In all my personal disasters they were there.
They never abandoned me, they are my heroes.
The familial disaster I shared in the first part of my story was just one of many others.
They say, “disasters happen for a reason” regardless the reason, good or bad, disasters create heroes and opportunities that could only be later discerned.
Dark Clouds Hovered
In 1991, a very famous tragedy focused the attention of the world to the Philippines. Mt. Pinatubo erupted leaving hundreds of thousands of people homeless and hundreds dead. It was a massive explosion resulting to colossal damages.
I was six (6) years old then. It’s undeniable that I had gone through simultaneous disasters at a young age. I vividly remember that horrific day. It was a regular day. I was out playing with friends. My dad was not with us because he was at work and my mom went home in Cebu for a short vacation. At first, the skies looked like it was filled with an awestriking cumulonimbus clouds. There was nothing like it that I had ever seen. We looked at it marveled with what the sky was about to unfold, but we didn’t take it seriously since we never thought of it as something disastrous. The only thing that felt odd was the unusual darkness emanated by the skies. It was only 8:00 in the morning and yet, we were already hovered by the darkness of the night, like it was already 10 PM. There was a little chaos but not enough to shake us or let my family decide to evacuate.
Later that day, heavy rains began to pour. The news was all over the television and radio, a typhoon was about to complicate things. The heavens cried heavy pours with a lethal mix of ashes, stones and rain. Then there were sulfuric acid fumes we could smell everywhere. The situation became difficult for us and for everyone affected by the explosion and sudden heavy downpour. It rained for the next 24 hours and the anticipated chaos became worse! When we woke up the following morning, our house and our neighbors’ houses were half-buried. Shocked, we didn’t know what to do. It was never easy to leave the place you call home.
My mother called from Cebu and convinced my father to evacuate. We sought help. Luckily, my father had ties with the local government since he used to work there. We were immediately rescued and had swift access to the emergency evacuation of the city government. From there, we chose to move forward.
Then came my teenage years. By this time, my family has already lived in Cebu for over a decade since the Mt. Pinatubo explosion. We have adjusted to the life in this part of the country. The changes and transitions were easier for me than the rest of the household because I was the youngest when we transferred. It only felt like a new adventure when we moved in.
When I reached high school, I made sure that I would have fun and experience the happiness I was deprived of at home. If there were constant struggles at home, going to school was my escape which was why I was adventurous, always bewildered and willing to take risks. I would run in games, walk fast with friends, climb trees and mountains, march here and there, and do whatever I find interesting to do, wherever my feet lead me to. But of course, I did not open much about my activities especially to my dad. He was obviously the villain to my happy life then.
I unexpectedly met an accident that cause the numbness of my feet. It was not serious at first. It was just a discomfort that I tried to endure because I have always wanted to finish my degree, and nothing should come in my way. I finished Associate in Airline Operation. I applied for jobs here and there but to no avail. The numbness on my feet turned into unbearable pain. It was only then that I decided to have an MRI in 2008. Through the procedure, it was discovered that I have a congenital Gibbus Deformity and T4 Compression with syringomyelia cavitation. This broke my heart. I have endured decades of abuses from my father and the worst volcanic eruption the country has ever had, yet all these are incomparable to the pain of knowing that I could not walk normally again. I felt devastated and depressed (for 10 years) that I almost lost my sanity.
For a time, all I could see was darkness and hopelessness. It felt like there was no end to what I was going through. I pitied myself more than ever. I cried out loud, sometimes, I’d cry in my thoughts. “What could become of me?” “What would I do?” “Where would I go?” Uncertainties scared me really well. But I looked at my mom and my family and saw their love, care and support not just at that moment of my helplessness, but in those years of suffering from the abuses and life transitions after the volcanic eruption.
In all my personal disasters they were there. They never abandoned me, they are my heroes. Together, we have overcome disasters big or small. God sent my family to give me strength and endurance and to cling on more to life and to trust God. They are my inspiration, my constant hope that all will be better in time.
Then one day, I met Virtualahan. Meeting them was unexpected, and I’d say providential. I knew I was guided to them because I have been praying for my life to change. I enrolled, and joined the training. It wasn’t easy. It took time for me to comply with my requirements. I worked harder and gave double effort. I even asked help from my niece to help me get through the training. And when I finally did, I was given the opportunity to bring back my old, happy self. I became part of the community and their work force family. Virtualahan became the light in my darkest night. The strong and independent woman I once was started to resurface. I regained my self-esteem and my self-worth. Because of them and the new opportunities I was given with, I am able to pull out weeds of depression day after day.
I knew then that I would get through my personal difficulties. I closed my eyes, prayed to God and breathed in air of assurance— “all things work for good…”.
I focused on the happiness and the positive things and let them overturn the negativity and discouragements that embraced me. I opened my eyes renewed with hope. I know disasters bring out beautiful things and I start to see them one day at a time.
MARIA ANGELA SABANAL