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Reflection on typhoon recovery takes out book award

DAVAO (UCAN) : A book of reflections and personal experiences penned by Redemptorist Brother Karl Gaspar, who worked with survivors of Typhoon Haiyan, has won two awards at this year’s Manila International Book Fair.

Desperately Seeking God’s Saving Action: Yolanda Survivors’ Hope Beyond Heartbreaking Lamentations, won the spirituality and ministry categories of the Cardinal Sin Catholic Book Awards, held over the weekend of September 19 and 20.

The award, named after Cardinal Sin, recognises authors and publishers whose work promotes “total human development, gospel values, and Filipino culture.

“The book offers a perspective on pastoral ministry and missiological activity, which might help us to proclaim the gospel anew today in many different circumstances and situations,” Father Michael Brehl, the Redemptorist superior general, commented.

Brother Gaspar worked with typhoon survivors in Samar and Leyte provinces following Typhoon Haiyan, which killed at least 7,500 people in 2013.

“The book is very useful in helping others to respond quickly, effectively, compassionately and prophetically to future disasters,” Father Brehl continued.

He added that Brother Gaspar’s book is the story of a dynamic group of missionaries, priests, sisters, brothers and laypeople who responded to the needs of victims and survivors.

Maryknoll Sister Helen Graham described the book as allowing “us to listen to the voices of those who suffered through, and survived, the catastrophic typhoon.”

Sister Graham, a professor of Biblical Theology at the Loyola School of Theology in Manila, added, “We listen to them as they struggle to find the language to name the disaster as they alternate between blaming God and clinging to God in faith and hope.”

Brother Gaspar commented, “I am quite pleased with this recognition,” explaining that the book is also a reminder to the Filipino people that the government failed them when help was so desperately needed.

Brother Gaspar was also able to capture what he described as the politics of aid that only served to worsen the trauma and the difficult process of recovery for the survivors. 

He criticised the lack of transparency in the delivery of relief services by both international aid agencies and the Philippine government.

In his book, he describes how disaster survivors carry “the cross as they struggle to rebuild their lives.” He also described the struggle as the people’s Calvary.

Brother Gaspar recalls his encounter with Arnold and Anita Librea, who lost two children to the rampaging floodwaters. The remains of the children were buried in a mass grave outside the San Joaquin parish church in Palo.

The Redemptorist brother underscores the people’s kindness and generosity, their sense of self-sacrifice and compassion, and how they valued their gift with a second life.

“Through their trauma and their attempts at healing themselves, they have also gained insights into what their mission in life is,” Brother Gaspar says.

The Cardinal Sin Catholic Book Awards are organised by the Asian Catholic Communicators Incorporated in collaboration with the Catholic Mass Media Awards. 

Every year, they acknowledge publications that foster Christian formation and values.