The San Juan Nepomuceno Parish Church in the town of San Remigio was severely devastated by typhoon Yolanda. Roofs were ripped off, glasses were shattered, and interiors not spared by the wrath of typhoon Yolanda, the strongest typhoon that hit the world in 2013.
On May 16, 2014, six months after the super typhoon struck the Visayas, San Remigio residents gathered in front of their parish church. Excitement, laughter and festivity filled the air. That day, they celebrated their annual fiesta highlighted with their colorful and jovial dancing called the Lapyahan Festival.
Their church, which used typhoon Yolanda ruined, now has a different face. It has new and sturdy roofing, newer and better interior and an inviting and palatial entrance. A town visitor would not have a hint that this structure had fought with a natural disaster.
The recovery of the church reflects the strength of the residents who joyfully participated in the Lapyahan Festival.
According to Dwight Bain, a national counselor and life coach in the US, hurricanes, tornadoes, fires, floods, and earthquakes are often the most destructive events that a person can experience in a lifetime. It may take months or perhaps even a year for everyone to feel that things are back to “normal.”
A similar study conducted by Melinda Smith, M.A., and Jeanne Segal, Ph.D. showed that the impact of a natural disaster or traumatic event goes far beyond physical damage. They concluded that “it takes time to recover your emotional equilibrium and rebuild your life”.
These studies only illicit more awe from everyone. The whole world stands in both disbelief and admiration as they witness how Filipinos like the residents of San Remigio surpassed the wrath of a super typhoon in a matter of six months.
“Lapyahan” is a Cebuano word that means seashore or shoreline. The town of San Remigio is blessed with the longest shoreline in the entire province of Cebu.
During the Lapyahan festival, the participants danced full of thanksgiving to their patron saint for protecting them during the typhoon.
Town mayor Mariano Martinez said that after everything that his town has been through, what he saw from the people of San Remigio in the celebration of their annual fiesta for their patron saint is “above and beyond his expectation.”
“Ni bangon na jud ta (we have finally recovered),” Martinez told residents and visitors who gathered around the church for the festival.
Atty. Orvi Ortega, representative of Governor Davide, also imparted wisdom to the people in San Remigio, reminding them that, “kita gisukod dili sa atong nahiagumang kalamidad, kon dili kita gisukod diha sa atong pag barog (we are tested not by the calamity we experience but by how we stand up after it happens).”
Municipal Information Officer Niño Ybañez said that they did not expect that the activities for their annual fiesta this year would be possible. He revealed that people were so cooperative and that the Lapyahan Festival became a sort of a coping mechanism for many typhoon-affected residents. He also said that their dancing is their way of expressing their thanksgiving to God for helping them in times of extreme difficulties.
So where did they get this kind of strength? The answer is revealed in their annual town fiesta theme: “One Parish, One Journey and One Faith.”
It is in their oneness. They derived their power to endure, to recover and to rebuild from one another. They proved to the world that when people work and pray together, when they dream and do things together, when they envision and inspire each other together, disasters can turn into opportunities.
Typhoon Yolanda may have shattered the things that we held dear but they can reveal our inner power and insurmountable strength. This is the story of San Remigio; it is a story of strength.