As of this writing, it’s been 20 days since super typhoon Yolanda (International name: Haiyan) wreaked havoc on the towns, cities, and islands of Eastern Visayas of the Philippines. My family and I were, as usual, in Manila that Friday, November 8, for our weekend activities when Yolanda came. As early as November 5, I already knew about this super typhoon because posts on weather updates and call for prayers started to trickle in my Facebook feed. But that Friday evening, we were comfortably tucked in my dad’s condo unit in Alabang. The howling wind was a lot stronger and creepier than the typhoons in the past which kept me awake most of the night, for I was fearing that our windows and sliding doors would break! It was really a blessing that we were kept safe by our Lord and guardian angels when Yolanda made herself felt in Manila.
We have no tv in Alabang and our source of news was and is always Facebook and Twitter. A BIG THANKS to social media! We went about our schedules that weekend (sewing class, Kayla’s golf training, and an orientation for our family, as first-timers, on Make A Wish Philippines Foundation and its upcoming Wish Grant event scheduled on the next weekend). We heard about the extensive damage Yolanda caused in the Visayas, particularly, Tacloban and Samar. However, little did we know that this super typhoon was probably the strongest typhoon ever recorded in history and our poor country was its victim.
By Monday, November 11, we were back home in Batangas and it was only then that we were able to watch news on tv and see the destruction, the wiped out barangays, towns, cities, islands brought about by Yolanda. The images we saw were simply UNIMAGINABLE!
From then on, I was glued on Facebook as I await news about the real condition of the Visayas region. I have to say that this was the calamity where I found myself mostly affected and which really moved me to be more involved and to actively spread news and updates in Facebook. I told myself that this is the perfect time to stay longer in front of my desktop, check my Instagram often, and use my social media tools responsibly. I just couldn’t do my normal routines and duties! Only to find out, too, that I wasn’t alone. Fellow moms and female friends in Facebook were feeling the same and before I knew it, relief operations and donation drives started to be organized with everyone so ready to join and volunteer. It then began to hit me that it was really time to stop whatever we were doing and start giving help to our fellow kababayans (countrymen). It was an interruption to our work, to our busy schedules, to our deadlines, but that only brings me to Lesson #1 of this unexpected interruption we all experienced.
Lesson #1: INTERRUPTIONS AND STANDSTILLS ARE BLESSINGS
Oftentimes, I consider interruptions just as that. Major disturbance! With Yolanda, I learned that interruptions can be blessings. The interruption itself is the blessing! To be able to stop and give ourselves a break from our clockwork routine.
LESSON #2: INTERRUPTIONS AND STANDSTILLS ARE OPPORTUNITIES TO ASSESS AND EVALUATE
Sure, our homeschool schedules were disrupted but the stops and standstills of this tragedy allowed us to make an assessment of where we are in our lives, what we have and are currently enjoying. It is an opportunity to say “I am blessed and have so many blessings!”
As news started pouring in, with international news channels and correspondents delivering updates on the aftermath of super typhoon Yolanda, my family and I continued to live our normal homeschooling life but only found ourselves refocusing our energies on what we could do to help those stricken by the calamity.
LESSON #3: INTERRUPTIONS AND STANDSTILLS CAN ACTUALLY ENERGIZE YOU INSTEAD OF ZAP YOU OF YOUR STRENGTH and ENERGY!
Our sewing class’s initial plan of joining a pre-Christmas bazaar soon became a bazaar for a cause. Our plan of donating a big portion of the sales to the earthquake victims that hit also the Visayas region just last October then included the victims of Yolanda. It all the more motivated the kids, tweens and teens of Sew Easy and everyone was ready to spend extra hours sewing out of their normal class schedules to sew more headbands, bags, and hair bow ties, all out of scrap fabric! What an opportune time to recycle and make something beautiful out of scrap or what may be considered as trash!
LESSON #4: INTERRUPTIONS AND STANDSTILLS GIVE YOU FOCUS and TEACH YOU TO RE-FOCUS on WHAT IS IMPORTANT and NECESSARY.
The Sew Easy kids were all aware of the national calamity that our country was faced with, and we all wanted to help in a way where our collective efforts would work best, and that was to sew with what we have, which were ALL SCRAP fabric. Everything (the sewing machines, scraps, spools of thread, elastics, cords) was ready and everyone became busy with their hands.
(With God’s grace, we were able to sew more than what we thought we would be able to do and our sales was over our target! The two-day bazaar was a success!)
