After the storm
It has been four years since the strongest typhoon ever recorded hit Eastern Visayas. As I remember that terrifying event, I look back and ask how we are, and say a prayer to God for all those who died. May His perpetual light shine upon them.
It was on Nov. 8, 2013, that our small town, which is a two-hour drive from Tacloban City, experienced the wrath of “Yolanda.” The night before, we evacuated to our neighbor’s house. We awoke to a little drizzle and a slight wind. By 6 a.m. we had lost our electricity and communication signal. By 8 a.m. the rain had become much stronger and the wind had intensified.
Peeping through the small hole in the room where we were staying, I saw roofs being peeled off one by one and flying to nowhere, and walls starting to crumble. The wind became even louder and intense, and we were filled with fear that the house in which we had sought refuge would also be destroyed any minute. We doubled our efforts in storming the heavens with prayers, at the same time holding tightly to anything inside the house, afraid that we would be swept away by the terrible wind. At 10:30 a.m. I started to see other people running for dear life and taking shelter in buildings still standing.
It was already afternoon when we were able to go out of neighbor’s house. The rain had gone back to a drizzle and, except for some gusts, the wind had quieted. I was downhearted to see our house from a distance: It had lost its roof and walls. A closer look was even more disturbing. Inside it was a total wreck—a world in chaos. The storm had lasted for mere hours, but it was indescribable in its terror.
After the storm we found ourselves homeless. Our neighbor’s stockroom became our sleeping quarters for two months. My brother who could hardly wield a hammer learned to do some repairs just so we could have a little space that won’t get us wet when it rained.
After the storm we found ourselves in a grim situation. It became so hard for us to make both ends meet. My sisters learned to line up for relief goods. The costs of basic commodities increased doubly. Fetching water for drinking and other purposes was exhausting.
After the storm we had no inkling of what was happening in the outside world. Accurate information was hard to come by, and people were easily deceived. Gossip spread like wildfire—for instance, that a band of thieves or a group of escaped prisoners were invading houses.
After the storm recovering or saving our belongings seemed endless. Every day we tried to dry anything that could still be of use.
Yolanda caused much devastation. It took away thousands of lives. It destroyed our houses and our sources of living. But as in any other storm that entered our lives, we bounced back. Immediately after the storm we began to rebuild our broken homes, to pick up the debris, and to get our footing back. Bruised and damaged, we were hopeful and determined to rise up.
Yes, the storm brought me so much pain and sorrow, but it also taught me valuable life lessons. I learned to be grateful for life’s second chances. I could have been one of those who perished, but God gave me a new chance to live, a new beginning with the hope that things would be better than it was before.
I became more grateful for the gift of life and the gift of family. I learned to appreciate the small things—the kilo of rice, canned sardines and packs of noodles in a relief package, the bag of personal care products, the financial assistance promised and provided (although half of it we have not yet received).
After the storm I marvelled at the moon and the dim stars scattered among the bright ones, which made the sky even more breathtaking. For almost four months that we had no electricity, we had our meals underneath that amazing sky of twinkling stars. In the darkness of the night they served as our light. I learned to respect nature and to resolve to be responsible for my every action. The destruction reminded me that when nature strikes, it strikes with all its might. Yolanda served as a warning that we have to take good care of our Mother Earth.
After every storm the sun is sure to rise. Indeed, after shedding buckets of tears, after losing some valued things, after feeling great pain and sorrow I embraced the sunlight. There is hope beyond hopelessness. In the seemingly hopeless situation we were in, I found a tiny ray of light that helped me take small steps to continue my journey.
The storm also taught me the true meaning of unity. I was the type of person who didn’t really believe in community. I had this notion that other people could not help me resolve my own worries and problems because they had their own. I believed that aside from my family, I only had myself to count on. After the storm the overflowing help from strangers bent my belief. People from all over the world wholeheartedly extended their help to us. Donations came pouring in. They also felt our pain and sympathized with us. I was made to feel that we all belong in a community and each one has a responsibility to care for the other. I learned that we may not know each other personally, but we are all connected. I learned that people have an innate sense of goodness.
After the storm I now know the importance of sharing and helping one another. In rebuilding one’s life one should not forget to connect with others, and to start living life in humility, knowing that we all need one another.
Among the most important lessons the storm taught me is deepening my faith in the Lord Almighty, and believing that I am under His love and mercy, that He will never abandon me. I may have questioned why He allowed the storm to happen; still He never let us deal with the ordeal by ourselves. He continued to show me His immense love.
Four years later I look back with a smile and a thankful though scarred heart. To be battered by the strongest typhoon ever recorded is an extraordinary event, and to survive it is
definitely a miracle. Yolanda damaged us to the core, but it did not destroy our soul.
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Desiree M. Negad, 28, is a resident of the small town of Leyte in the province of Leyte.
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