It was November 8, 2013 when a powerful and devastating typhoon struck the Philippines, the Eastern Visayas area in particular; it’s name is Haiyan (international) and infamously known as Super Typhoon Yolanda once it entered the Philippine area of responsibility. The path of destruction of this typhoon was very well documented on tv, heard on radio and read on paper worldwide. Many homes and establishments were ripped to pieces, death toll in Eastern Visayas area rose to thousands (final number of death toll still uncertain up to now, according to the Philippine Star Newspaper), and some are still missing up to now. Local and International philanthropies, NGOs and other outreach group quickly acted to help the affected areas. It hindered a lot of activities too in Metro Manila, all the budget and cash donations were allotted to the people severely affected by this horrible catastrophe. From cancelled company Christmas parties to a joint charity event with my good friend Rachel, the Yolanda Victims became the top priority of all companies and charities.
I will forever cherish the moments when Pinoy Malikhain, my puppet group, was sent by the Marikina City Government through an outreach program headed by Vice Mayor Jose Fabian I. Cadiz, M.D.; four times from November 29, 2013 to January 15, 2014 to Eastern Samar (one the state severely affected) to give hope and joy to the people affected through our puppet show and relief goods distribution. The journey was really exhausting for all of us, it took 27 hours of traveling from Marikina to Eastern Samar via land and sea. We had to sleep in our modes of transportation (vans and boats) in somehow “yoga” like positions, so it definitely took its toll on our bodies. Going there (I was able to join the trip twice) gave me the opportunity to observe up close the damage and the situation of the people, to bond with my friends in Pinoy Malikhain (Mac, Carlo, Christine, Deonel, Jay-R and Sir. Mark) and to meet some wonderful people in that area like Mr. Ervin Dy (the mayor of Juanita on that time) and his wife; Mrs. Cecile Dy who hosted us in our stay in Juanita. They shared to us their stories as well about their Yolanda experience. We performed in front of many people (and distributed relief goods afterwards) through extreme heat and partial rainfalls, and the laughter and smiles on their faces were like sunbeams through a storm… all our hard work, effort and fatigue were all worth it, in that single moment of twinkling hope. Even by just performing as a puppeteer and helping in the donation of some relief goods, I know it was only a small thing, but it was such a blessing and somehow historic in my part. Ever since then, our puppet group’s friendship became stronger and somehow better. Most importantly it deepened our understanding on the meaning of “volunteerism” and spending one’s time for a greater cause.
As of writing, reports about the people in the Eastern Visayas area are trending, on how they have moved on and the situation of the place; days heading to its first year anniversary. The progress is somehow slow but things are being done to ensure that the recovery goes smoothly in those areas. The government set some deadlines in regards to their housing development, livelihood projects and other related stuff from the donations that amounted to billions.
If there is one simple thing that I learned from my experience in reaching out and going to Eastern Samar, it is that we must always show to our family, relatives and friends their value in our lives by constantly communicating with them; visiting them from time to time; hanging out with them if possible; for we never know when death will strike our loved ones and vice versa. So make everyday an opportunity to celebrate life and give meaning to it.