Somehow, Ash Wednesday took on a whole new meaning for me and my family last February 13, 2013.
At around 3 pm that day, I took out my phone to take a call from my sister, and she said ," Nong, do you know?"
I looked up from peering over a patient's chart and said, "No. Wala. Why? What?"
"Our house is on fire. It's burning down along with Tiya Fely's and Tiya Intay's!"
"WHAT?!" I exclaimed, immediately getting up from the chair and heading for the empty stairwell. "Are you guys ok? Is anybody hurt?"
"Everybody's ok nong, but our house is mostly gone. Most of the second floor is gone. Mama's room was the first to go, as well as all of our rooms. But what's important is we're ok. Jassen got out in time and right now, we're going to buy milk for Luke."
Still in a state of shock, I could only manage to ask "Ha?!"
"Yup, nong. It's okay, we'll call you later for more details. We're going out to buy Luke's milk because we don't have any here."
Our home was gone.
The place I grew up in -- the halls were I ran through to greet my parents when they came home, the porch where my grandparents used to sit on their rocking chairs to talk to us grandkids, the ancestral home by all of us who grew up in and around Dumaguete City, burned down last Wednesday.
Allegedly, the fire started from our former neighbor's empty house directly 2 houses in front of ours. It had recently been sold and had been mostly empty these past few years. But apparently this didn't stop a group of local teenagers from raiding the wires and melting these to retrieve the copper inside. Not only were they trespassing to get these, but having a jolly good time with beer and glue.
Long story short, their fire ended up burning down 5 houses, including ours.
No human lives were taken, which is great, but our two dogs perished. My nephew hasn't eaten since the fire and keeps on saying "Go home?" My almost complete Hardy Boys collection has gone up in smoke, I think, along with a host of what I referred to as my mini-library.
But all is not lost. I came home this weekend to find my family in good spirits despite everything we've been through. These past few days, we are reminded of the value of family and friends -- all those who have extended themselves to us through prayers and aid and consoling words -- and we, collectively, owe you and offer you our deepest gratitude. Thank you for standing with us in our hour of need.
The house is in shambles, mostly gone, but the family that shared that home and memories spent with them will stay with me and these will withstand the strongest of fires.