Estremera: Prayers for the community

WAY past midnight in the early hours of December 23, 2017, our social media updates were still ongoing as communities upon communities were being rescued.

Davao City was spared by tropical storm Vinta when it made landfall in Davao Oriental the day before, but as it traversed the land toward Bukidnon, that was where it poured tons and tons of water. Thus, the normally quiet and meandering Davao River, the city's longest and widest, overflowed and deluged communities along its banks and floodplains.

Things quieted down by morning, anyway, as the stranded were already brought to safety, albeit with very few of their possessions. It was time to work early so we can go home early. After all, the morrow is Christmas Eve.

Even before any page could be finished at 9:30 in the morning, however, social media was again busy, there's a fire at NCCC Mall in Ma-a. It's now 2:35 p.m. and the fire rages on. It was time to bid goodbye to any plans of going home early. We just have to wait and pray.

As the fire raged on, we can only share the grief of the families of those who were believed to have been trapped. We could not even confirm yet as we waited. Yes, we had the list, but we did not release them. It was a list by the call center agents and their team leader, it wasn't ours. And so we waited some more.

Times like this, prudence is called for. We'd rather be accused of being slow in updates than giving unofficial information because this is not just a fire. This is about lives and families and Christmas eve.

We can never claim we understand how the families feel as they wait and grieve and pray. It is a situation we would not wish on our worst enemies, it is a situation we would not wish to add any more agony to.

In the live streaming of the fire, interviews and conversations can be heard from the reporter on the field and those around. It's a nice touch to live streaming, except that, these are all speculations streamed in a media account, and that is where sensitivities and sensibilities should be sharpened and applied.

On a media platform, what is overheard is considered official information. In situations where there are families, there are lives, and there is Christmas just around the corner, the heart should speak louder than anyone else, and the heart says: temper the news, do not multiply the agony with unverified speculations. Shut that darn mobile phone down when people around you are speculating.

But of course, we have to understand the adrenaline in the field, and the drive to get to the news could easily overcome the thought of an unknown family grieving by the sidelines.

"Get the heart," I said. "We can never get the latest kasi ugma pa ta mugawas (because our publication will only be released by tomorrow). Find the heroes. Talk about life. And don't forget the flood stories."

When distress is at its peak, we as the chroniclers and storytellers of our time and community need to reinforce our people's resilience by focusing on their strengths and the tiny flicker of hope that springs eternal, their prayers, their acceptance of a fate, unfair as it may seem.

It's past 3 p.m., and we are still waiting... and praying.

Tomorrow is Christmas Eve. Consider that as my greeting to all of you because the word merry just doesn't fit in.
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