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December 22, 2011

Give Christmas Away: Sendong and its Victims

Is it Wrong to Celebrate Christmas Knowing How People in Cagayan de Oro are Suffering?  a blog post by Sale Mallari

“And so this is christmas” wrote John Lennon.

Merry christmas was all over the song, but the irony of it is that images of death, war, and poverty was shown in the background video.

I am reminded of this song again four days ’til the BIG DAY! This image of a man carrying the dead body if his young child stayed in my head like stain that even when I have seen it so many times, it still brings me to tears.

How can we as a nation celebrate this most beloved holiday? We are known for laughing and joking even at the worse tragedies. But now, nobody can joke about it anymore. Our humor is no match to the gloom of people’s weeping, wailing and desperation which led many to loose their sanity.

I was thinking, is it a right to spend and party and continue on business as usual while one island in Cagayan De Oro was virtually wiped away from the map? Knowing of – a man who was the lone survivor of a clan composed of thirty people?  a mother escaping from the rising flood  and unaware that her child was already drowning? (Now she stares in empty space);  thousands of people who lost everything now struggle to survive? With these images, can I still dare say Merry Christmas?

Before falling into a fatal trance called “guilt trip” that only I have inflicted upon myself, CS Lewis came to the rescue. I was today reminded of an article  or sermon he wrote/preache in the 1930s advent of World War II ( CS Lewis was a professor in a prestigious college in England, Oxford if I am not mistaken and known for writing Chronicles of Narnia, of course). A fellow professor challenged the idea of learning during war. What’s the use? With what’s at hand, there is no guarantee it will be finished.

CS Lewis responded that death is always around us everyday. War only makes it so much close and real (something like that as I try to understand his argument amidst nosebleed). “There has never been a time when there were no crises, alarms, difficulties, and emergencies.” (Tama!) “The problem with war is that it aggravates the human situation, which is that we were not made for this world, but for eternity, and one day we will leave this world for our real destination.” He concluded therefore that yes, we should continue learning in wartime.

For me the lesson applied also to celebrating christmas. We celebrate birthdays, anniversaries and milestones while everyday people suffer of cancer, children and infants die of curable diseases, women and kids get traficked as sex slaves and so much atrocities happen every minute right in the very city we are in. I never said “Oh I can’t go to graduation today because a million people suffered genocide in Rwanda.”

Sendong, once again, simply aggravated our situation… that we are not made for this world, but for eternity. All things shall pass. But take heart, God is preparing for us a place where there will be no sickness, emptiness, calamity or death. He will wipe away our tears.

Ondoy, Pedring and Sendong are just some of the profile pictures and photo albums of humanity’s FB page with a status that read “You are not home.” Only with the assurance of God’s saving grace through Jesus can I ever have the nerve to click “like” and comment “I can’t wait to get to heaven. Come soon Lord!”

So to answer my question… Will I be at fault to celebrate Christmas with people in CDO suffering. “No, Sale, you wont!”. Is it wrong? “No, not at all”. What’s always wrong is to celebrate Christmas without recognizing Christs’ work. In relation to CDO, what’s wrong is to simply look the other way and say “that’s none of my business” “leave it to the experts.. the government… foundations.. red cross. What’s wrong is to do nothing, share nothing, pray nothing. What’s wrong is to look at what happened and easily forget.

Now that the country is declared to be in the national state of calamity, we are to face this as a nation. We are called to do our best and give these people some reason to never say die. To do our part in making it hard for them to quit and easier  to pick up the pieces. To be a family to at LEAST one who lost a loved one by giving what we can, as much as we can, and even sometimes, until it hurts.

Acel Van Ommen wrote a song with a line that says:

Sama-sama tayong lilipad, haharap sa ating bukas…

… At sama-sama nating itatayo ang bawat isa!

You’re so right Acel! Hindi tayo malulugmok sa kahirapan! Dalin natin ang pasko sa CDO sa pamamagitan ng ating panalangin, regalo, at walang sawang kwento para maabot yung may kakayanang tumulong. Huwag natin silang kalimutan. Isama natin sila sa selebrasyon.

So, with four days to go.. allow me to be one of the first to greet you “Merry Christmas!” In Jesus name. Amen.”


FYI: Victory Greenhills will be having a special Christmas Eve offering. All proceeds would go to help the victims of typhoon Sendong. We have a Victory church in Cagayan de Oro, Iligan and Dumaguete. Most of our brothers and sisters were greatly affected by the flood. Let us pray, give and stand with our brothers and sisters in this time of calamity.

Also here is a blog to help those who want to help victims of typhoon Sendong: