Last words on the Philippines: Helping Yolanda’s victims

I was supposed to go on a reportage to Tacloban, North Visayas, a city that was completely destroyed by the recent typhoon. Unfortunately, it has been raining there for two weeks and I had to cancel y trip. Though, I’d like to share the experience and work of my friend Janice, who is trying to help this region…

<< Typhoon Yolanda was a super destructive typhoon, the worst in the world ever in history! It claimed so many human lives and left massive and widespread destruction inTacloban City, my own hometown.

<< For a week, there was a news blackout and we could not even hear of who survived and who perished. We could only see the very scary images on TV. So I went to Tacloban on the 7th day after the typhoon to search for my 81 yr. old Aunt, (the older sister of my dad) and 4 sisters of my mom ages, 84,83,82 and 76. Thank God they all survived. In fact every member of our large family, both my father and mother’s side in Tacloban survived. Very sad though, how they lost almost everything in life.

<< And then the question was: What can I do to help further???

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<< There are already many food relief and medical missions there now from all over the Philippines and from a lot of international agencies.  Few nights ago I met and shook the hands of French and British soldiers who are extending help to Tacloban. I also had the privilege to bow low in gratitude before two Japanese soldiers who were buying stacks of plastic water of barrels at a grocery here in Cebu for their mission in Tacloban…

<< Though, with this scale of devastation that claimed the lives of loved ones, wiped out people’s homes and livelihood, the first casualty is the degradation of human dignity. Predators and opportunists like drug traffickers, cyber pornography syndicates, human traffickers prostitution syndicates are bound to proliferate. That’s why it is so important, and urgent, to also work on people’s trauma. So, together with the Foundation I’ve been presiding for the last seven years, we’ve decided to organize and deliver a Stress and Trauma Management Relief Mission (TLWCF) to the north of Cebu and Tacloban City.

<< This is an aspect of need, which is not being addressed by anyone. To us a TLWCF, it is the core of the Human soul that needs to heal first, before any restoration or rehabilitation can follow.

<< Our targets are Elementary and high school teachers and children and youth who are very vulnerable to predators during these desperate times. We have already been to the Northern towns of Cebu that were worst impacted by the typhoon and we plan to go to Tacloban City very soon.

<< Another step is going to help the people in earning an income so that they can rebuild their lives.

<< My furniture company – Janice minor Export – is currently working on furniture’s designs like tables and chairs, benches, lamps, mirrors and Chandeliers using recycled broken house parts, broken galvanized roofing sheets and uprooted trees and branches, in short, debris material of which there a mountains and mountains of in Tacloban City.

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<< We will help impacted people to learn a new craft:  making furniture and decorative accessories using recycled debris material. The company can initially finance the start up by sending our furniture makers with finished model samples to Tacloban. We will prepare tool kits that will be used for the specific designs we introduce. The finishing treatment and accessorizing the base product will be done at the factory for the final added value and quality assurance. We will market the products immediately in Cebu and Manila during the International shows and we will promote them to the International market as well… many challenges ahead of us still ! >>

Saving memories from the flows…

Last November, an exceptionally powerful tropical cyclone devastated portions of Southern Asia, and particularly the Philippines, where its is known as typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan for the rest of the world).

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Virginia was at her place on November 8, when it hit Tacloban, the capital and seat of government of the Region of Eastern Visayas (see map here). One week afterwards, she was leaving the city bringing with her the photos albums of a lifetime. For the last two months, she has spent her days trying to dry them.

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Yolanda caused massive destruction across the city. Dead bodies were scattered on the streets, trees were uprooted, every single building, every single house, were severely damaged.

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Somehow, Virginia was lucky. She had planned to renovate her house, a renovation that had just started, the first step having been to elevate the level of the house, that far stuck in a basin. Only the bedroom and bathroom had been elevated that far. Otherwise, she would have probably drown during that very night…

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Widespread looting is reported to have taken place and local government virtually collapsed, as many city officials were victims. Four jails had to be evacuated, as inmates couldn’t be fed anymore. 70 of them escaped. That’s when Virginia’s niece decided to pick up her aunt and bring her to a safer location.

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Unfortunately, the albums’ plastic sticks to the pictures, and memories are melting with gelatin. Yolanda stole her future, but also grabbed her past. Is her present a burden or a relief, I didn’t dare to ask…

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As of December 5, The death toll stands at 7,000 people in Tacloban.

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