Between ‘Nona’ and Pia
What a week it has been for many Filipinos: An almost-ringside view of heart-rending, heart-pounding happenings that have something to do with what we are, who we are, where we are. Here at home, scenes of the post-Typhoon “Nona” devastation in many parts of Eastern Visayas and Southern and Central Luzon. On the other side of the globe, the Miss Universe pageant in Las Vegas that culminated in Miss Philippines Pia Wurtzbach’s crowning as 2015 Miss Universe 2015 (after a 42-year drought), but only after the wrong announcement of winners was corrected and the crown was transferred from first runner-up Miss Colombia’s head to Pia’s.
From gloom to glitter. A roller-coaster ride, indeed, if we take to heart these media banner events—one exposing helplessness and poverty in the face of nature’s wrath, the other a display of pulchritude, poise and grit (and skin, too) amidst pressure and before the eyes of the world. Just now, and in the run-up to Christmas at that, we are bracketed by these two events—a threat-come-true named Nona with the resulting death and destruction that were no surprise at all, and a victory treat named Pia that was no surprise either except for the surreal twist, courtesy of pageant host Steve Harvey’s bad eyesight, or whatever.
The post-Nona images of flattened and submerged homes, felled trees and human beings standing tall despite loss of loved ones and livelihood are images so familiar and so Filipino one can’t help but think that we are indeed world-class in the coping department. Are we made of steel?
Right now I think of Pope Francis’ visit to Tacloban and the hundreds of thousands who flocked to his Mass on that wind-swept day last January, how the people who survived Supertyphoon “Yolanda” in 2013 braved the threatening winds and stood in the pouring rain to be one in prayer and thanksgiving. An image of triumph, indeed, that did not escape the eye of the Pontiff’s heart.
Last week’s Nona reminds me of typhoons past that struck during the Christmas season and all but erased the shimmer and glow in the Filipinos’ most beloved season.
Pia’s triumph last Monday has brought ecstasy, most especially to those who had long cheered her on, the beauty and fitness advocates especially who hone and chisel beauty a certain way; it also brought cheer even to those of us simple folk who think of beauty in many out-of-the-box, alternative ways because Pia represented the Filipino on the world stage.
I leave the debate on the relevance of beauty pageants and titles for another day. I also leave Pia’s reply to the question on US military presence in the Philippines (she said, “I have no problem with that…”) for her to further reflect on. It was her opinion, informed or not. Sen. Miriam Santiago’s message to her: “We need to talk.”
And on Harvey’s boo-boo? It’s raining suggestions, from funny to serious, among them good reading glasses, poster-size list of winners, more than one reader to silently read the card before announcement, a legal suit (for causing trauma to Miss Colombia), exposing so-called beauty academies, what goes on inside beauty pageants and their franchise holders, etc.
For some brief moments, those who watched the Miss U pageant forgot the war in Syria, the terror that visited Paris, the continuing terrorist threats, the climate change accord that should compel nations to shape up and clean up, and here at home, except for those who were directly affected—that is, the uprooted, bereaved, hungry, homeless, desperate—we momentarily forgot what Nona has wrought. And Typhoon “Onyok,” too, which hovered before it decided to spare us, the farms and the trees.
A college classmate and dear friend, now a nun of the Contemplatives of the Good Shepherd who is based in Connecticut, gave me two books of poems by Mary Oliver, “Evidence” and “House of Light.” This Christmas Eve, may I share Oliver’s poem, “The Trees.”
Do you think of them as decoration?
Here are maples, flashing./And here are the oaks, holding on all winter to their dry leaves./And here are the pines that will never fail,/ until death, the instruction of green./And here are the willows, the first to pronounce a new year.
May I invite you to revise your thoughts about them?/Oh, Lord, how we are all for invention and advancement!/But I think/it would do us good if we would think about/these brothers and sisters, quietly and deeply.
The trees, the trees, just holding on/to the old, holy ways.
I have been cocooning since last week so as not to add to the pandemonium in the streets. How has Christmas come to this?
May your Christmas be warm, aglow in its simplicity.
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