Five Things I Learned(And Regretted) from Disasters

I took off my headphones and said goodbye to Ellen DeGeneres’ channel on YouTube. I was starving and I bet Ellen wouldn’t want her fans to starve. Stepping out of the study, I found my family to be all busy, despite the national holiday in honor of Muslims: Mom’s sweeping off fallen leaves in the yard; my sister taking over the shower; my brother and Hulk both flying off in the land of dreams. It was eight o’clock in the morning and everyone was having a normal day. Not pretty normal though minutes after. All I remember now is a loud noise like no other and being tossed as if gravity gone wild.

30 seconds of shaking with a magnitude of 7.2; stronger than that of Haiti’s they say.  When the ground shook, every one of us in the compound went on our lawns, either lying flat on the grass or squatting. I struggled to remain up on my feet while cradling my nephew in my arms, both of us hugged by my sister. Looking back, there really is something more to a scary aftermath.

1. Second chances and more.
We all give thanks to a number of things, but many of us take some things for granted, such as a brand new day, slightest movement of our body, awkward smiles and glances from others, and tiny moments we spend with our loved ones. We could simply lose touch with our surroundings thinking, consciously or not, that there will always be tomorrow or next time.

Unfortunately, that isn’t really the case for all of us.We don’t always have tomorrow at our expense; we only have now.

When I saw the news, the total damage of the earthquake sunk in and I thought that corpse could have easily been mine–me who had accomplished nothing worthwhile to the society and lived unhappily, full of what ifs. I already feel extremely blessed for being alive even after all life threatening events, especially that recent earthquake. I can only think that it means I haven’t fulfilled what God wanted me to do, that there’s a whole lot more in store for me, because ultimately, if He wills it, then so be it. As the granny living next to our house told me, “If it’s our time, then it is so wherever we’ll be.”

So to us still breathing, let’s all take our chances at life and, as Marcus Aurelius and Mahatma Gandhi say, live as if it were our last.

2. Say what you need to say (John Mayer got it right).
I remember the morning of that earthquake so vividly. Me whining for breakfast, and then going back to sleep after mom asked me to set the table. I got scolded of course. First she asked me to pick up something downtown and I downright said no. Then she asked me to have the table ready for breakfast and I turned away, heading back to sleep. (What an awesome daughter you have,mom!)

I had my reasons then, and now they don’t count. Not at all. I should’ve just said yes, and maybe we could have had a bit in our stomach before camping out in our lawn. And my mom wouldn’t have to waste energy on me.

That’s all in the past now, but just..just a thought. Had I died in that earthquake, the last words I would have said would be “Breakfast is ready”, and the last words I would have heard would be those of mom’s disappointment slash anger.

Thankfully, we are still alive. Things can still change for the better. That’s what the living is for: to make the world a better place to live. So I learned to not leave things unsaid if I’m gonna regret doing so; to not speak hurtful words because it’s way too harmful than a fist; to speak nicely because it warms hearts; to be honest at all times,on edge or not; and, to dutiful do my mom’s errands.

3. Water makes the world go round.
Having been subjected to no power nor water for days since the shaking, everyone in my neighborhood agrees that it’s rather okay to have none of the former than that of the latter. We can find substitutes for light or air conditioning, but not with water.

There wasn’t any water days after that–except for the sea fronting our house–so none of us could go on with the usual chores. Sure we have all sorts of liquids to keep us dehydrated, but water has its own taste that quenches thirst.  Potable water was only available in the next city and at a very high demand. It was a huge sigh of relief whenever the authorities would turn the main water generating system on.

There used to be tons of deep wells in this town, but as a precautionary measure to the increase in the population of kids, they were all closed or blocked. Yet, I don’t think it would be a good source especially after calamities. Think about living a medieval way in a 21st  century. That would’ve been perfectly fine.

4. Internet and gadgets aren’t really overrated.
I was born to a mobile phone and internet era, technology boosting all over the world. I have been living through technology at (probably)it’s finest.

I spent some five months this year without a phone and that was completely fine since I was with my family, but heck, I thought the internet is indispensable. I work for a living and study online, of course it would be so. At times of great trouble, it becomes even more indispensable.

The same thing can really be said of mobile phones, tablets, or whatnot. You’d probably think otherwise if you have your family, immediate relatives and loved ones around you, but if they were miles away, then you’d understand why there’s a need to have the worldwide web in your hands and your gadgets fully charged. Well some people would be zombie-like, worrying about their relatives’ whereabouts.

Internet and gadgets are also a way of getting news,updates and most importantly, help. We lost electricity right when the earthquake started until the next day. It was really uncomfortable–no means of news, communication or whatsoever–but I know it’s worse in other areas so my family, neighbors and I could only be even more thankful.

5. Have faith and believe. 
Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me! For my soul trusts in You; and in the shadow of Your wings I will make refuge, until these calamities have passed by” Psalm 57:1

Philippines is known for being a Catholic country, and my island is deeply religious. In times of great need and joy, we turn to the Father and give praise. He strengthens us in ways I couldn’t imagine. In Him we find the courage to stand, face our trials, and move on.

We were all even more thankful when different organizations and countries pledged donations with their desire to help us rebuild and start all over again. It is very touching that even amidst all the great chaos and world problems, they look at us and offer help. I know we wouldn’t be able to thank you enough, but all efforts to help my country will always be remembered and treasured. We will definitely pay it forward.


As I’m posting this, I know many have already lost their homes, livelihood, and the lives of their loved ones not just from the earthquake but also from typhoon Haiyan. My thoughts and prayers are with them. 


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