It has been three months since typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda), one of the strongest typhoons to ever hit land, devastated the central part of my country. The impact has been nothing less than staggering, with initial reported deaths quickly rising to the thousands. Considering the typhoon’s path and size, this was expected… but the reality of the aftermath was far from what anyone had ever imagined.
Haiyan’s path cut through 171 towns and cities across at least 5 provinces and affecting more than 4 million families, most of which were living in coastal areas. This summary by The New York Times clearly shows how the devastation was made worse by storm surges that raged inland with the strong winds.
But amid all the death and destruction came an unprecedented and overwhelming help and support from the international community. Unprecedented, because for once past and present differences were set aside in order to bring aid as soon as possible. Overwhleming because, despite initial difficulties coordinating with the Philippine government and its agencies (who were mostly still shell-shocked), aid did manage to get in with several more pledges of short-term and long-term support.
As a Cebuano and Visayan, I too grieved the loss of life and the destruction of our beautiful islands, especially as we were still recovering from a 7.2 magnitude earthquake less than a month before the typhoon hit. So together with other concerned friends and organizations, a relief drive was quickly organized, asking first from local donors who we knew had supplies on hand that could be immediately repacked and sent to the affected families both in the northern part of Cebu as well as to the neighboring islands of Leyte and Samar.
During our first trip to the island of Bantayan in the northernmost part of Cebu, I saw first-hand the proof of international help. We passed by several truckloads of foreign medical teams as well as military personnel carrying not just food donations but critical supplies as well such as shelter materials and water purification systems. We did not have the time to stop and ask them their nationality, but from what I saw they were mostly Europeans (French and German) as well as a few from our Asian neighbors. I later learned that aid from the US and the UK were mostly directed to the hardest hit area of Tacloban City in the province of Leyte.
Since then, aid has been continuously pouring in with many more pledges coming from the UN. Those who have seen the devastation on TV know that the road to recovery will be very long, hard, and uncertain. Rains and LPAs continue to batter the hard hit areas, and it seems more typhoons are coming in the next few months.
But today, on the third month since the typhoon, I would like to remember all the good that it has brought. The unity and cooperation among nations; the dedication of non-government organizations; and the tireless efforts and compassion of countless individuals who have given much of their time and energy to us. The tragedy may have been great, but our humanity proved greater.
To all of you who have helped us -governments, organizations, and individuals- allow me to offer my sincerest gratitude and deepest appreciation for everything you have done to help us stand up once more.
MABUHAY UG DAGHANG SALAMAT!!
Photos taken during our first and second relief missions to Bantayan Island. hendrix valmoria © 2013