A minute of silence, long hours of work

by junasun

Two weeks after the super typhoon Haiyan, we are faced with the herculean task of recovery and rebuilding. How do we build homes to the hundreds of thousands of homeless people and how do we give medical care to the wounded and sick among them without water and electricity and existing hospitals – and even medical staff for they, like all others, were victims themselves. This is such  an unimaginable logistical problem. Though help and support of all kinds are coming from the international community and the national government, still it takes time to build the most needed infrastructures like roads, hospitals, water and electric plants, bridges and the hundreds of thousands of homes needed. Many have died the day the typhoon hit these areas, but many more will die in such conditions of hunger, shock, trauma, homelessness and zero infrastructures, services and facilities. The government is doing everything but it needs time, – and time is running out to save the weakest and vulnerable among the survivors.

Most of the dead were buried by now. And while we still have hundreds of hours of work before us, to take a minute of silence that will bring us to that quiet place in us where no typhoon can ever penetrate, a place where we all feel at home together as a people, will do us good.

In the face of all these  destructive calamities that have recently befallen the country, we shall all agree that life shall go on and that the life and dignity  of every human shall be respected and protected. And also, as we now pick up our tools to start rebuilding, we should not neglect to treat nature with respect  and consider her in our planning so that she will treat us the same way. We are inseparable from nature, therefore, it’s just wise to live by her rules.

The Philippine archipelago is endowed with natural beauty, but beauty has its price. The Philippines is on the front line of natural calamities and danger may come from above and below. Danger from above are the typhoons. The Philippines is the only large country that is geographically very exposed to tropical cyclones. There are about 20 to 24 typhoons that hit the Philippines, and a few of them are devastating. The most recent one, super typhoon Haiyan, has occurred just two weeks ago and which has practically obliterated Tacloban city and many more places in this region. Around 44,000 of 55,000 houses were wiped out, the rest may still be standing but heavily defaced. Those buildings near the shore just disappeared with the storm surge and over 5,000 people disappeared in a wink of the eye of the storm.

Typhoons are just normal  for Filipino people that a child by the time he is ten years old will have already experienced around 240 typhoons. But this month’s typhoon has surpassed them all. And this typhoon Haiyan has given us a glimpse of the probable nature of typhoons yet to come, – that some of them could be as strong or even stronger than Haiyan. That’s a grim reality to come we have to brace ourselves for.

The danger from below our feet and houses are the earthquakes. The Philippine islands lie in the so called Pacific Ring Of Fire, hence, many earthquakes occur in the islands. The last one just last October 2013 which damaged among others Bohol and Cebu. If this happened that a strong earthquake and a super typhoon occurred in  just a few weeks of interval, the worst that one could imagine is if they would happen at the same time sometime in the future. Better not.

If beauty has its price, then it’s a high price. A single typhoon costs millions or billions of pesos. This typhoon Haiyan alone has cost around P25 billions. But that’s the loss and how about the cost of rebuilding? Aside from thousands of human lives, the country losses therefore tens of billions of pesos from typhoons and earthquakes alone every year.  And we  don’t even add to that the cost of the damages of the typhoons of political corruption that befall our senate and house of representatives and the provincial and municipal buildings. A total shame.

One thing is clear: We cannot move the Philippines away from these typhoons and earthquakes.The people have to  live with it, have to stay in their homeland and rebuild their cities and homes. For the responsible and sensible world citizens (or Netizens) who live in fortunate locations, their only option is to help. The Philippine islands have a life-saving role to play, – as a typhoon shock absorber or shield because after a typhoon has hit the Philippines with its full impact,  it normally continues its course to Vietnam, Laos or Cambodia but already weakened to a certain degree, hence, saving countless lives in these neighboring countries. Haiyan was already over 100 km/h slower when it approached Vietnam. Tha’s a big deal.

Typhoons here, earthquakes there, still life must go on like that of one father in Tacloban who lost his wife and five of his children instantly as the killer waves surged into their village that he is now left with only one child who survived with him. He said that the pain of loss was  hard to bear but he still has a child who needs him that’s why he chose life.

For us then who are not regularly affected by such devastating natural calamities, let’s choose to help them recover from their severe nightmare.





(© 2012 Journal Group Link International)

“In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread till thou return to the earth, out of which thou wast taken: for dust thou art, and into dust thou shalt return.”   Genesis 3:19

CHICAGO (jGLi) – The recent death of my first cousin (on my maternal side), Milagros “Yangos” or “Young Goose” Garra Chua, of Matnog, Sorsogon in the Philippines of lung cancer left some of my relatives scratching their heads when she decided before she died that she wanted to be cremated.

Like a typical closely-knit Roman Catholics, our extended family has never considered cremation as an option until Young Goose’s decision. Cremation is a dreaded word that is better left unspoken.

Among its main objections is its perceived denial of the resurrection of one’s body as shown by Jesus, who was given a traditional burial, not cremation, after the Crucifixion before He could rise from the dead.

Young Goose’s only child, Dave Simon G. Chua, told me in an email that it was his Mom’s decision to be cremated. But Dave did not tell me the reason or reasons for his Mom’s decision.

