Monday, November 11, 2013


I struggled to find the words for this post as there have been so many emotions running through my head the past few days. Helplessness. Frustration. Sadness. Anxiety. Determination. Hope. Courage. Love.

As I stumbled out of my comfortable consolidation hotel Saturday morning, the Legazpi City landscape appeared unchanged. Minor agricultural damage. Trikes and jeepneys whizzing by. No sign of a catastrophic typhoon. I was thankful...and lucky. But as I began the hour trek north back home to Tabaco, I slowly began to feel the after effects of yet another natural disaster for this resilient country...

The top placemark indicates the location of my site. The bottom the location of Tacloban City, Leyte, one of the hardest hit areas. Although the typhoon stretched across 2/3 of the country, it was fairly centralized as the most severe damage was confined to those central islands.

The path of  typhoon Yolanda/Haiyan and the wind speeds experienced throughout the Philippines. Sources: Joint Typhoon Warning Center; National Centers for Environmental Prediction; National Statistical Coordination Board, Philippines; General Statistics Office Of Vietnam.

THE REALITY: the Philippines is a third world country with a predominantly coastal population and a diverse natural landscape. It acts as the first major land mass to receive tropical storms originating in the Pacific, one of the reasons why it commonly sees upwards of 20 storms/typhoons per year. These are only getting worse with climate change (i.e. Typhoon Haiyan this year and Typhoon Bopha last year). Additionally, the country's location in the Pacific ring of fire leaves it vulnerable to earthquakes (seen last month) and volcanic eruptions (seen earlier this year). The poverty distribution is extreme, not to mention the lack of resources available. And despite the resourcefulness of Filipinos, many are unable to afford quality housing and supplies, leading to the poor infrastructure we see. All of this contributes to the devastation seen last weekend, particularly in the Eastern Visayan islands of Samar and Leyte, two of the country's poorest islands.

A typical nipa hut made out of bamboo and nipa fronds. Many houses, particularly those in rural, coastal areas, are made of these materials. While beautiful, they are extremely vulnerable, especially when up against hurricane force winds.

The grim reality of this monster is unfolding as I type. The worst is over, but Yolanda/Haiyan unleashed an assault on the Central Visayan islands of Leyte, Samar, Cebu, Negros, and Panay. I'm thankful that all PC volunteers are now safe and accounted for. Unfortunately, I cannot say the same for some of the communities they left behind. Homes are destroyed. Thousands are dead. And survivors are wandering the streets in search of food, water, clothing, and shelter. And we call them crazy for looting? They're just trying to survive.

Natural disasters are common occurrences worldwide, and they seem almost inescapable since I've been living here in the Philippines. I understand the position of many of you, trying to grasp the severity of this from overseas. I was in the same predicament last year, witnessing the destruction of Hurricane Sandy and the Midwestern tornadoes. Sadly, much is still unknown about this calamity since internal communication networks have been damaged, thereby slowing information dissemination and relief efforts.

As much as I have come to understand the importance of religion in the Philippines, prayers are no longer enough. Action must be taken. Relief organizations have been extremely active thus far, preparing supplies and personnel to send to affected regions. Small donations can go along way here, so please take the time to support this amazing country and its beautiful, strong-willed people.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Andrew,

    I came across your blog post through a link on All of us serving in Thailand are keeping you, fellow PCVs, and your communities, in our thoughts during this time. Our office is keeping us updated on opportunities for monetary donations and donations in-kind.

    I've had the opportunity to visit the Philippines twice in the past two years, and from what I've experienced, the Philippines is a country of strong people who shall overcome this, hopefully with the support that they deserve.

    Keeping you all in our thoughts <3