The Wounds That Never Heal

by Fernando Perfas

Tacloban City in the aftermath of Super Typhoon Haiyan in 2013 | Photo by ILO News via Creative Commons/Flickr

Some years ago, the tsunami tragedy that hit Japan reminded me of a childhood event I will never forget. Although what happened in Japan and its aftermath dwarfed in magnitude what occurred in my village when I was about four, it was a similar calamity.

It happened during a super typhoon called Trix in 1952 that hit the heart of the Bicol region in Southern Luzon. Trix packed over 200 km an hour wind gusts that set off a tsunami. Overnight giant waves swallowed my coastal village and, more tragically, a nearby small island with a few hundred residents. In the end, there were close to a thousand deaths, an enormous death toll at a time when villages were sparsely populated. The disaster left a gruesome sight of death and devastation.

When my brother and I asked permission to see our old place the next morning, my parents were wise not to allow us to witness the horrific sight of what remained of our village. Mixed with the tangle of rubbish were corpses that littered the place. Listening to accounts by people who saw the condition of the site that morning was enough to traumatize me.

“The toll to the human spirit – the loss of hope – is even more damning. The tragedy will haunt the living and leave wounds that may never heal among those who witnessed but survived this calamity of epic proportions. Those indescribable images of the event and the terrible negative emotions accompanying them will forever remain in their memories”

The event left a lasting negative impression on me because the disaster almost wiped out my family, too. It was a close brush with death, and we would have been among the dead had my parents failed to evacuate at the last minute. While we were spared from doom and survived, this brings forth feelings of sadness and loss even to this day. With this backdrop for understanding and empathizing with the victims of the disaster in Japan, I can’t begin to imagine the horrendous experience of the survivors.

The toll to the human spirit -the loss of hope – is even more damning. The tragedy will haunt the living and leave wounds that may never heal among those who witnessed but survived this calamity of epic proportions. Those indescribable images of the event and the terrible negative emotions accompanying them will forever remain in their memories. Rubbles left by the storm, toppled buildings, washed-out villages, broken infrastructure, etcetera are what we see on the surface. Deep down the psyche, the damage done to the soul, the humiliating stab to national pride, the lost love and relationships are all beyond reckoning.

To a great extent, it is healthy to have an inner feeling of control over events in our lives — that through our choices, we influence the outcome. In a grand scheme of things, the fact is we are ultimately not in control. Our sense of control is nothing but imaginary.

Every human disaster, man-made or “acts of God,” reminds us of this reality. We can only try our best to shape the course of history until we reach the point where the rest is up to Destiny. Having realized this, humility and surrender to a Higher Order beyond our comprehension never get old.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR  Dr. Fernando B. Perfas is an addiction specialist who has written several books and articles on the subject. He currently provides training and consulting services to various government and non-government drug treatment agencies regarding drug treatment and prevention approaches. He can be reached at fbperfas@gmail.com.

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