Always every after storm, people clean up the clutter and debris, mourn for their loss and get back to the new normal. This is what Super typhoon Haiyan did to my region. Although my own city was spared from the worst, we had our share of surreal moments. I’m sure that anyone who had lived through the same tragedies can imagine how it is to see people suffer. No amount of words can appease those mixed emotions of anguish and anger, subsiding into acceptance, which now had started to turn into hope and action.
For more than two weeks, we had no access to power. Bits of news and access to the internet came in spurts through shared mini- wireless devices at home. For the most part, we retire at night earlier than usual. The days’ routine had been shortened including the kids’ school hours. Since TV was off in those days, the girls turned to reading their favorite e-books and novels. Now it had become a habit. Since my online writing job was stopped, I found time to read books again. Then, there was the semester starting in November and I had to prepare for two subjects to teach in a local private College at home.
By the second week after Yolanda (how Haiyan is locally named), I volunteered to join the four-day relief and medical mission organized by the Franciscan community that run the College where I teach. The team tried to reach out to the neglected villages, where less external assistance came, but it was impossible to cover them all given the limitations of our supplies and the time allocated for that trip. We managed to distribute relief goods to communities by the main roads and those blocked by the fallen debris. We learned that some of these areas were inaccessible for almost 3 to 4 days. People shared their stories of how they survived by helping one another. By the time we reached the communities the team selected for relief distribution and medical services, people have started picking up the pieces and rebuilding their make-shift homes. Children and young people were still in the mode of roaming around their villages, often coming in throng when relief services arrive. We heard stories of grief, of courage and determination to live. We felt the tears unshed by fathers and husbands who lost wives, a parent or kids of their own. Women in their sense of dismay and desperation still managed to rally around aid workers and help in the distribution of what good people from other parts of the country had shared. The old people were saying that Haiyan was unlike the other strong storms that they had witnessed in the last 7 to 8 decades. The sheer force of wind and water turned to horror what otherwise were rustic and pristine beaches dotting the coastal areas of Samar Island. There is no one to blame. Surely, not Mother Nature. For She is but going through her normal cycle of birth, decay and rebirth. Although climate change is a huge but unrecognized factor in the way weather patterns have turned abnormal (unusual) in the last five years in our archipelago (and similar parts of the globe), people are still unaware of what is it. Climate justice campaigners had been crying out all these years. This time the voice of desperation has become louder. Still, nothing seems to move. The effects of global warming may be irreversible, but people can still adapt and survive, like we used to all our lives. The real tragedy is – we remain ignorant of how the excesses of others can affect our lives drastically.