• Moving forward

    Tita Valderama

    Tita Valderama

    WHEN monster Typhoon Yolanda (known as Haiyan outside the Philippines) came on November 8, my family was still deeply mourning the loss of our beloved sister. It was a long and fierce fight against cancer that nearly drained us all emotionally, physically, and financially. But it was a two-year, hard-fought battle that enriched us spiritually and drew us closer to each other.

    Looking at pictures and video footage of Yolanda’s devastation somehow made us appreciate more the blessings that we have. We may have lost our sister, who stood as surrogate parent to us 10 siblings even when our parents were still around, but we still have each other, our jobs, and our homes, much unlike most of those who survived Yolanda’s fury.

    If I were in the situation of teenage survivor Rebecca who was extricated from the ruble of their house, surrounded by members of her family who had died during the storm, I would have wished that I had also perished.

    The passing of my sister had already left me depressed. I would have gone crazy if a disaster of Yolanda’s magnitude would hit me hard as it did those in Leyte and Samar.

    When my sister was diagnosed with gingival squamous cell carcinoma, a rare type of cancer in the oral cavity, I initially questioned God’s wisdom for giving a good person like her such a disease, and at a terminal stage already when found out.

    Why not just me? No one depends on me to live; I have no children to be orphaned. My closest friends tried to console me with words that the ailment was given to my sister because she could handle it.

    And then, what came to mind were my father’s words when he was in deep pain for what looked like lung cancer (the doctor said the signs were there but he was not diagnosed because he could no longer stand the biopsy procedure) before he died in 1996. One day before he breathed his last, he told us not to pity him because of the pains he was suffering. He said felt blessed for having been given the opportunity to share in the sufferings of Jesus Christ.

    When my sister was experiencing extreme pain, when morphine was barely working to ease the pain in her head, she said she was keeping those words of wisdom in mind.

    After her passing, I draw inspiration from the sufferings of the survivors of Super Typhoon Yolanda; they who were in far worse situations. While we have lost our dearly beloved Ate to cancer, I feel truly blessed for having been given such a wonderful, dedicated, responsible, strong woman as Ate.

    At least we were given two years and two months to take care of her, to show our love for her, and we managed to give her a decent burial. Many of those who lost relatives and friends to Yolanda’s wrath did not have those chances, and they have yet to find the bodies of their dead.

    Yolanda indeed left behind so many heart-breaking stories of survival and failures, stories about the bayanihan spirit and finger-pointing, and stories of oneness and divisiveness.

    We should learn from those stories. We should draw inspiration from stories about our compatriots whose untiring efforts to help in the rescue and relief activities, in recovering decaying bodies that littered the streets, in putting up temporary shelters, and in providing psychological counseling to ease the sufferings of traumatized survivors.

    From this time onward, we should not forget what a storm surge is; how it pounds and swallows the entire neighborhood. We should all do our share in keeping our environment clean.

    Storms do not come unannounced, unlike death that many times come without warnings.

    We can no longer afford to take storm warnings for granted. We should be involved in heeding the call of the times to mind our environment. We cannot allow the lessons from Yolanda’s wrath go for naught.

    It will be extremely difficult for the survivors, particularly those whose family breadwinners had perished in the storm surge, to move on and move forward. But there is no better choice. They cannot be wallowing in desolation and self-pity for long.

    With the outpouring support from all over the world, and with words of encouragement from those unaffected by the storm, we can help make the road to recovery for them less difficult.

    When my sister passed on 50 days ago, the pain seemed unbearable. Our family’s ship lost its captain. But with little help from one another, we are learning to keep the ship sailing.

    Days before her passing, I resolved to have selective thinking. I wanted to think only of things that could cheer me up. I did not want to be more depressed. I needed to boost my morale.

    But then, just after finalizing the arrangements for my sister’s wake and cremation, we heard on the radio about a 7.2-magnitude earthquake that mainly hit Bohol province, destroying old churches, homes, public buildings and roads.

    Three weeks later, Yolanda came with unparalleled might and fury, leaving more than 5,000 people dead and at least 2,000 more missing.

    Our sadness is nothing compared with the sufferings of the victims of these two of the worst disasters that hit parts of the country.

    Their sufferings make me realize how blissful my life has been. They inspire me to move on and move forward.

    By the way, Ate Edith would have turned 60 years old yesterday, December 1. She had a life well lived. She must be having a grand party up there with her husband and our parents.


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    1. Conrad Mendoza on

      I learned a lot from Ms. Valderama. I am a Filipino –American for almost 40 years now. I am very close to my family: four sisters and two brothers in the Philippines.
      When I talked to them I do not appreciate their positive outlook in life. After 41 years of living here in my adopted country, my problem the size of the mole feels like Mount Everest.

      I need new ideas and new outlook in life. Your narrative of courage, love and positive outlook is an inspiration for all. You made my day. Thank you and please continue to write.

      Conrad B. Mendoza

    2. Gloria M/ Kuizon on

      Empathy with Columnist Tita Valderrama
      Many of us human beings have had family tragedies like that experienced by Ms. Valderrama.
      I wish more people would feel the way she does in relation to disasters adn catastrophes suffered by others, like our fellow Filipinos in Leyte, Samar, Cebu and the other parts of the Visayas Typhoon Yolanda and earlier the earthquake devastated.
      But she can only have those thoughts because, I guess, she has a truly Christian conscience.
      –Gloria M. Kuizon