That was an uplifting story we had last week about the women of Guiuan pulling themselves up by their bootstraps (Front Page, 2/27/14). Written by Danny Petilla, it told of how several women in one of the worst-hit places in Samar had refused to repose their fate in the kindness of strangers, also called relief-givers, but had banded together to form a small lending network. By means of which they have been able to support small businesses like sari-sari stores, selling fish, and making shell craft.
Gina Logatoc, 42, a housewife from Sulangan village, is one of their leaders. Refusing to lie down, she borrowed P5,000 from private lenders and put up a sari-sari store a few weeks after “Yolanda.” The experience gave her to see how the cost of borrowing was the only thing that was keeping the spirit of initiative at bay. “We are not lazy! We just need a little bit of help to start our own small business.”
Armed with that insight, she and her elder sister, Gertrudes, organized 30 women into a self-help group. As a collective, they’ve been able to negotiate better terms with commercial lenders and borrow from NGOs (the real ones), quite apart from pooling their resources. “We did not wait for relief, we did what we needed to do to help ourselves. Now if we can get some loans with zero-interest, that would be a great help to us.”
However their initiative turns out—and there’s no reason why it shouldn’t turn out exceptionally well with so exceptional an effort—they will already have won a no-small victory.
Kindred spirit is sprouting in other parts of the calamity-stricken south. People rising from crushing adversity—and “adversity” itself
belittles the ordeal the residents of Bohol, Leyte and Samar went through, in some cases involving not just the loss of entire homes and livelihoods but of entire families—is an awe-inspiring spectacle, and that spectacle is there to see. The cynical may say, “What else is there, they’ve got no choice but to go on,” but heroism is always a choice. There’s always the other choice of giving up and trusting in the mercy of God and the Department of Social Welfare and Development.
The people who gathered at Loon, Bohol, last week to greet President Aquino, the survivors of the earthquake and Yolanda, clearly chose the first path. They had stories to tell, grief to share, and no-small triumphs to parade before the world. A couple of stories gave a sense of it.
Tess Policarpio, 59, had a flourishing handicraft shop, employing several weavers who wove mats, carpets, bags, wallets, and other stuff from ticog, a type of grass that grew abundantly in Leyte, when Yolanda struck. The typhoon razed her shop down, destroying equipment and materials. Left with nothing to go on, she decided to leave for Manila. Of course she knew she was facing an uncertain future where she was going, but she knew as well that she was facing desperation in what she was leaving behind.
But lo and behold, just as she was packing, a couple of her weavers came around bringing with them some weaving materials. They had saved it during the storm, they said, knowing it would be their lifeline if they survived it. They begged Policarpio to stay, they themselves had no means to go elsewhere and would have no means to live on without weaving. Touched by their faith and courage and foresight, Policarpio relented.
They started all over, and lo and behold even more, they’ve managed to resurrect their shop enough to plan to hold an exhibit of their products in Manila. Policarpio’s spirits have not just revived, they have soared. “What I need is something long-term, and not just for myself but for all of us. Which is why I’m thinking of a trade fair. Once we get the orders, we’ll be fine, we’ll get back on our feet.”
The other story is that of Pedro Lacandazo, 57. Lacandazo lost 22 members of his extended family, including his wife, daughters, grandchildren, and a brother to Yolanda. He tried to save them but was pinned down by the howling winds, enduring the agony of seeing them disappear one by one and hearing their screams.
All the kagawad of his barangay (village) perished too, leaving him the most senior official there. Despite the epic tragedy that had befallen him, he pulled himself together, reminding himself there was the living to take care of. He plunged himself into his job in part to avoid plunging
into madness and in part to prevent his barangay from plunging into more misery. Doing things for others at a time of utter bereavement, he says, was what saved him. He figures he himself was spared death to serve his community.
All of them have just given a deeper, truer, meaning to “resilience,” a word so overused it has acquired a hollow ring. What it has really come down to is an ability to “move on,” in the sense that GMA’s bishops suggested we do after “Hello Garci.” That is to say, an ability to forgive and forget, an ability to endure and accept tragedy, an ability to take life’s trials and tribulations passively and, well, move on.
The examples above illuminate what resilience really means. It means recognizing that life goes on and being able to move on in the best sense of those phrases. It means feeling the depth of the deprivation, the agony of the bereft-ness, the anguish of the loss, but not giving up, not giving in to numbness and despair. It means being aware of arduousness, if not desperation, of the struggle, knowing adversity will keep knocking you down—particularly given that the future is rife with new calamities—but like Sisyphus continuing to climb the mountain, aware only that each step forward is a victory in itself. It means overcoming, surmounting, transcending death and destruction, and like Lacandazo finding in giving to others the only thing to make up for
losing one’s loved ones.
That is what it means, resilience.
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