Once there was a bitch whose name was Yolanda. In a matter of hours, she swept off towns from the face of the earth, left children motherless, mothers childless and crumbled the strength of fathers like the corner stones of homes reduced to rubble.
Yolanda (international name: Haiyan) was a Super Typhoon that made landfall on the Central Visayas region of the Philippines on November 8, 2013 (Friday). The bitch brought havoc and mayhem. Being the strongest of her kind in World History, she took lives. She tore homes apart. She broke the hearts of millions all over the world. I AM ONE OF THE BROKEN-HEARTED.
I am one of the many who wept for my fellowmen. I am one of those who spent hours and hours online, trying to find out everything about the bitch and her victims. I was constantly reading articles, watching videos, sharing, posting, re-blogging…
I was obsessed with Yolanda. I guess that’s how humans sometimes react to heartbreak. You find out all you can about the culprit, wishing there was something you dig up that was good enough as a tool for revenge.
Part 1 – The part where Yolanda broke my heart.
We heard it days beforehand in the news – that there was a “Super Typhoon” coming, estimated to be the most destructive ever in history. And as if we were in a sad, masochistic lottery game, it was the Philippines that won the raffle. The typhoon was said to make landfall in my country.
But I didn’t pay much attention to the news. I admit, I brushed it aside like it was old gossip. I expected this “Super Typhoon” to pass by the country the way other typhoons in the past did. I expected some grumpy weather, some destroyed homes, maybe a few casualties and a few days of post-typhoon news stories involving people that were miles and miles away from where I lived. And then that’s it – back to ordinary, Davaoenyo life. Back to arrogantly living in a corner of the Philippines where typhoons rarely make an impact.
On the day when the typhoon was supposedly to make landfall in the Visayas region, our geographic location didn’t fail me – there was barely any weather disturbance. I went about my day as usual.
It was when Facebook posts and news updates started cropping up that it started. One by one, piece by piece, my heart broke when images like these jumped out at me:
Hour by hour, the death toll rose up – one hundred, two hundred, three hundred, four hundred… a thousand, two thousand…
It was then that Yolanda’s destruction struck me like a dead fish slapped across my face. I was stung. I was stunned. But it didn’t end there – as if the death and destruction that she brought wasn’t enough, more stories came. Stories of survivors acting like animals, ransacking houses and establishments, stealing food to feed their hungry stomachs.
Because believe it or not, even three to five days after the tragedy, there was no concrete trace of our government attempting to search and rescue the missing or attending to the dead and worst – no mass government operations providing food, clothes and shelter for the survivors. As if these survivors haven’t experienced enough horror.
” A sad soul can kill quicker, far quicker than a germ.” – John Steibeck
Imagine having to endure horrific hours of a storm, watching the world around you crumble and watching your whole family taken by the storm surge, knowing in the corners of your brain that you will never see them again when it gets quiet.
Soon, the grief I felt was contaminated with anger. Where was the government? Where were the politicians who promised to “take care” of their people? Probably still fast asleep in their warm, comfy beds while in some parts of their country, people are becoming rash, willing to hurt others just for a bottle of water and a piece of soda crackers.
If the government didn’t act fast enough, these survivors will be reduced to nothing short of savage dogs. They’ve lost their families. They’ve lost their homes. They’ve lost enough. They can’t lose their humanity, too.
Amidst all these, amidst all the stories of loss, destruction, chaos, people pointing fingers, international media jumping in, local media men making a fool of themselves and “1 Like 1 Prayer” Facebook posts in my newsfeed, I was sure of one thing and one thing only: Yolanda was a bitch. And this bitch had to go down.
Part 2 – The part where the bitch goes down
In an attempt to fight back, I contacted my friends whom I met in humanitarian organizations that I’ve joined before, offering help. Some of them replied. Those events that I couldn’t join, I shared in my wall, hoping the “promotion” helped. Even our class was given a chance by our Class Instructor (Derf Maiz) to help re-pack relief goods, a chance that we gladly took.
In the back of my mind, I knew it was the only way Yolanda was to be defeated. To be strong was the only way to show her she didn’t win. The thing about bitches like Yolanda is they take all you have and crush it to smithereens, then leave you for dead. But when you show them that their spirit-crushing wasn’t enough to defeat you – that’s when you come out stronger.
The thing about Filipinos (and we’ve known this for gazillions of years) is that we are a resilient race. How many times have we experienced tragedies and came out of them with bright smiles on our faces? I’ll tell you how many times: More than the fingers typing on my laptop keyboard. Multiply that by ten. And multiply a thousand more. Amidst all the tragedy, even international media men couldn’t help but admire how strong the Filipino people are:
“When everything else is taken away, broken and battered, soaked raw, stripped bare, you see things. You see people as they really are. This week in Tacloban, Samar and Cebu, amidst the hunger and thirst, the chaos and confusion, we’ve seen the best in the Filipino people. Their strength, their courage, I can’t get it out of my mind. Imagine the strength it takes for a mother to search alone for her missing kids, the strength to sleep; on the street near the body of your child.
We’ve seen people with every reason to despair, every right to be angry, instead find ways to laugh, and to love, to stand up, to move forward.
A storm breaks wood and bone, brings hurt and heartbreak. In the end, the wind, the water, the horror it brings is not the end of the story.
With aid and assistance, compassion and care, this place, these people…they will make it through. They already survived the worst. They’re bowed, perhaps tired and traumatized, but they are not broken.
Mabuhay Philippines! Maraming salamat for all you’ve shown us. Maraming salamat for showing us all how to live.”
– Anderson Cooper
And indeed, this is how we bring Yolanda down. By helping eachother. By staying strong.
I wasn’t directly affected by the Super Typhoon. I don’t really know how it feels to be uprooted from my home by a merciless natural calamity or how horrible it must feel to check the faces of each dead body you see in the street in search for a missing loved one. I don’t really know. And hopefully, I never will. But watching from the outside in, I know the pain cannot be described or put into words.
But when you see people from all over your country and all over the world make an effort to lift up those who were beaten down, you can’t help but feel hopeful. Happy, even.
Yolanda may be a bitch. But her bitchiness brought the whole world together. In the face of adversity, humanity may show its ugliness and its flaws but on one side, it never fails to amaze us.
Yolanda may be a bitch but the bitch showed us how to be a man for others.