While we were occupied within the confines of our homeschool activities, relief efforts by different groups have already started. My family and I were becoming more and more aware of how urgently the people from Ormoc, Samar, Tacloban, Cebu, and many different places need help. After Kayla’s Confirmation in BF Homes, Paranaque, we, in no time, brought a donation from a friend and classmate in sewing to Angel Brigade whose relief operations were at that time, in Fort Bonifacio, Makati. Even if it was just one large bag of tent, blanket, mat, and old tarpaulins from another sewing classmate, we felt it had to be given IMMEDIATELY.
With everybody else donating and repacking food, water, clothes, I started to wonder about the victims’ need for temporary shelter. I took my chance and started tweeting on Twitter, tagging IKEA and ShelterBox, after I’ve seen posts on IKEA’s modular refugee shelter and ShelterBox’s emergency shelter and lifesaving supplies, and heard Ormoc’s 4th District Representative Lucy Torres appeal for help, specifically for tarpaulins that could serve as temporary shelter. Not only did I tag Oprah and Martha Stewart in my tweets as a desperate and urgent call for help, but I also emailed the foundation of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie (as suggested by a college friend)! I didn’t care! All I knew was our countrymen need help…FAST!
(A deep and heartfelt gratitude and appreciation to my batchmates who helped in spreading the word about the need for temporary shelter and for their donations. Most of them are overseas and yet, the distance was not a hindrance to give what they can give and extend assistance in the quickest way possible!)
By November 20, we’ve signed up as volunteers at Villamor Air Base. Signing up online was not easy and I didn’t even know if we were counted in because there were changes made in the system a day or two after we signed up. But that didn’t stop us from volunteering. We headed for Villamor Air Base that Wednesday and by 1:30 p.m., we were able to sign up again at the base and enlisted ourselves (the girls and I) as volunteers at the clothing section and Mike as a marshal. We were there until about 9:30 p.m. which gave us a whole 8 hours of community service!
Algebra, Chemistry, Ibong Adarna, Noli Me Tangere, and all other academic subjects were set aside to give way to more important lessons that our girls need to learn. That of service to others, volunteerism, giving without asking for anything in return.
As a final lesson…
LESSON #5: INTERRUPTIONS AND STANDSTILLS SHOULD DRIVE US TO MOVE ON AND TO MOVE FORWARD.
What Yolanda did to our country may feel like we will never be able get out of this pit or dark tunnel, but we shouldn’t let this setback and all the problems we have to hurdle now cripple or stunt us. Instead, we should slowly and eventually learn to pick up the pieces and get back on our feet. I may not have lost a home or a loved one because of Yolanda, and I know that it is easier said than done. But I am reminded of the saying: When you’re down, there’s no other way to go but up. With the resiliency spirit that the Filipinos are known for, the interruption that this natural calamity befell upon our country should not break the spirits of both victims and volunteers alike. It can all look hopeless and a hard uphill climb, but together, we can do it.
- Kaya natin mag-BAYANihan! (We all can do communal effort).
- Ang bawa’t isa sa atin ay kayang makipag-BAYANIhan (Each of us can contribute to communal effort and all be heroes (BAYANI) ).
LESSON #6: INTERRUPTIONS AND STANDSTILLS ARE TEACHERS.
The Philippine government and our very own people were not ready for Yolanda’s wrath. Its strength and the magnitude of its destruction were just way beyond our country’s capability and resources. Admittedly, the government units, officials, the different sectors of society were not totally prepared from the time the warning was given on the path that Yolanda will take to the time when we all first saw the extent of the damages and started to call for S.O.S, and up to now, where relief efforts and rebuilding projects have not ceased. We see pointing of fingers, blaming, ranting, a display of pride and arrogance, and a lot of suggestions and recommendations on what we should do to avoid finding ourselves in this same predicament when another calamity strikes. Let Yolanda be a lesson to us all. Let her be our teacher on life, on service leadership, on gratitude, on appreciation for our blessings and for one another, on giving, and on living as one nation and as one with the other countries.
I am praying for my country. I am praying for our leaders. I am praying for the Filipino people, most especially the victims of the earthquake and Yolanda. There are too many bad news we hear everyday and I only pray that we will all start to learn how to be a blessing to everyone. That we will all come out from this interruption as wiser and more compassionate individuals.
How did this natural calamity affect you? What life lessons and blessings did you learn from it?