January 5, 2022
It was so timely that after the Mass, when we went to the ‘signal’ area, we received information that Bishop Raul Dael and his delegation is about to dock at the Dinagat port. Three of us priests (Richard, Nick and I) and Sr. Len went immediately to Fr. Joseph, the parish priest of Dinagat, and asked him to accompany us in fetching the Duyog-Ambit delegates.
We arrived there to welcome them, just as they were about to dock. I cannot understand my feeling then but seeing them disembarking the boat, I felt I had already accomplished my task here. Deep within I felt also that my family has arrived to rescue me.
In the two days that I stayed here, the devastation that I saw impacted on me also. The sorrowful stories of the people made me a secondary victim. Although I am sleeping at the house with a sturdy roof, enough water, and good food, still I empathize so much with those whose houses were totally destroyed or those who lost loved ones. That’s why even if I’m tired already I keep on working still for I know that my suffering is nothing compared to what they are undergoing right now.
Bishop Dael discerned well to call this relief operation as ‘Duyog-Ambit,’ a combination of two Cebuano words. ‘Duyog’ means ‘to join’ while ‘Ambit’ means ‘to share.’ Its context would mean ‘to join in the suffering of the people as we share.’
That is exactly my dominant feeling right now. I suffer due to the discomfort of leaving my parish, the difficulty of travel amidst uncertainties, and the guilt feeling of being unable to help enough. But I continue to share myself to these people because I know that they are in need of help.
It is said that ‘in times of crisis, friends don’t ask why, but how.’ Here in Dinagat, I felt that the world has shrunk, that we became one family. I felt concretely that the people I am trying to serve are my brothers and sisters. And I consider this a gift that I received amidst the suffering of the people.
I carried in my presence the presents of the people who wanted to help. Whenever I go, I don’t go alone because many people are with me, helping me with their prayers, cash donations, and goods. ‘Odette’ may have ravaged houses but also collapsed the walls of indifferences and arrogance.
When the superwind humbled the hapless victims here in the island, those untouched by the typhoon were moved also to give. Sometimes I ask how much suffering do we need to see in order to help? What would it take for us to share our blessings? Bishop Dael often said that ‘we give because we are blessed’ not that we give in order to be blessed.
The arrival of Duyog-Ambit delegates allowed me to see the beauty of my priesthood. I would never have experienced this one if not for the availability that priesthood has afforded me. The first act of the Duyog-Ambit was to celebrate Mass at the open ground at the back of the severely damaged church. Here I feel that no matter how many tasks we need to do, we always start with a prayer. And Bishop Dael used to say that ‘everything flows from worship.’
After our Mass, we proceeded then to the town of Cagdianao as our base. Bishop Dael and the clergy of Tandag are staying at the parish rectory while the sisters and the medical team at the house of the brother of Sr. Len. Most of the goods are ferried through the barge and were still on the way. Due to heavy downpour, we were limited in our activity except for the planning for the next day. We were helpless. The continuous rain enabled us to taste a little of what the people have suffered. Indeed, ‘Duyog-Ambit’ is real.
TOMORROW: Opportunity to Love
(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.)