Retrieving memories after the storm
By Gloria Esguerra Melencio
The most painful part of disasters – aside from deaths and destruction of property- is losing one’s memories written on diaries, pictures, certificates of appreciation, yearbooks, birth certificates, diplomas and other souvenir items kept as mementos.
Written on papers which could easily get wet and swept away by flood, these mementos are one’s tangible connections to the past that flash back easily once the material item is retrieved from the shelf, closet or cabinet.
They were all gone, however, when typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng devastated more than five million families around Metro Manila, from down south up to northern parts of Luzon. Flood washed them away or mud buried them underneath forever leaving a gap between past and present.
Left are fond memories that will forever be etched in family history. With the absence of the tangible mementos, we Filipinos always go back to the oral history we have been used to since time immemorial. We tell stories of yore which we may never own but are assured of immortality once passed from one person to another.
Come to think of it, sociologists say Filipinos have no sense of permanence as explicitly shown in our nipa huts that never stand time but it is in this impermanence that we easily accept that our lives are only temporary. It is in this acceptance of mortality that we readily accept things the way they are.
And so retrieving the written mementos after the storm may be impossible but we hold onto it even during this lifetime momentarily by telling our stories to our children and future grandchildren who bask in the glory of our past.
Stories of experiences during the storms are never-ending. We tell them over and over again with ourselves as heroes – to the delight of the children but to the consternation of the adults who have heard of them a thousand times.
Nevertheless, we lost the mementos but we remember the memories and the feeling that goes with every piece of what was lost in the flood and mudslide.
It is in this mortality that we rise.