by RJ Barrete
I grew up in the province of Samar (one of the affected and damaged by typhoon Haiyan), and there I saw how my people work hard with their livelihood especially in my municipality. I saw how people value their loved ones and the concern they show to each other. But now when I see the miseries they face today, with the videos and photos on media and the internet; all my personal struggles in life serve as my strength and motivation to extend my help in all means I can. After the typhoon Haiyan battered the Philippines, unexpected casualties and horrible situations left the country ravaged with extreme devastation – some lost their families, properties damaged, or worse left with nothing.
Seeking for shelter
Whenever I see people in rehabilitation areas, streets, and open spaces to seek shelter, I feel them. I remember, when I was in high school my parents worked in Manila and they always tried to save money so I could visit them. My father was just renting out a small room-like space and one day, he had a fight with his relative – and so we had to leave. We didn’t know where to go. A night of silence seemed like the world is whispering hopelessness and wondering what will happen next. And so as my father decided to call his friend who worked at a parking area in Makati Ave. He asked if we could stay there for a night, and so we did. I know at a young age, it wasn’t safe. The survival instinct inside me, says you have no choice but to survive for the night. And so that one night of stay, ended up with a month of hearing cars, horns, and buses passing by the street – I didn’t care as long as we had a temporary place to stay . I remember, I had to cross three rows of cars parked at the area so I can take my shower for the day.
Now, when I see the victims hit by typhoon Haiyan, all this experience of seeking shelter is the first thing that comes to my mind – how difficult and uncomfortable that is to experience. When I see families who do not know where to go, I cannot help but compare myself to them. I know it is hard, no one said that life would be easy, but I believe in my country-men and that they will survive.
What to eat
I grew up in a family that is fortunate in life at the very least. However, things we used to have didn’t last long. And so my father had to work as a tricycle driver in my province, my mother as a midwife in the city government hospital. Honestly, I care less about what they do for a living when I was young – what they did to provide the needs of the family. My aunt took responsibility over my education (because my parents couldn’t provide the financial requirements that education demands) up to college . When I reached university, things were getting tougher for me. I had to release this dependence from my aunt for very personal reasons. My father’s income was just enough to provide all the domestic responsibilities and the medicine for my sick mother. There were times, when I needed to borrow from our neighbor’s carinderia so we had something to eat. I had to double my efforts so I could finish my university course. I had to go to my internship at 8:00 am and leave the office at 5-ish so I could come on time to my part-time work as an English instructor from 6pm to 11 at night. It was a roller-coaster ride!
Now, when I see my country-men in Leyte and Samar begging for food I know the feeling inside when you ask for something you need in times of your desperate phase in life. There are points in our lives that we find ourselves alone. However, there are people always willing to lift you up from the drowning situation you are into.
Losing your loved one
I have a brother, probably the greatest blessing for me to have. Someone you can play with, and someone you can guide when he enters the phase of adulthood. However, as life sometimes betrays you, it gives you the most heartbreaking vengeance. My brother died with hormonal imbalance and diabetes at a young age. I know how hard it is to lose your loved ones. Now, with how death stole the lives of the typhoon victims, I feel the grief and misery they have today.
The things I have mentioned may not be the worst things one might experience; because I know there are people out there who may be experiencing the toughest offer of life that someone has to deal with, like what happened in the Visayas. We all have our own personal struggles and in times like these, but let’s use it as the compelling force to help our fellow countrymen. More than the resiliency of Filipinos, let us unite as one. This too shall pass.