We Will Rise


        Houses and buildings shaking violently. Panic-stricken residents running for safety outside in streets and open spaces. Fear and fright mixed with consternation and concern for loved ones. Death and devastation in the aftermath. Such were the vivid scenarios of the 7.2 earthquake that struck Central Visayas and other parts of Mindanao at 8:12 morning of October 15. A neighbor commented: “I thought it was the end of the world!” Another said: “Nawala akong poise!” (I lost my poise). Good thing, its timing was perfect. It was a holiday, students were home, morning masses were done and the malls were still to open. Otherwise, the harm could have been bigger.
          When natural disaster like this happens, we tend to lose our sense of control. We literally loose our poise because our survival mode takes over us. When the dust settles down, we are just thankful and blest we are still alive. Others, in fact, lost theirs. The saddest part of it, many families and communities especially in the province of Bohol suffered a greater damage in quality of life. They even lack the most basic such as food, water and medicine.
Cebuanos are quick to respond to the call of the moment. Though reeling from the same experience, many private organizations immediately conducted relief operations through donations in cash or in kind. The most notable is the campaign dubbed “#Bangon Sugbohol Movement,” a unified effort spearheaded by key business organizations, concerned individuals, institutions and non-profit groups in Cebu to raise funds to aid the earthquake victims. Today a benefit concert at 4 pm at the Ayala Terraces will kick off the campaign with over 20 bands, singers, choral groups and dance troupes performing.
#Bangon Sugbohol Movement is a social media-led campaign established by the Island Souvenir Group to unite the Sugbuanon givers. For organizers, this advocacy is a clear message that Cebuanos can set aside their respective business interest and unite for one meaningful cause. Jay Aldeguer, one of the key prime movers of the movement and CEO of the Island Group affirmed: “Yes, we’ve been set-backed but the rest of the Philippines and the world will see that Cebu and Bohol will rise from this fall.” Optimism fills this man and it is contagious!
Who would not feel down by what had happened? A day after that powerful tremor, I went to see the damage sustained by the centuries-old Basilica Minore del Sto. Nino. It was a disheartening sight. Its bell tower at the right collapsed with debris filling the entrance. The basilica is the first church established in our country. What is more heartbreaking? Ten of such national treasures in Cebu and Bohol were damaged just in a day. I asked myself, what is God’s message for us here? It happened precisely while the Philippine Conference on New Evangelization (PCNE) was about to start at the University of Sto. Tomas, Manila the day after.
While we are to reach out and help the victims of the earthquake, God is also telling us collectively we need to build a stronger church. Experts said that these centuries-old structures were built by organic materials such as coral stones, egg whites and lime. Unfortunately, they were not built to withstand a 7.2 magnitude earthquake. Hence we need to build a stronger Church! Those that conform to new engineering standards. A church that can withstand the test of time, tide and tremors.
That’s the physical Church as a structure! What about the Church as the Mystical Body of Christ? We need to have a spiritual re-engineering! The Church of Jesus is each individual, baptized member. Each build and form the Church “like living stones.. built into a spiritual house” (1 Pt 2:5). We have to build a stronger body of Christ by empowering, educating and energizing each member through catechesis! Christian education of the mind and heart is the key. From this comes our love for Christ, our love for His Church and our eagerness to share our faith with joy. In his video message that concluded the 1st Philippine Conference on New Evangelization, Pope Francis gave this challenge: “Bring Jesus now into the world of politics, business, arts, science, technology and social media.”
On 2021, eight years from now, we shall celebrate 500 years of Christianity which started in Cebu. As we look forward to this event, let us re-build. We will pick up the pieces and move on! From this fall, we will rise stronger. This requires that we become the leaven of Jesus in the lives of our people in our times. 
(This article also appears in the Faith Section of Cebu Daily News, October 20, 2013. )
 

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