A year ago today, our country was struck by one of the most powerful typhoons. Not immune to natural disasters, we are used to earthquakes, cyclones and volcanic eruptions. But nothing has prepared us to the magnitude of Typhoon Haiyan. Millions were displaced, thousands of lives lost and billions in pesos of structure were destroyed. Haiyan is by far the most destructive natural disaster to hit the Philippines.
As a health worker, I know the service we render in disasters is of utmost importance. When I saw on TV the devastation it has caused, I felt desperate as if I was part of the scene. I cried as if I lost my own family members. I was angry at the futile effort my government was doing. Recue efforts were politicized, at the expense of the victims of the tragedy.
When the international media came in two days after Typhoon Haiyan wreaked havoc in the Visayan islands of Tacloban and Samar, sympathy and donations from various international non government organizations poured in. Rescue and relief efforts finally kicked in. Without the help of communities from around the globe, our affected countrymen would not have been able to get by.
On my part, I did what I had to do. Our group was able to organize a medical team that will serve the victims. Together with the Philippine Medical Association, we were able to send a contingency of doctors, nurses and dentists to Tacloban and Samar who stayed there for two weeks, along with tons of relief goods and medicines collected from different groups and organizations.
Diapers, canned goods, medicines, sacks of rice, biscuits, crackers, instant noodles, cooked food in doy packs, boxes of fruit juices, cereals, infant formula, milk cartons, water containers came not in boxes but in container vans. We only expected 20 tons to be collected but more that than arrived. The boat that we reserved for our relief goods was not enough. We needed a bigger vessel to accommodate the collected items weighing more than 60 tons!
Another team was sent to Northern Cebu, to do medical missions and deliver more relief goods. It was during this time that I am humbled by the generosity of the people who helped. Doctors and nurses who cannot join the team to be deployed in the affected areas volunteered to segregate and pack the donated items. I posted in our facebook page the need for more volunteers and more relief goods and all the help we need came pouring in.
As a way of thanking those who helped us, a group of artists from the affected region convened and organized a local concert named “Handumanan”. In our native dialect it means tribute or thanksgiving. Local artists and bands performed probono to a large crowd to say thank you to the unsung heroes of Haiyan.
Among those who received citations were: the Tzu Chi Foundation- a group of Buddhists who started a livelihood program for those in Tacloban. They paid individuals (P500.00 or a little over $1.00) to start cleaning their surroundings. Their efforts raised close to 2Billiion pesos to help in the rehabilitation of Tacloban, Samar and Ormoc. I was part of the Handumanan. To those who helped our country, our gratitude goes to you.
We have heard stories of survival, struggle and hope. The resilience of the Filipino spirit has been tested. Those who died and left us, a moment of silence and a day of prayer was offered to them. Those who still live, a life of challenge and triumph await them. How can you provide hope to the kids who saw the ravage of the typhoon? How do you put closure to them, when their parents were never found? How do you teach them to go on because after all life is to be lived and assure them that life will get better?
A friend of mine, found the answer to this puzzle. Aba Dalena hails from the Dalena dynasty of artists. Her mom, Lluch Dalena is a famous sculptor, her dad Danny Dalena is a world renowned painter, and her sister Kiri is a multi awarded cinematographer. Aba is also a sculptor and she teaches art to school children, kids with autism, adults who need a new lease on life, and orphans of Typhoon Haiyan.
Art therapy is very effective for children who underwent trauma. They can express their thoughts, emotions and feelings through the writing, painting and sculpting. Through the manipulation of the objects, their pent up emotions can be expressed.
Aba, thought of imparting her knowledge and skills to the orphaned kids through her Art. Every now and then she goes back to Tacloban to teach the children. To commemorate the first anniversary of Typhoon Haiyan, with a measly sum, she bought kiln for the kids. Voila!
I want to see the victims of Haiyan to be self reliant and empowered. I wouldn’t want them peddling for their lost dignity. Aba and I will work for a long term project to help these kids achievea life of normalcy after Typhoon Haiyan. They deserve education, housing and a caring environment.
We hope through this effort, the kids of Baranggay 89 will have a better future ahead of them. 🙂