Dennis Grajo and World Vision Philippines were among several individuals and organizations deeply moved to spontaneously help victims of Super Typhoon Hiayan. It is by its local name, Yolanda, that we Filipinos remember. Yolanda was the strongest tropical storm on record to make landfall, based on its peak wind speed of 313 km/hr (195 mph). The devastation was unprecedented.
Dennis wrote this poem in Filipino – poignantly haunting in its original form and shown here beneath the translation. He requested that I translate it into English, which I fear does not capture the intensity of his experience.
Under the World Vision Child Sponsorship Program, Dennis sponsors children’s education. He was previously, himself, a sponsored child, and it was at the Inspire Event to honor child sponsors that we met.
AT THE TABLE OF YOLANDA (HAIYAN)
Let’s have a breakfast of heavy sighs,
Let’s sip right here now, our suffering.
Let’s make some coffee of these teardrops
and troubled litany this morning.
Make light snack of your doubts and fears
that the same scene unfolds tomorrow.
Pour suffering on the empty plate.
Stay by the quaking table of sorrow!
Your lunch is a scarcity of dreams
Lacking in color, fortunes gone puff!
With tears, make broth of leftover rice,
Stretching what’s meager, hardly enough!
In cooking oil, fry your dwindling hope,
Sorely lacking or none to speak of?
Turned mute and deaf – turned anguish from joy.
Swallow that too or spit it all out?
They lie still in the ground now, come supper,
Countless graves over West, there yonder.
Hunger gone silent, their time no longer.
Close, they need lay, one next to the other.
Mix loneliness into bitterness,
Make it dessert for staving belly.
Forgotten old flavors and sweetness,
absent to taste. Don’t think of it any!
But if you act now and in each morrow,
There’ll be no lack, ill fortune, less sorrow.
New destinies arise for the taking,
On stable roads, no danger of slipping!
At the table of ruins, BE a victor.
Dig up a new life and then work like a plow.
In the mud, leave all pain of loss ever more.
Bury thoughts of defeat; only triumph to know!
SA HAPAG NI YOLANDA (HAIYAN)
Mag-agahan tayo ng buntung-hininga,
Higupin ngayon din, ating pagdurusa,
Gawin nating kape dito sa umaga
Mga butil ng luha at mga litanya.
Papakin ninyo ang mga pangamba
Na bukas uulit ganitong eksena,
Ilagay sa plato ang lahat ng dusa,
At manatili ka sa umuugang mesa!
Inyong tanghalian ay salat na pangarap,
Nagkulang sa kulay hindi nagkapalad,
Isabaw sa bahaw ang luhang pumatak,
Ipagharimunan pagkat hindi sapat!
Igisa sa mantika ang salat na pag-asa,
Kulang na kulang ba o walang natira?
Napipi’t nabingi – lungkot na ligaya,
Isusubo mo rin o iyong iluluwa?
Naglupasay naman para sa hapunan
Ang maraming hukay doon sa kanluran,
Dikit-dikit lagi ang pangangailangan,
Gutom mapapawi, lilipas din naman.
Isahok sa pait ang pangungulila
Gawing panghimagas ng gutom na sikmura,
Tamis na nalimot pati na sustansya
Lasapin ng dila, walaing bahala!
Ngunit kung kikilos ngayon saka bukas
Hindi magkukulang walang pagkamalas,
Kapalarang tuwid tiyak na lalabas
Patag na kalsadang hindi na madulas!
Sa hapag ng laban, magsikap manalo,
Bungkalin ang buhay saka iararo,
Upang mga sakit ng pagkasiphayo,
Mamatay sa putik at diwang matalo!