Sunday so I went to church which was a ten minute walk from the hotel. It was early morning and except for the sound of a few vehicles the street was quiet, I was the only soul walking that stretch. I saw a woman further up coming toward me and thought I could ask her if I was any closer to the Sto. Nino Shrine ( I was still disoriented with the City’s layout post-Haiyan) but approaching her I saw that she look crazed. She was unkempt and so was the young child with her. I debated whether or not to speak to her. She continued to stare at me but I avoided her eyes and smiled at her child instead. When she didn’t move (and I felt rather than saw that she was still staring) I carefully walked past them. My mind was, is she one of the victims? Was I supposed to say or do something? But what? It was one of those instances when I’m rooted on the spot torn, confused, helpless, and mute because life had just lobbed an unexpected ball at me and I let it pass. I felt bad.
Just around the bend was the church or what was left of it. The bell tower looked considerably damaged, testament to the reach of the storm surge.
Masses were held in a makeshift across the church, on the grounds of a public high school. I sat at the very back because I wanted to have a scoping view of the place and observe the dynamic of the congregation (you’d know more about a place or locality by feeling and observing what goes on in local churches). Anyone who’ve been to the old church could see that the bareness of the place sharply contrasts with the splendor that was.
I had a book, Simplify Your Life by Elaine St James, a going-away present from the convent, which I later gave to a former boss as his going-away present. I loved the book, learned much from it, which was why I also gave it to another.
I think that the message arising from the destruction of the church is, simplify. When the world is feeling the sobering effects of a changing climate hence the call to realign lives and economies, and many are trying to respond to that, the Catholic Church must be in step with the community in this, and it can start by climate proofing and adapting it’s new (and old) churches to green standards of design and construction. This is consistent with Pope Francis’ reiteration of human ecology i.e. human beings as carers of their natural environment.
The (damaged) Sto. Nino church was built at a different time and since then significant discoveries have been made in architecture and engineering. Recently in the news it is reported that the Church together with the country’s artists will raise funds to rebuild the churches devastated by Haiyan. It’s hoped that these new ones will be built on less cement.