By Bro Willie Simbul, RCD NELuzon
My wife Beverly’s family migrated here in Isabela in the Cagayan Valley region way back in the late 1940s, and they could all attest to the rare occurrence of destructive weather disturbances of catastrophic proportions. It was only in the recent decade that people from this part of our country had experienced the wrath of killer typhoons, among which was the infamous “Harurot” in 2004. What “Ondoy” and “Pepeng” were last year to Metro Manilans and Pangasinenses, respectively, so, too, was “Harurot” to Isabelinos, when it unleashed its fury causing weeklong brownouts and damage to property in region-wide proportions.
When the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) raised the Category 5 Typhoon Signal No. 4 for Typhoon Juan (international codename: Megi) on Sunday, October 17, not a single person took it lightly. As a Christian community, BCBP Santiago City Chapter continued with all its weekend spiritual activities, 3rd Friday assembly and 3rd Saturday joint breakfast. We even managed to trek to our Nueva Vizcaya outreach to monitor their MANCOM-mandated team building activities, with BCBP Las Piñas’ Hermy Rodil facilitating.
Then came Sunday evening, with the mass media blaring out all necessary typhoon warnings on all fronts. It was a consolation that the Nuestra Señora de Peñafrancia was currently “visiting” our St. James Parish this whole month of the Holy Rosary. As the predicted landfall in Isabela midday of Monday, October 18, approached, everyone took seriously the government’s advice to undertake precautionary measures. No vehicles plied the highway, so the lull, the ‘period of wait’ for the imminent storm, was just too menacing for comfort. To save on cellphone charges in anticipation of an impending extended brownout, we reduced texting and voice calling to a minimum during those tense hours.
It was then that Beverly and I decided to light a candle and pray the rosary after a late morning lunch, while anxiously waiting for “Juan”. We were alone by ourselves at home since our two children were already working in Manila and our housemaid hadn’t come back from weekend day-off. The silence of the threatening surroundings inspired us to go into reflective prayer.
We had learned this way of prayer as taught by Fr. Herb during the recent National Leaders’ Retreat in Tagaytay City, a way of praying the Rosary wherein we share with each other our reflections at the beginning of each of the Mysteries of the Rosary. We hadn’t prayed this way before, but there was so much reason to be as contemplative as we could be as we waited for the storm to hit, and we had all the time to pray this way.
Monday’s Rosary Mysteries were the Joyful Mysteries. The situation certainly did not merit any joyful feeling, but the Holy Spirit just inspired us along. The first mystery, the Annunciation, taught us to be as receptive to our Lord’s message through Angel Gabriel as Mary was. This made us reflect on the text messages coming from different bishops, exhorting everyone to pray to God for miraculous intervention regarding Juan.
For the second mystery, the Visitation, we took note of those people in need amidst the storm, those who didn’t have strongly-built houses that would be vulnerable to the typhoon’s fury, the farmers who hadn’t completed harvesting their crops, and since we are both doctors, those whose health may be affected. This mystery also led us to reflect on our own recent visits to the wake and burial of three significant persons in our lives in a span of only three weeks. They were Fr. Romy Gonzales, our university president (whose burial coincided with the NLR that’s why we missed it), followed by Bro. Didi Perez, our BCBP godfather, and very recently Dr. Acosta, one of our very first doctor-friends when we started our medical practice here in Santiago City in 1986.
The mystery of the Nativity made us realize the proximity of the Christmas holidays with the fervent wish that the true meaning of Christ’s birthday, that of giving love as He did, might not be erased from people’s minds, even after the typhoon has gone, notwithstanding whatever its effects will be.
At the fourth mystery, the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple, we realized that we need to keep the unrelenting attitude displayed by Simeon and Anna, in our present-day quest for the universal call to holiness, that challenges in life may not make us lose our zeal and passion for Christ.
The fifth mystery, the Loss and Finding of Jesus in the Temple, became very meaningful as Beverly reflected on how we might get lost amidst the typhoon… lost in our sense of direction because of setbacks in livelihood, health, property, among others. And we asked God to grant us a guiding spirit to help us mend our ways and outlook in life, to have a clearer mind to find Him always present in our lives, ready to answer our prayers, if only we keep Him in our own faithful and grateful hearts, that are temples of the Holy Spirit.
As we completed our reflective rosary prayers, the first gusts of strong winds were felt. But would you believe it if we say that soon we experienced a sense of serenity amidst the fury of Juan? Thank God, not so much damage has been reported here in Santiago City, Isabela. And with my monitoring of our Tuguegarao and Aparri BCBP members, their leaders have affirmed what we all had come to believe – that God had held us all under the mantle of His protection throughout the storm.