On 19 February 2016, the Diocese of Parramatta will be holding a fundraising dinner to aid the reconstruction on the Bohol island in conjunction with the Diocese of Tagbilaran – Read the story here .
On the second anniversary of the earthquake, Bishop Leonardo Medroso gave a homily at St Joseph’s Cathedral, Tagbilaran City.
Homily for the 2nd Anniversary of the 7.2 Magnitude Earthquake of Bohol
15 October, 2015
Most Rev Leonardo Medroso DD
Bishop of the Diocese of Tagbilaran
St. Joseph’s Cathedral, Tagbilaran City, Bohol, Philippines
Beloved Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Today we remember the earthquake that shook the province of Bohol. It was two years ago that it happened – 15 October, 2013 at 8:12 A.M to be exact. It was an earthquake that heaved Bohol with an intensity that is, according to some experts, equivalent to 33 atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima. It lasted not just for 10 seconds, for 20 seconds, for 25 seconds, but for as long as 33 seconds. The force was just unimaginable, unparalleled by anything else that the people had ever experienced. The heaving of the earth, the swaying of the sea, the swinging of the trees, the eerie sound that it produced in the surrounding, the crumbling of houses and big establishments, the shrieking of the populace who were driven to the open spaces and safe plazas, all these created an atmosphere of fear and panic. In the face of such disaster, pandemonium is a mild word to describe it. In the mind of the people was the start of the terrifying apocalypse, the unfolding of what they believed to be the end of the world.
The effect was devastating. It claimed more than 200 lives, destroyed countless buildings and houses, cut down bridges, and twisted and contorted roads and highways, making them impassable. And what they think is impossible to happen, happened – their centuries old Churches, the pride of their faith, structures that have withstood the test of time and the calamities of the past, crumbled to the ground. People were simply devastated. In their mind came the existential and perennial questions: What have we done? Why has God treated us so? Has He turned His back against us? What sins have we committed? Are we not faithful to Him? Why the death of my children, my loved ones? A family of five living in the hillside was caught by the earthquake inside their small abode. The father immediately ran outside and attempted to get back to his children and wife to pull them out to safety. But he was not that fast. Rather, the mother gathered the children around her embrace to protect them from any falling object. As fate had it, a big rock from the hill, loosened by the quake of the earth, started rolling down and struck the house. Death was instant. The head of the mother was lopped off, killing her instantly. But the children were saved by the body of the mother. And then, the existential question: “Why, O God, why?”
It was in this state of despondency that people waited for an answer. It is true they immediately rose up to rebuild what was lost, get food for survival, shelter from the elements, and privacy for their families. Yes, the response from people in the world was spontaneous and effective. Calls for relief were answered. But the existential questions still hounded them… Has God abandoned us?
Then some mysterious things happened, things shrouded in mystery, yet meaningful to the Boholanos who have suffered. In Loon, a town some thirty kilometres north of Tagbilaran, the people discovered in the debris of their century old Church their patroness, the Blessed Virgin Mary of Light.
The statue was buried deep down by the crumbling stones and coral reefs. Having seen the hand of the statue protruding from the ground, the people started digging to recover it from the rubble. And lo and behold, they found the statue, unscathed, beautiful and dignified as ever. They made a make shift altar and placed the icon on it for people to see and reflect. Then the people remembered what Isaiah (49:15-16) had said in consoling the people who were in exile. He said: “Can a mother forget her own child? Even if a mother forgets her own child, I will never forget you. I have written your names in the palm of my hands.” Yes, their existential questions as to whether God is for them or against them in the time of calamity were answered by this mysterious discovery of their patroness. The people’s faith started to return. They have a God who never forgets them; a mother, their patroness, who always shelters them.
Other places have their own stories to tell, stories of despondency, but also, stories of God visiting His people. These stories, these experiences, build up the character and positive attitude of the Boholanos. If ever the reconstruction goes on fast and steady, it is primarily because of the renewed faith of the people.
Editorial note: The above homily is a ‘reconstruction’ of the homily ex-post kindly provided by Bishop Medrosa, so should not be seen as a word-for-word transcript of the homily given 15 October, 2015.