When I was 13, I experienced the wrath of Supertyphoon “Yolanda” (international name: Haiyan). I remember we were evacuated to a school. I was clinging to the window grills during the storm surge. I got separated from the rest of my family, so I was by myself at that time. Afterward, I climbed up to the roof of the classroom; I can still remember how freezing cold it was.
After the storm passed, my father told us that the upper half of our two-story house was wrecked by the tower behind our home. We spent days sleeping wearing wet clothes. Despite wet floors, we slept indoors since there were no streetlights at night. Every home was dependent on candles for light.
My family shared one plate of food. I remember my father telling us to stock up on as much food as we could, because it would take approximately 10 years for Tacloban to recover.
Five years later, I am now a Grade 12 student. And Tacloban hasn’t just recovered — we’ve stood up and we’re running in this life’s race again. I face each day with a hopeful heart. We went through devastation, yes. But we were never alone in recovering from it.
The time when people assumed we’d be the saddest was also the time we were most grateful. Grateful for being alive and for all that we were given after losing everything — food when we were hungry, clothes to keep us warm, medical help when none was locally available, school supplies to help us still attain the privilege of education.
For us, it meant a lot, like the world telling us we were not alone. It was hope. That is why there is hope in every Taclobanon’s heart, because the world has lit up that hope in all of us — in every smile, in every relief program that’s been conducted, in every visit, and in every “How are you?” and “Is your family all right?”
Today, electricity isn’t just back. We can even access the internet. Education is definitely back to normal. Most of us students are actively participating in school activities and even serving in organizations outside school.
We are also more conscious of our actions and are aware of the environment. I’ve been to numerous environmental seminars and activities myself.
It’s so good to see the young people of Tacloban educating themselves on environmental awareness and taking action about it.
Because of Yolanda, nature now has a personal and deeper significance to us. The city now emphasizes children’s safety. Whenever the weather gets bad enough to prompt danger, classes are suspended. Knowing what it feels like to be in need, Tacloban also engages in relief operations for other places.
Five years ago, we experienced a disaster. Every day was a question of how to get back up. We’d linger in the discomfort of the situation. We’d anticipate the aid that would help provide for our necessities.
But today, we’ve risen above the calamity. We live in the mindset of a hopeful future. We reply “We’re fine now” to every “How is Tacloban?” And that is because of every gesture of help and prayers sent our way. God knows how grateful we are. Yolanda made us stronger and united us as a city.
Concerned citizens of the world, and organizations like Unicef who helped us, were those who told us to stay strong, who embraced our identity, who assisted us in standing up after we fell down.
We, the children of Tacloban, were minors during the devastation. We could’ve lost hope. We were unfamiliar with what we were experiencing. We could’ve thought there was nothing more to our situation than the chaos in our environment.
We could have. But we didn’t. So thank you to everyone, because you made us realize how special we were—how vulnerable, yet capable of rising up again.
You taught us to keep going, to dream, and, most especially, you believed in us. Now, we believe in ourselves, too. We do everything we can for our future. We act. We utilize our capabilities to make an impact on our families and in our communities.
When I was 13, I experienced the wrath of Yolanda. Today, I’m 18 and headstrong. I face life with a hopeful heart.
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Kiana Gualberto was only 13 when Supertyphoon “Yolanda” hit her hometown, Tacloban City. She is now in Grade 12. She has developed an inner resilience to adversities and maintains a positive outlook on her future.
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