It was Christmas Eve 2014 and the day’s itinerary was Basey and Marabut, Western Samar. “What surprises has God in store for me?” I wondered. While waiting for the jeepney to fill up, I looked around the terminal and took random pictures.
Then I saw a heap and asked a lady seated nearby what it was. She said it was the house built for their family after Yolanda. It collapsed like a house of cards under typhoon Ruby’s relentless downpour and strong winds for over two days.
“So, where do you live?” I asked.
She pointed behind her: “This is where we stay for now.”
She ekes out a living with her five children by selling bottles of mineral water, soft drinks and iced tea to travellers. They keep their products cool in a Styrofoam chiller and the children help peddle the drinks at the terminal and elsewhere as early as 3:00 AM. Sometimes they earn enough for food.
I would have wanted to listen more to their story but the conductor called me to come. It was time for the jeepney to leave for Basey, Samar.
How can a family of seven fit in what appears to be a 12 x 6 sq. ft. structure? Do the children go to school? What if there is another typhoon?
Still wondering why this family had not been helped sufficiently, I noticed an old lady in front of me. I surreptitiously took her photo, pretending to capture the passing scenery behind her. The look on her face never changed.
I noticed her hardworking hands, the strength of her shoulders, her far-away look, and her sad, sad eyes.
What anguish has she gone through?
Does she have somewhere to lay her head at night?
Will she be safe and warm when it rains?
Does she have enough to eat?
Is there someone for her?
An elderly lady sat in front of her house and smiled as I passed by. I took a snap and showed it to her.
They built her a new house after Yolanda. But now, she lives alone. She tries to be content though, because some of her children live nearby and they bring her food.
I asked how old she is and she said: “Sixty.”
Surprised, I took another photo.
“No, that’s not true,” she said smiling, “I can’t remember anymore…”
Three ladies. All mothers. Valiant women who have suffered the fury of Yolanda, of Ruby and the many storms of life.
What goes on in their mind? in their heart?
What is their story? Who will tell it? Will we listen?
If what St. Therese said is true: “The loveliest masterpiece of the heart of God is the heart of a mother,” why are mothers often abandoned, neglected, ignored?
Pope Francis in his recent general audience observed: “All of us give credit to our mothers for life and many other things, but not always are they listened to or helped in everyday life…Their important contribution to the life of society, their daily sacrifices and their aspirations are not always properly appreciated.”
“It is they, mothers, who often give the first roots of the faith, the ones that permeate deepest; without them not only would the faithful be lost, but also a good part of the deepest fire of our faith,” he explained.
Look at the faces of these women, etched with the passage of time, with concern, with sacrifice, even with martyrdom.
What do you see?
How do they speak to you? to your heart?
What will you do?