Psalms for the West Philippine Sea
As we Filipinos observe and ponder the meaning of Holy Week and make our own distinct commemoration of Jesus’ passion, death and resurrection, I take liberty in drawing from the psalms in the Bible some lines and themes that resonate with our own cries, the Filipino fishermen’s particularly, as they navigate with trepidation the West Philippine Sea now being claimed by Goliath. I also take liberty in paraphrasing some lines to echo our own common lamentations—with apologies to Bible scholars.
Psalm 104:25-35 “Here is the ocean, vast and wide, teeming with life of every kind, both large and small./See the ships sailing along, and Leviathan, which you made to play in the sea./They all depend on you to give them food as they need it./
When you supply it, they gather it. You open your hand to feed them, and they are richly satisfied./
“But if you turn away from them, they panic./When you take away their breath, they die and turn again to dust…/…let the wicked disappear forever.”
Psalm 7 (paraphrased) O Lord, my God, I come to you for protection; rescue us and save us from the Chinese vessels that pursue us,/like sea monsters they will carry us off where no one can save us, and tear us to pieces./O Lord, my God, we have wronged no one or without cause done violence to those who seize what are ours, our harvest from the sea./Rise in your anger, O Lord! Stand up against the greed and power of our enemies, rouse yourself and help us!/Justice is what you demand,/so bring together all the peoples around you, and rule over them from above./
You are the judge of all people. Judge in our favor, O Lord; you know what we need… you know our thoughts and desires./Stop the wickedness of evildoers and reward those who are good./ God, you are our protector, save those who obey you./You are a righteous judge and always condemn the wicked./If they do not change their ways, God, sharpen your sword. Bend your bow and make it ready/
take up your deadly weapons and aim your burning arrows./
See how wicked people think up evil; they plan trouble and practice deception./
But in the traps they set for others, they themselves get caught./So they are punished by their own evil and are hurt by their own violence./I thank the Lord for his justice; I sing praises to the Lord, the Most High.
Psalm 27 (paraphrased) The Lord is our light and our salvation; we will fear no one. The Lord protects us from foreign sea vessels that drive us away from our fishing grounds. We will never be afraid./When evil people attack us, they will drown in deep waters./Even if a whole army surrounds us, we will not be afraid./In times of trouble, God will protect us and keep us safe in his temple,/and make us secure on a high rock in the sea./
Do not turn your servants away. You have been our help, do not abandon us, our God, our savior./Do not hide yourself from us! Teach us, Lord, what you want us to do, and lead us along a safe path in the sea, because we have many enemies who attack us with guns and threats./We will not despair, we will trust you, Lord, always.
Make us triumph over our oppressors. With shouts of joy we will offer sacrifices in your temple overlooking the vast ocean./We will sing, we will praise the Lord!
I conjure up a Via Dolorosa, Stations of the Cross dotting the howling West Philippine Sea, and on a craggy hill a lighthouse ablaze against the darkening sky.
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