After ‘Yolanda’

Cebu Daily News - - OPINION -

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 up­per­hal­fo­fourtwo-sto­ry­house­waswrecked­by­thetower 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 wasal­so­thetimewew­er­e­most­grate­ful.Grate­ful­for­be­ing 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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