The air is charged, almost electric. It feels funny, different. Animals are on edge. People hurry. Stores are packed with people getting last minute supplies. Wind is at a gentle calm, almost a kind of gathering calm, the rain comes in spurts. Some people in nervous chatter. Most in humorous acceptance, in that gentle yet pointed Filipino way of accepting sufferings and storms of life. Here we go again. Another supertyphoon.
Supertyphoon Hagupit is scheduled to visit us here in Naga City this Saturday. It is about the same intensity as Supertyphoon Haiyan that hit last year, rendering tens of thousands homeless and taking countless lives.
This time there is a serious threat to the people living at the foot of Mt Mayon Volcano about sixty miles from here. There has been pouring out on to the side of the mountain, fresh red lava every day for about two months. Several thousand tons of water is about to hit that lava. The last time this happened with typhoon Reming in 2006, the lava and boulders the size of houses came crashing down the mountain side killing thousands in minutes, wiping out entire villages like wiping clear a chalkboard.
"Don't worry. Those people are already being evacuated. They learned already from the last time. This is normal. I grew up with this, living here in typhoon alley of the Philippines. We learn and adapt with each typhoon how to better prepare." said a priest who grew up a few miles from here. It is true. The people here are quite used to it. In fact, last July, when typhoon Glenda hit us, there were no fatalities because people in houses that would easily collapse had evacuated days before.
Our seminary here is a local typhoon shelter. It is solid brick with a sturdy typhoon proof roof, with a lip that covers the edge so the wind cannot pick it up. We are busy cutting the tops of trees down that would fall, supertyphoon proofing anything and everything we can. The generator that was bought last time is getting primed and warmed up, ready for another month of no electricity. Mineral water bottling at the water purification center has gone into overtime.
We are also preparing for the local village to take refuge here like they did last time. Twenty families, eighty-five persons, even a nursery was set up with a one day old baby and mother. Is it coincidental that the seminarians were going to have a family retreat this weekend that was cancelled, with teachings, activities, and children's program. I told the priest in charge of the retreat jokingly, "It looks like the family camp is back on." Most probably we will end up evangelizing the families that come here like last time. We also brought them to Mass and hours before storm landfall had a Eucharistic procession to ask God to placate the storm. Thanks be to God, there were no deaths, no major injuries, except injured property.
Please pray for us. Pray that we have the wisdom and courage to respond to this supertyphoon. All is a gift, to lead us deeper into communion with the Most Holy Trinity. We only pray that it might not be such a rough road.
May Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity protect us, guide us, give us shelter in the storm, and show us how to become a shelter to all who need it.