It’s late and I’m supposed to be sleeping for tomorrow is another work day. It feels as if everything this side of the world is so normal when in fact, a few hundred miles south from here, severely catastrophic towns exist. Towns which I have visited countless times when I was young. Towns which holds fond childhood memories for me. Towns where loved ones whose conditions remain unknown reside.
Typhoon Yolanda brought destruction never before seen in the Philippines. Entire towns and cities washed away. Destruction and death lay at her wake. People hopeless and desperate – not knowing how they can ever rise again. Businesses looted by hungry victims as security forces – the little of who were left – stood by and watched helplessly.
I really don’t know what to say. I remain at a loss for words. I have packed everything I can send to help. I have planned to sell whatever I can to have some cash to donate. I long to still be in the thick of things, helping out in whatever way I can – repacking, distributing, reporting. The devastation is so vast, the task at hand is so big – where do we start? Where do they begin to rebuild their lives?
I am grateful our province was spared. There were some coastal towns who were also badly affected but other than that everything is now back to normal. On the day the storm hit close to our place, I was locked inside my room, unable to sleep soundly. I can hear the howling winds and feel it beat against the walls and roof of our house. There were moments when everything would be silent – then the howling would begin once again. It was a storm of winds and less of rain. The rain was bearable but the winds were not. To this date, when the storm has long passed and our nights are much calmer, I can sometimes hear the winds howling in my mind and the accompanying fear of what it could do in the dead of the night.
But what I experienced was way less than what those who were near the eye of the storm experienced. They felt the brunt of the wind 4-5 times what I felt. Plus, they experienced majority of the rain. But what was worse were the storm surges – a term which until recently held no meaning for me. I have never encountered the term storm surge and like many other people have no idea of the damage it entailed. Had I known storm surge would mean tidal waves that could create floods 10 feet deep, I would have been scared but nonetheless better prepared. I believe the same could be true for the hundreds who drowned, all because they didn’t understand the term and did not seek higher grounds thinking where they evacuated was enough.
It is heartbreaking to see the photos of devastation. It is heart wrenching to hear the pleas of people for food, water and shelter and to see those who lost loved ones moving along like zombies without aim or purpose. Restoration of power they say would take 2 months, and that is being optimistic. Restoration of communication lines is hoped to happen sooner. From there relief goods could be delivered to even the remotest hit area. But debris has yet to be cleaned from roads to unblock them. Houses and establishments have to be rebuilt. Hospitals, schools, government buildings, churches and other public spaces have to be re-constructed to better serve the affected people. Businesses have to re-establish themselves as they re-stock and fix their establishments. Whole towns and cities have to be reconstructed and repaired.
But more than the physical repair that would take 2 – 6 months at most, the people’s faith, hope and lives have to be reconstructed as well. Hope has to be re-instilled in their hearts that things will turn out for the better despite the massive destruction and the immense trial they have been through. Faith has to be strengthened in their minds that they have the capacity to rebuild their lives and that there is still an Almighty that looks after them. Their lives are severely battered. Those who lost families might have lost the will to live. Some have already migrated to other places leaving their destructed town believing that their lives there are over.
More than the cash and in-kind donations we send out to them, prayers would still be a lot of help. For as the cash and in-kind donations would provide them with the basic necessities of food, clothes and shelter, our prayers will help strengthen their resolve and give them hope, faith and their lives back again.