Yolanda and the Filipinos

Haiyan. Yolanda. Whichever the name is, that typhoon has been a great gauge of strength, resiliency, and unity of the Filipino nation.

It was the 7th of November, 2013 when Yolanda entered the Philippine shores, initially devastating the sleepy town of Guiuan, Eastern Samar. It was night time and the damage it had brought remained unseen, until the dawn of the next day. By November 8, Yolanda crossed the entire islands of Leyte and Samar, with winds up to 315 km/h (195 mph). Along with the furious winds was the gigantic storm surge, waves reaching as high as 5-6 m (15-19 ft). Waters covered the whole City of Tacloban and those who were unfortunate to reach high grounds were drowned and killed. Buildings and churches toppled. Boats and ships were thrown on land. Trees were uprooted and lives were wasted. By November 10, Yolanda exited the country, leaving ruined cities and provinces, broken lives, and a shocked nation.

Yolanda is Super Typhoon 5 and if news were accurate, it is the strongest storm that ever struck the country. The regions on the path of Yolanda have always been visited by storms every year. However, the magnitude of Yolanda is something they were not prepared for. Though evacuation had been done prior to the typhoon’s landfall, the great waves had reached even the highest places. Yolanda must have been too strong for any form of preparation. According to the news, at least 10,000 people died on Tacloban alone.

The death toll is truly unbelievable. The videos showing clips of the intensity of Yolanda are arrows to the heart. Images of death and wreckage are common on the papers and TV, harrowing and disheartening all the time. And in the midst of this tragedy, a nation’s character is tested.

Aids and assistance instantly poured from every corner of the country. Food, medicine, clothing, beddings and other necessities were donated, easing the hunger and pain of the victims. It’s overwhelming as every Filipino heart tried in their little ways to support relief operations. Several countries have also extended their help, including international celebrities, politicians, and sport figures. Humanity is at work and it warms my heart to know such generosity.

On the sad part, there are depressing hearsays about the tragedy. One of which revolves around the church of Iglesia ni Cristo which stood strong against Yolanda, remaining upright and intact after the storm. According to the reports, people from inside the church refused to shelter typhoon victims as they are not members of the church. They are even images comparing the battered Santo NiƱo Church and the untouched Iglesia ni Cristo church, with captions saying that Catholics deserved the devastation as they were “evil”. This infuriated many netizens, both Catholic and INC members. Catholic were mad about the alleged unkindness; INC members disclaimed the reports and stated it was only a ploy to malign the church. Whether true or not, the news really stirred conflicts among the religions. As for me, I want to believe they were only lies as such act is ungodly and unforgivable. And I wish that people realized that this is not the moment to debate which is the better religion, for right now, the victims need the better men.

Another thing that bugs me is the comments and status around social medias about the corruption in the government and distrust in the politicians. This makes me sad as these people seem so proud in announcing to the whole world as how unkind or evil or rotten the officials in the country are, that they will only take advantage of the donations that other countries give for the victims of Yolanda. They are only painting a messy and funny circus of the country’s government, vivid for the entire world to see. But in truth, they are not only embarrassing these politicians, they are putting the entire Filipino nation to shame. In the first place, these officials are elected by the people, and in a way, they are reflections of the Filipino nation. I wish that for just this moment, may we all learn to trust again. That instead of playing the blame game or pompously proclaim our bitterness in the government, may we just devote our time and energy in extending all possible help.

In the end, Yolanda has etched a significant mark in the country’s history. In times like this, may Filipinos be as bold and strong as their ancestors who braved the trying times of the past. The Filipino nation is one big family. And instead of destroying one another, may we all learn to care for our mothers, fathers, sisters, and brothers with all heart, mind and soul.

Image courtesy of Rappler.


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