All over our country -the Philippines- the atmosphere reverberates with prayers as millions and millions of Filipinos continue to pray over the weekend. The Philippines is the third largest Catholic country in the world, and millions of Filipinos head for the churches on Sundays.
This Sunday though, some of the churches in 47 of the country’s 81 provinces are serving a different purpose, and people are praying specifically for their safety. Thousands have flocked to churches which are stable and sturdy enough to withstand the fury of Typhoon Hagupit.
“The strongest storm of the year anywhere on the planet is zeroing in on the Philippines,” a CNN broadcaster announced, “and we’re talking about Super Typhoon Hagupit,” she explained. Foreign correspondents have begun arriving since a few days ago to cover the arrival, stay and departure of Hagupit, which has made its first landfall late Saturday evening.
On November last year, millions of Filipinos prayed that they would be spared from the fury of Super Typhoon Haiyan, which, according to meteorologist Jeff Masters, was the strongest typhoon to ever make landfall. We lost an estimated 7,300 Filipinos in a matter of minutes. 16 million people were greatly affected and damage to infrastructure and properties reached more than $14 billion.
This year, we prayed through the 21 tropical storms that entered the Philippine Area of Responsibility, and we like to think that our prayers were heard when two potentially devastating super typhoons skirted the country but did not make landfall.
The Joint Typhoon Warning Center – U.S. Naval Observatory, Japan Meteorological Agency and our own The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration had given different predictions as to where the typhoon would make its first land fall. Tom Sater, a meteorologist and weather anchor for CNN International said,”It’s such a large storm it doesn’t matter where the landfall is going to be, because we’re going to see it messing a lot of places”
We’ve been preparing and praying since early this week when it was clear that Hagupit would affect our country. As I write this, it is still unclear as to which path the storm, with 325 kph wind gusts, would really take because it is expected to make landfall several times – yes, the typhoon would be island hopping and at a very slow pace.
Most typhoons that pass through our country come and go in a day. Hagupit is taking its time and has slowed down to 15 kph. The Weather Channel reported: “As Hagupit grinds west-northwest across the Philippines, the danger will gradually transition from one of wind damage and storm surge to one of heavy rainfall. Its center should move in the general direction of Metro Manila, but agonizingly slow — potentially taking 48-72 hours to move from the eastern Philippines to Metro Manila.”
And so those of us living in Metro Manila pray even as we make preparations, even as the storm batters other parts of our country.
Why do we continue to pray through the storms in our lives? Filipinos are annually visited by at least 20 typhoons and they pray because it is their faith that helps them keep on going no matter what happens.
People everywhere experience personal storms many, many times during their lifetime and prayer continues to be one of the most sought after refuges whenever we are threatened or battered by emotional storms.
One theologian said we pray because even if we know that not all our prayers will be answered, we always get a response.
I pray because prayer allows me to hope. Prayer transforms the fear in my mind, and strengthens my soul. Prayer provides me with an avenue through which I can see things from a different perspective.
How about you, why do you pray?
It isn’t easy, it does take an incredible amount of discipline, you don’t just write just when you feel like it or you’re not going to build up much of a body of work. Inspiration comes to you while you’re writing rather than before….For me the discipline of writing and the discipline of prayer are identical, in that I have to let myself be got out of the way because that’s not a do-it-yourself activity, and listen….When you write, don’t think, write. You think before, you think after, you don’t think during. When I’m praying, when I’m truly praying, I’m not thinking, I’m not speaking, I’m shutting up, so perhaps if God has something to say I can hear it. So writing too is an act of listening, listening to what has to be said.