The number "100,000" is a conundrum to most of us whether it refers to hard currency piled up or written as an amount on a check or referring to objects, animal life or population. But "a hundred thousand" will be known as the most familiar number for its immediacy of recall: the Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004 that racked up its number of corpses and continued to increase.
We can assume that for every loss of life there are at least two or three among the living who are traumatized and who will carry the loss of a loved one in their memory. That would translate to 300,000 people permanently traumatized by this terrible force of nature: An occurrence we humans have no power to control. In Asian societies, the living who are traumatized are villages, not just two or three individuals. The numbers are mind boggling when you consider numbed and heartbroken individuals in the millions who are mourning and will have to live out their lives with the human loss of loved ones.
The air we breathe is thick with pain, unexplainable bouts of sadness, questions of what-ifs, fluttering anxiety and terrible regrets before we can rest on memories that will eventually fade.
In another part of the world, racking up a deliberate death toll is a war producing traumatized loss among the living. A war that is man-made and man-decided. And man-continued. How absurd that the world is shocked by the violence of nature but is oblivious of the violent emotional current spreading from the living hearts of victims of war! There is no national mourning, no righteous outrage in numbers, no outpouring of concern for survivors of damaged psyches. We are all numbed by a mentality that dictates the good guys versus the bad guys, the winners and the losers.
It is shocking and yet refreshing to wake up to how hypocritical we stand as we contribute millions of world currency to aid the survivors of natural disasters. But to our own man-made disasters, we stand in righteous indignation against those whom we label as the the bad guys. We call them insurgents. We Filipinos were called insurgents too when our land was invaded two centuries ago by foreigners who staked a foothold on our home soil.
This 16th issue would have been a December one honoring and recalling the peace extended to each one of us as we brought the best of family ideals, generosity and hospitality to friends and strangers. That December sense of peace was obliterated by the tidal violence we are steeped in so early on in the 21st century.
Our loss as a people living in communities away from the homeland are in the writers and artists who passed away in 2004, notably: Wilfrido Nolledo, Nick Joaquin, Pacita Abad and Zeneida Amador. How ironic too that the Tsunami claimed an emerging Filipino writer, Ivy Terasaka. Ivy sent a submission to Our Own Voice from Singapore some months ago. We honor her memory with a posthumous release of her short story, "The Last Time I Saw Nanay," in this issue.