But I got an idea from Chicago, Illinois’ Consul General Leo Herrera-Lim: it is cheaper.

The top Chicago Filipino diplomat told me the cost of shipping human remains from Chicago to the Philippines alone comes in the range of US$4,000 to US$6,000 while shipping cremated ashes could be less than US$1,000. (Note: You can lose an arm and a leg if you try to smuggle an urn containing cremated remains by stuffing it in an airline baggage or in Balikbayan boxes and get caught!) That’s why more Filipino Americans prefer to be buried in the U.S. than in the Philippines because it is costly for their loved ones to ship their remains unless they bought life or burial insurance!

I emailed the customer service of Loyola Plans Consolidated, Inc. in Makati City in the Philippines, requesting for the comparative rates for cremation and traditional burial after it provided cremation service to Yangos. But I did not get an answer.

The National Funeral Directors Association in the United States says the average funeral cost in the U.S. is about US$6,500 and the average associated cost for buying a burial plot, funeral flowers and services can add up to US$10,000.


 On the other hand, the Cremation Association of North America says the average cost of cremation is $1,600 but could reach $5,000. But cremation is usually 80 percent less expensive than a traditional burial. But if cremation services such as coffin, complete funeral, an ornate urn and visitation hours may cost as much as burial.

One of my second cousins, Ramon “Tamoy” Garra, also of Matnog who is now an OFW (Overseas Filipino Worker) in Saudi Arabia and close to Young Goose family, asked me in an email, if the “(cremation) was orally willed by Yangos?  

“’Tho cremation has become prevalent, I cringe at the thought of burning the dead body especially of my dear ones as Manay Yangos.  Wonder if the Roman Catholic Church do recommend disposing a dead body in this fashion?”

According to Wikipedia, the Roman Catholic Church discourages cremation because, aside from denying the resurrection of the holy body, the body, as the instrument through which the sacraments are received, is itself a sacramental, holy object; and that as an integral part of the human person,it should be disposed of in a way that honors and reverences it, and many early practices involved with disposal of dead bodies were viewed as pagan in origin or an insult to the body.

But cremation was, in fact, never forbidden in and of itself; even in Medieval Europe, where there were multitudes of corpses simultaneously present, such as after a battle, after pestilence or famine, and there was an imminent fear of diseases spreading from the corpses, since individual burials with digging graves would take too long and body decomposition would begin before all the corpses had been interred.

But cremation is now permitted as long as it is not done to express a refusal to believe in the resurrection of the body.


 Current Catholic liturgical regulations requires that, if requested by the family of the deceased, the cremation must not take place until after the funeral Mass. This way the body may be present for the Mass so that it, symbolizing the person, may receive blessings, be the subject of prayers in which it is mentioned, and since the body’s presence “better expresses the values which the Church affirms in those (funeral) rites (or Mass).” 
Once the Mass itself is concluded, the body could be cremated and a second service could be held at the crematorium or cemetery where the cremated remains are to be interred just as for a body burial.

Dave told me he brought the ashes of his Mom home. Inurnment at the columbary will be on the 40th day also at the Loyola Commonwealth. Inurnment is the process of placing cremated remains in an urn. The urn is placed either above the ground in a niche, or below ground in a grave.

As early as Dec. 30, Dave emailed me, saying, “My mother is still fighting the happy battle together with God. She’s slowly regaining her appetite and physical strength but unfortunately we cannot prevent other complications to arise because of her illness. Her feet are beginning to swell “nagmamanas” possibly due to kidney failure. We put our trust in God with everything my mother is going through that He will continue to give her that fighting courage and spirit to fight the happy battle.

“Thank you very much for all your prayers and concern! Keep in touch!

Happy Holidays! God Bless!


By Monday (Manila time), Jan. 2, my other first cousin (Rosario “Sayong” Garra Burgos) emailed me, “Kaninang 6 a.m. iniwan na tayo ni” Yangos. (At 6 a.m., Yangos left us.) “Hindi me makatulog kaya pala. (That’s why I could not sleep.) (At) 7 a.m., tumawag c Manoy Uyi at nag text daw c Dave na wala na Ma2 n’ya.” (At 7 a.m., Jorge (elder brother of Yangos) called me, telling me Dave texted him his Mom is gone.).

Yangos is survived by Dave, Dave’s wife, Jackie, their two-year-old son, Danny, Yangos’ elder sisters, Panching and Belen and elder brother, Jorge. Her husband, Danny Chua, died five years ago. Yangos was the youngest daughter of the late Dominador G. Garra, a retired treasurer of Matnog and elder brother of my late mother, Consolacion Garra Lariosa.

Yangos studied education at University of Santo Tomas and celebrated her 62nd birthday last Dec. 21st. She worked at the real estate department of the Social Security System in Quezon City for a long time.
In my last phone conversation late last year with Yangos whom I had not seen in more than 50 years, she blamed her smoking habit and her lifestyle for her lung cancer.

We will miss you, Yangos. (lariosa_jos@sbcglobal.net)