Since Typhoon Haiyan ravaged the Philippines nearly two weeks ago, the news has been flooded with images of destruction and disaster in my family's home country, with confirmed fatalities in the thousands and rising. • When I was younger, I would beam every time the Philippines was mentioned in a history class, or even in passing; I felt like none of my classmates knew anything about it. But now, as everyone's attention is finally drawn to this nation of islands, the circumstances are undoubtedly heartbreaking. • I still feel a sense of pride, though, because I know the Philippines is home to resilient people with the strongest spirits out there. • To get a deeper sense of the tragedy's impact, I made contact with some students in high school (sometimes known as colleges) in Manila. Though their part of the Philippines was spared from the storm, their lives are inevitably changed. Here are their edited remarks.
La Salle Greenhills, year 3 (junior)
Typhoon Haiyan, locally known as Yolanda, struck the Philippines on Nov. 8. The super typhoon caused devastation especially in the Eastern Visayas region. Tacloban is a city in Leyte province in that region that caught the world's eye. Tacloban suffered 90 percent devastation. Locals described the scene as if it were the end of the world, with people displaced, homes obliterated and bodies on the streets. Aside from these, locals also have to endure no electricity, water and communication. However, the Filipinos still have hope, turning to the churches, and continue to offer prayers. Thirty-six countries are helping the Philippines recover from the damage. We can all do our part by (helping with) relief operations, giving donations and even by simple prayers. Filipinos are known to be always positive and could get through any obstacle. They continue to show everyone why it really is "More Fun in the Philippines," as a popular tourism slogan states.
Assumption College, year 3 (junior)
Typhoon Yolanda is one event that devastated not only the provinces affected, but our whole country as well. It's all over the news, all over the world and sometimes it can be unbearable to watch. But as the saying goes, "The Filipino Spirit is Waterproof." This event brought our country together, through relief operations. All the support we get from other countries as well plays such a big part in our situation now. This shows not only the love shared among fellow Filipinos, but the love shared among us and the other countries as well.
Assumption College, year 3 (junior)
It was absolutely horrifying to watch fellow Filipinos suffer from the super typhoon Yolanda. How can anyone stand being safe and sound while people around you are in danger? Then of course, the real horror is at the Visayas region, where the storm took away homes, belongings and lives. I remember a few days before tragedy struck, my family was talking about our relatives at Visayas who couldn't leave. Thankfully, they weren't affected, but as a Filipino, other citizens seem like family as well. Now we have thousands of dead relatives. But help arrived from various directions. Lots of people are reaching out; even our school is doing its part. I recall a friend making a reference to Douglas McArthur's "I shall return" speech, stating the U.S. has once again returned to Leyte to aid them. Days after the storm, I saw a picture of Leyte with a rainbow above. Then more rainbows began piling up, in the form of help, both local and international. Rainbows, after all, mean hope.
Assumption College, year 4 (senior)
On the day before Typhoon Haiyan, I remember my friend jokingly singing: "One more day before the storm!" referencing the lyrics of Les Miserables' famous song One Day More. On Nov. 8, the day disaster struck, I woke up to announcements of suspended classes and happily went back to sleep, and later on spent the day watching Romeo and Juliet with my friend at the mall. That day was as seemingly ordinary as every other day, with the sun shining and the birds singing. Living in bustling Metro Manila, my small little world was untouched, unchanged. I had absolutely no idea of the sheer devastation being wrought by the super typhoon on my fellow countrymen.
Suddenly, my perfect little bubble of a sheltered life burst, and the world I had once known began to crumble around me. After hearing about it in school, reading about it in the newspapers and seeing it on TV, the enormity of the situation at first felt too surreal to accept. Here in metropolitan Manila, busy cars and soaring skyscrapers line the city streets, not dead bodies. Here, workers line up for jeepney rides, not to receive rations and other basic necessities.
As millennials, we are often criticized for lacking empathy, and that couldn't have been more true for me. I was quite aware, or so I thought, of everything that was going on, but I lacked the emotional capacity to truly feel for my unfortunate countrymen.
However, when I truly processed . . . the situation, I was reduced to a sobbing mess. The tears came slowly, building up and welling in my eyes until they began to torrent down my face. My throat closed up and my chest tightened and I physically hurt.
I couldn't imagine all the pain the people there are going through. I couldn't imagine the pain of having your loved ones, family and friends, taken away from you. I couldn't imagine the devastation of having everything you've ever known, your house and all your property, stuff that took you years to build, just gone in a flash. I couldn't imagine all the frustration and helplessness these people must feel.
But I guess God somehow managed to open up my heart, as he did . . . with people all around the world. God gave us all the spirit to come to terms with what was happening as well as the courage and the burning passion to do something about it.
I kept thinking to myself, "What can I do to help, when I'm just an ordinary 17-year-old?" Last year, a very wise history teacher taught us, "Youth is not an excuse to do nothing." She couldn't have been more right. I've packed boxes of donations, I've tweeted, I've prayed, I've reblogged posts on tumblr and started liking posts on Facebook.
Everybody is pitching in to help, and it doesn't matter whether they've got a lot to give or hardly anything at all. From little girls in the grade school donating what meager savings they've stashed in their piggy banks, to high school students arranging bake sales and garage sales. From college students organizing relief operations to adults agreeing to reduce their salaries to give as donations. Because this is what love is all about. This is what humanity is all about. It's all about transcending ourselves to sacrifice for others.
An amazing Filipino trait I'm very proud of is what we can "Bayanihan." It originated back in olden times when Filipinos would help their neighbors move by literally picking up and carrying their houses. In modern times, this word has come to mean helping one another out in times of difficulty, and I believe that Bayanihan spirit has worked its magic and spread beyond the Philippine territory. I can practically feel the holy spirit working within and among us, transcending countries and races, ages and religions, languages and cultures.
Ateneo de Manila High School, year 4 (senior)
The Los Angeles Lakers are currently 4-7. This is not a usual sight, because everyone knows the Los Angeles Lakers have had a winning tradition ever since they joined the (NBA), but they have been barely surviving without the rehabbing Kobe Bryant.
This is much like what it is being in the Philippines now. . . , the typhoon victims being the Los Angeles Lakers, (and) everyone who helped/is helping/will help being Kobe Bryant. Being a die-hard Los Angeles Lakers fan and a Filipino, the situation right now is tough (for me). But Kobe Bryant, and the Kobe Bryants from all around the world, give me hope that everything will be all right.