The aftermath as groundwork for re-growth
When Typhoon Sendong shrieked across Cagayan de Oro City in December 2011, it triggered a mammoth flashflood that wiped out everything on its path. In the aftermath, thousands became homeless and about a thousand were killed.
I was spared, having taken refuge earlier in an adjacent town. But a few months later, an inner Sendong would devastate my own life. The inner dislocation that began as a spirit-beclouding weariness became midlife emergency, vicarious trauma, a burning-out.
Ironically, the decade before my unraveling was marked by a loamy richness in my work from which other endeavors have sprung.
Over a decade, I have written narratives of homegrown activists protesting corporate mining and illegal logging, internally displaced persons, child soldiers, fisher folks, farmers advocating land reforms, indigenous peoples claiming ancestral domains. .
In 2002, complementary to this reportage, I co-founded the group Mindanao Women Writers (MinWoW), responding to issues of safety, well-being and gender rights in the context of armed conflicts on the island. We made milestones in connecting communities and communicators through trainings on gender-sensitive conflict reportage as empowering tool for engaging communities.
I met Magdalena Suhat and Rosalinda Bantilan and many other wisewomen, while co-managing “Women Making Air Waves for Peace”, MinWoW’s partnership project with Isis International-Manila, in digital radio production.
Through the years, we documented grassroots peace initiatives, always mindful of women’s contributions in the processes. But such is the paradox: peace fronts are not conflict-free nor violence-proofed environments. In this quotidian turbulence, I lost my inner balance.
But the word, “aftermath”, comes from “ a second mowing,” a second crop after the first harvest. In that sense, I am re-affirming the present as an aftermath, as groundwork for re-growth.
At the crossroads to recovery, I have returned to World Pulse, finding solitude and connections, as I read its stories amid the din of internet cafes where I access the internet.
Now, as I re-configure the possibilities, I have asked myself: what are my constant allegiances?
I continue to believe in truth-weaving by stories. But I vow to stitch together the discontinuities in my work and accept support to repair MinWoW’s worklooms. I keep to mind now that the warp of self-care interlaces with the weft of care-giving for others. I will nurture a more positive wakefulness, bearing witness with equal courage to the world’s wonders as well as to injustices against women and the environment.
In December last year, on the anniversary of Sendong’s wrath, a mango tree, to which more than 50 people have clung during the disaster, was declared as Memorial to nature’s life-saving power and human resilience.
My voice joins the VOF chorus, in the same spirit that the mango tree is memorialized: my voice a paean to World Pulse’s life-saving qualities and my own resilience. For World Pulse is the sheltering tree that is also a lifeline in my recovery from catastrophe, a meeting-place where I keep the rendezvous with that compassionate global community of womankind.