swells. However, this time the water level at Sto. Niño bridge in Marikina City climbed from 14 meters to an unprecedented level of 22 meters in just 14 hours.

Our parish, Our Lady of Guadalupe, situated in the outskirt of Marikina City along the riverbanks, house of more than one hundred thousand people, was also one among other areas which bore the brunt of this huge amount of raging water.

In September 2009, we went through the big flood brought by “Ondoy”, which was a real tragedy because of the many casualties and the huge damages to the whole city, including our small Chapels and offices. At that time, every old Marikeño folk could not recall having experienced something similar in their own life. Yet what happened few days ago, cannot anymore be considered an isolate instance occurring once in a century. Nevertheless, once more, people were caught unprepared, overwhelmed by a powerful sense of bewilderment and helplessness.

Ulysses has left a trail of destruction all around. We did not experience as many casualties as during “Ondoy”, however the damage in terms of properties is huge. Apart from the building and infrastructures, nothing has been spared from the invading muddy water: furniture, utensils, clothes, shoes, equipment, vehicles, food, paper, toys, everything was wrapped in dirty destructive water. After the water subsided, a layer of mud was covering everything creating a ghostly landscape. Nature as well was smeared with mud. Despite our precautions we could not save our Parish office and all the chapels paraphernalia of the parish. Sacred images have been ruined, vestments and sacred vessels stained, Only the iron gates prevented our statues and pews to be “dragged” to the streets. In the office our three personal computers are gone together with the Xerox copy machine.

People are now cleaning everywhere with any possible means and try to recover their things from heaps of mud and rubbish while waiting with confidence that pay-loaders and dump trucks will come soon. A chain of solidarity to bring relief has immediately started. As Xaverians, once more in the heart of the battle field we are trying to do our part by receiving and conveying help to the people in need through the leaders of the Basic Ecclesial Communities.

And on November the 15th, the World Fourth Day of the Poor, we have found ourselves again in the need of stretching forth our hands to the poor, as brothers among brothers, and not as saviors of the abandoned, well aware of our own need for an outstretched hand. And, indeed, how many outstretched hands have we seen all these days, all of which make up a great litany of good works.

We repeat that the Church certainly has no comprehensive solutions to propose for these calamities and natural disasters, but by the grace of Christ she can offer her witness and her gestures of charity. Even without bringing anything, people are thanking us for being near to them, in these tragedies as well. In these days of daily encounter with the suffering and the deprived, Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mother of the poor, is ever at our side. Hope is there as well, likewise the awareness that another typhoon may come to visit us.

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