Storm at Sea, Camotes Island

BY BRO JO RONA

Brother & Sisters, this story I share is true. This strengthened my faith in any situation that challenges my soul. God be praised, and thanks to Our Mother.
  
1986
 
The night was dark, stormy and cold. This is the time of “habagat” or the southwestern monsoon. I took MV Bato, a rickety 100-passenger capacity inter island vessel. However, we were overloaded that stormy night plying the very rough sea from Bato, Leyte, my hometown, to Cebu City.
Instead of taking the safer channel to the west through the island of Bohol, the ship’s captain decided to take the shorter but dangerous open channel to the northwest through the island of Camotes.
 
We were already at the middle of the channel when the storm wind became stronger and waves became bigger. Everybody was getting  nervous.  More so because a bigger inter island vessel MV Rizal with about 700 passengers sunk a week before in this same channel. It left no survivors. Bloated bodies floated and were washed ashore in many towns of Leyte and Camotes. Now we were in the channel ourselves.
 
The situation got worse. The vessel had engine trouble and eventually stopped to function. The lights of the boat went off. It became so dark we could see nothing at all. Only beams of flashlights occasionally showed us the fearful people on their cots inside the small boat. There was only silence broken by hushed, muffled nervous whispering voices, almost near panic. The crew did their best. We were now at the mercy of waves, tossed helplessly in the dark. The strong current brought us nowhere. Every time the boat would be positioned parallel to the waves, I thought the boat would go down deep and sink. It was like we were in a rough watery roller coaster.
 
I was praying the beads all the time. But this time of emergency I had to intensify the prayers and campaigned for more rosary prayers among the passengers. Groping in the dark I asked a few others to do the same. In order to quell my nervousness and fear I had to have a good look at the danger. That is why I had to get to the prow to see where and how we were.
Then I went to the prow of the boat and faced the monstrous waves like ghostly shadows in the dark, there I saw the monstrous waves on the left side dashing against the boat just like they do against the craggy cliffs on shore. The angry fumes of the dashing waves went above the height of the boat. Waves got into the prow I was soaked wet all over. It was cold indeed, but at that moment, with my rosary in hand, I felt I was in a battle against an unseen monster.
 
I prayed a decade loud holding my rosary up against the waves. In the meantime, the waves drenched me. I was shivering in the outside, but inside of me was my boiling anger of faith against a monster that I knew the Lord could defeat with His holy word through the beads. The more the waves dashed, the louder I uttered the beads against them.
 
After a decade, I went inside the boat and campaigned on others to pray the rosary. With a few flashlights here and there I could see the people sitting down, crouching holding tight to their knees in fear. No one could sleep in the dark and in fear. I could almost touch their scared cold sweat. I could hear and feel the ominous anger of the waves dashing against the canvas cover of the boat. I did not listen to it but rather concentrated in the thought of fighting the battle. The presence of panic and fear against faith and hope.
 
I went out to the prow again and prayed the second decade with the same determination and strength to fight the danger with faith in the power of the Word.
 
I did the same routine with the third and fourth decade.
 
After the fifth decade on the prow, I now gathered all the strength of faith the Lord had given me, raised the rosary high against the waves and with fire in my soul expressed all my faith, saying, “Lord, what you did in Lake Genesareth that night”(referring to the incident when Our Lord calmed the waves) “You will do tonight! Lord, For the sake of the mission that You have given to me which I have not completed yet, You will calm the waves!…” Then with stronger resolve and inner power of faith, I raised the rosary higher and with an inner force coming from within my soul, I shouted at the waves “Waves, IN THE NAME OF THE FATHER,” making three big crosses on the air with the crucifix of my rosary against the waves, “AND OF THE SON AND OF THE HOLY SPIRIT…. STOP!!!
 
I felt a deadening silence around me (in spite of the roaring sound of the waves!). Five minutes of deep silence but the roaring waves is all I could hear – five minutes!
 
There was silence. The waves like a defeated dragon just fizzled away and went back to the deep, in utter defeat. The waves became calm. The wind stood still. I could hear the muffled voices of relief again from inside the boat. I was drenched all over with the warmth in my soul like a soldier that just came from a battle won. I noticed that the lights came back. I could hear the cries of relief and laughter and shouts of glee inside the boat.
 
I went inside in silence looking at the smile of everyone, who perhaps did not know the battle that I underwent on the prow. Maybe the two nuns who were there near my bunk bed, smiling at me perhaps knew what I just went through, for they said “Congratulations!” What did I do after all but just “run to my Mother and know in my heart that She was just there to defend all of us with the power of the Holy Spirit.”
 
The power of the rosary, the power of faith, the power of God’s love, the mission. That was what it was all about. The power of Divine Indwelling Presence!
 
But miracle of miracles!
And until today I cannot explain this, except that all what happened was a miracle. When the waves calmed down, to my surprise, I could already see the lights on the pier of the city of Cebu. I said to myself, “This cannot be!” for we were still miles and about four hours away from the shores of Cebu. Moreover the current of the channel could not bring us to Cebu while the engine was silenced, for the wind and the current would just bring us away from the city of Cebu. I said “Impossible!” Then I took back my words as if I could feel Father and Mother looking at me and assured me saying “Why?” I knew… and there were no questions asked anymore. The Lord be praised! Thank you, Mom!
 
We cannot underestimate the power of the Word of God and His promises. Only by the strength of faith in His words can we be saved from harm.
 
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