DINAGAT DIARY, Day 3: The ‘Tour’

January 4, 2022

Our goal for today is to visit the remaining four towns: Loreto, Tubajon, Libjo and Basilisa. We started our day with a mass at the parish. It was timely that the gospel talks about the multiplication of the bread. The disciples were overwhelmed with the food crisis they were facing and proposed human solutions which Jesus rejected. For them, it was impossible to find solution to this problem. And yet, for Jesus everything is possible with faith in God. 

The problem of the lack of food is made even worse with the lack of faith. In my homily, I exhorted the people to keep on holding to their faith. There may be human and practical solutions in our problems today but with faith, there is a lens that sees beyond the problem.

I was amazed to see the faith of the people, especially those who attended the mass. After all that they had suffered and endured, they are still standing there, praising the Lord. Faith does not eliminate the suffering but measures how much we love. 

As we journeyed around the whole island province today, I witnessed the overall impact of the typhoon and heard the many sad stories of the people. It was I who needed badly my faith in seeing the many sufferings of the people. I thank the Lord upon realizing that the people of the towns of Loreto, Tubajon and Libjo did not suffer much like those in Dinagat, San Jose and Cagdianao. 

Bald and brown mountains. Photo by Fr. Raymond Montero Ambray

Some parts of the mountains in the north of the island remained green. Despite being hit also by the typhoon, people tried to move forward in a business-as-usual atmosphere. It is becoming clear that those who bear the brunt of “Odette” are those vulnerable coastal communities. We can now allocate appropriate aid for these communities while continuing our help to the general public. Following the mind of my bishop, those affected most deserve our best help.

Upon coming back to our base in Cagdianao, I remembered looking for my parishioners in San Jose. It only took us few inquiries until I found them. The family resided in a makeshift house or what was left of their house. Annie was from Sumo-sumo (my parish) who married Jimmy from San Jose. They have five children, three are out of the island while the two are with them. She was so happy to see me. And I almost cried when I met her. It was as if I had found my lost sheep. I did not hesitate to give her immediately one sack of rice and two bags of assorted goods. I was quite embarrassed in front of her neighbors that I told her to share with them also what she received. I mused on the thought that what she received literally came from the donations of my parishioners. In this way, the church became the bridge of people’s generosity and the people in need. It is as if the people of Sumo-sumo shared their own resources to help their very own neighbor in need.

Before heading back to the base, we intentionally passed by again the area where there is a little network signal. I sent more information to the coming team of Bishop Dael. We need to focus our help in the areas of Dinagat, San Jose, Basilisa, Cagdianao and those coastal communities. During dinner, I finally met Fr. Nick, the parish priest of Cagdianao. He risked coming back here from Surigao in order to catch up with us. The small boat he was boarding almost capsized due to overloading. He was so consoled upon seeing us that he did not hesitate to tell us that he needed badly a break. I totally understand his need for even I,  who saw the (devastation) for only a day, felt the need also to go back to the comfort of my parish assignment. 

The ‘tour’ of the islands enabled me to see the wrath of Odette. But to see green amidst the brown canvass of the mountains is enough hope to find vitality of life. No matter how worst the event is, there is always the goodness that will remain undefeated. I started to see this goodness amidst the suffering in the help that comes from the different fronts and sectors. The worst thing that happens in our world is not the destruction brought by the calamities but the failure to recognize our one humanity. Odette may have brought the worst in our material treasure but nonetheless restored our humanity. I am forever grateful to all the donors who put their trust in me and made me a bridge to help the suffering humanity.

TOMORROW: Duyog-Ambit

(MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews Fr. Raymond Montero Ambray heads the Ecology Desk of the Diocese of Tandag. He is a graduate of MA Anthropology at the Ateneo de Davao University, a member of the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines and a founding member of Caraga Watch, an environmental watchdog. He is part of the think tank of the Bishop of Tandag on IP Apostolate, formation on Environment and the Historical Commission. This diary was first published on his FB page. MindaNews was granted permission to publish this.)