November 21, 2013

How super typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) hit this blog, too, and its writer…

Like many other citizens in the Philippines, I was an emotional wreck. In some ways, I still am, like many other citizens in the Philippines. What we had was like living Lemony Snicket’s Series of Unfortunate Events, but worst—from the Zamboanga crisis, to the 7.2-magnitude earthquake in Bohol, (there was even a small tornado in Metro Cebu), and finally, super typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) on Nov. 8 that hit us Filipinos hard—really hard.

For days, we wept for our brothers and sisters directly and severely affected by the calamity, for those who died whose families could not even provide a proper burial, for those who are dying as medicines are alarmingly becoming short in supply, for those infants who have to be born under the most unfortunate circumstances through no fault of their own, for those who lost their wives or their husbands or their children, for new orphans, for sickly grandparents who are now completely on their own, for lost communities, and for survivors desperate to leave their typhoon-ravaged neighborhood to get back on their feet…

…as we (survivors) struggle to overcome our personal hopelessness, as we pack relief goods with the hope that many families will be able to get through the next few days, as we vent out toxic wastes on social media sites in search of a certain force that will unite us together in what is going to be months (or years) of recovery, as we ourselves scramble to get back on our feet and regress to what is normal, to what we are used to be doing, pampered in our comfort zones.

The super typhoon forced us Filipinos to take a 360-degree perspective of our personal capabilities, of the capacities of our government systems, of the personalities of our elected leaders, of the value of every drop of water and every crumb of bread, of how a single typhoon in a typhoon-prone country with typhoon-battled people can change our viewpoints—if not our lives—forever.

It’s overwhelming… this picking up of broken pieces caused by a calamity of this magnitude. This pain. This hopelessness. We would suddenly wake up in the middle of the night or suddenly pause in the middle of a relief packing or suddenly go mentally blank in a middle of eating breakfast, tormented and petrified at the fragility of our very existence. Then we remember our fellows who are still in Bantayan, in Tacloban, in Camotes, in Ormoc, and other areas discovered and undiscovered, yet ruthlessly affected by the passing of a cruel storm. They have to endure the stiffness of coconut leaves as their beds at night, the stench smell of yet-to-be-retrieved dead bodies of neighbors they once exchanged pleasantries with, the long lines for food and water to relieve their family’s hunger and thirst more than their own, and a daily view of devastated homes in a beautiful town where they have spent many good times. And we would feel the remorse all over again. Day in and day out. For days.

We do what we can. Hordes of individuals and groups stood up, organized relief efforts. Even the 7.2-magnitude earthquake victims in Bohol who themselves are still recovering helped out, too. News and government agencies become hotlines of our overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) who want to be assured that their families are safe (if I feel hopeless, how much more for them?). The media scrambled to provide news about the underreported affected sites, especially in Northern Cebu and Camotes, as some of them worry over their families who were also directly affected by the typhoon. Others took to social media to hit at politicians and urged them to roll out their so-called disaster management plan. We were pulling at straws and civil unrest was brewing on Facebook. There’s no other way but to admit: we are that frightened. We are living a national (mental, psychological, and physical) crisis that we know, at the back of our minds and at the pit of our gut, would have been avoided or at least mitigated.

We continue to do what we can do. Relief operations continue. Donations ( continue to pour in from other countries (if you’re from one of these countries, thank you!), from OFWs, and from private individuals and companies. Concerts and other activities for a cause are organized. Writers feature touching stories of hope. Developers mapped out affected sites ( Local news organizations collaborated to collect data (#relieftracker on Twitter) to determine areas that haven’t received aid yet. We continue to offer our food, water, clothing, blankets, and tents to the typhoon survivors. Others offered their homes to evacuees (

For all the things our national government has done (and has not done), I look at the future with a sense of hope. You should, too. Just look at the long traffic of vehicles filled with relief goods ready to be shipped and distributed to affected areas, at our people who welcome evacuees on what is for them strange land, at the thousands of volunteers lining up to pack relief goods, at the banks that are filled with donors even on Wednesdays (which are normally lull days), and at the way people dramatically urge companies to improve their services (and then thank them for it). Just look at us as a people.

We may be scrambling to help, but we’re helping, we’re moving, we’re acting. We may despair at the lack of a system that will unite our efforts together, but we will set the pace and make collaboration our ally. We may recover for months or years, but we will recover. And we will recover together.

I hold on to this hope. Like many other citizens in the Philippines.


Disclaimer: All statements are my own and does not reflect the opinions of the companies and clients I work for. 

P.S. On a brighter note: