Today, I’m heartbroken to see so many houses in The Philippines flattened by Typhoon Haiyon. I’ve traveled there three times over eight years, sharing music, prayer and spirituality with Filipino people. People I’d never met became my firm friends in The Visayas region (mainly Dumaguete), and Manilla. Later, Tim also spent some weeks there also over a few years — in Bohol, and the chocolate mountains. We have never traveled together – but our separate experiences account for a deep love.
I still receive little messages from Filipino friends I spent time with, who were generous in sharing culture and their cities. I loved Pastors we met, amazing men and women of courage. But it wasn’t just those I laughed and sang with – I also loved the silent hands that removed large purple flowers which fell like stars from tree boughs overnight in the hotel gardens, and those that raked grass into perfect lines while we slept. I loved the little geckos that called out to each other in the night (I called one of my Filipino friends Gecko, his fingers were shaped so much like theirs). I loved Joe’s chicken shop, and a lady who sold caramelized bananas. I loved the guards, who carried M16s but would not discuss their guns, and spoke freely of political corruption. They insisted their presence was necessary while we were on tour. I loved the women that sold necklaces by the seashore – so much so, they featured in a song I recorded with my indie band, Speaking of Sarah, called ‘Castle of Sand’. The Philippines served as a backdrop to my devastation of a failed relationship, but in all honesty, if I thought I had lost The Philippines that year, it would have been far worse for me.
I remember when my friend Miriam Webster publicly announced I had written ‘Jesus What a Beautiful Name’ in the shower, before a stadium full of 3,000 people. We both realized this was a mistake after she said it. She whispered off microphone, “Should you now stand behind the pot plant?” We couldn’t breathe for months after conference – talking about Albert, our sound man, who wore the largest hat I’ve ever seen, and appeared as a shadow at the top of the venue. We didn’t know if he had heard us most times and Miriam tried to teach him to nod so that at least we could tell whether his hat had received our monitor/foldback requests.
My Italian pastors, Fay & Daniele Recca found my Christian congregational song ‘Jesus what a Beautiful Name’ playing on a karaoke television while on mission in the Philippines working with a group of children this year. Behind the song were rampaging dinosaurs, Tyrannosaurus Rex eating Brontosaurus. Pastor Daniele showed me the clip for my birthday this year – he said he felt sorry about the dinosaurs, but I felt happy. That is the Philippines to me.
This week, I’m heartbroken for The Philippines because this is one tragedy on top of so many, over the many years. It’s only weeks ago that our friends and I found out about the Bohol earthquake and the needs of our friends there. But I know you all will rebuild, and become strong again. You have our prayers. And I can’t wait to see you again.
A link to donate towards those affected by the Typhoon: http://www.abc.net.au/appeals/