It is all too familiar a place for me to near disaster and devastation. It was 2005 and I had just left NOLA to go visit my mom in Miami, Florida and inquire about grad school. As the devastation unfolded on the news and all of us around the world were glued to the networks, I had the same sense of horror and fear that came over me as I learned that Typhoon Yolanda were head our way. But this time, the fear was more real, I lived in Manila and there was no way out. Family and friends poured to Facebook posting to see how we were doing, if we had the bare necessities after the Typhoon Yolanda passed.  We were lucky here in Manila, as the eye passed us and damage was minimal.

Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) caused catastrophic damage throughout much of Leyte and Samar islands, where cities and towns were largely destroyed. As of 8:00 p.m. local time on November 15, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) confirmed 3,631 fatalities across the country, 3,432 of those taking place in the Eastern Visayas.[1] The full-scale of the disaster remains unclear, with the total loss of life estimated as low as 2,500 by President Benigno Aquino III to as high as 10,000 by various sources. As of November 13, Red Cross estimated that 22,000 people were missing while approximately 65,500 people.

The Filipino people are united in praising and thanking foreign governments and the international community for the overwhelming financial and in-kind support their country received, and continues to receive, in the aftermath of the most powerful typhoon of record that killed thousands, flattened homes and infrastructure, and turned once vibrant communities into ghost towns. In many instances, foreign rescue and relief personnel were first to arrive at the scenes of devastation, way ahead of teams dispatched by Manila’s government. In the first moments of the disaster, President Noynoy Aquino repeatedly criticized local governments for being unprepared for the super typhoon and for being unable to immediately respond to its deadly effects, especially in the hard-hit areas of Central Philippines.

Surviving individuals and families went without food, shelter and medical aid for days. Anger and frustration were evident among Filipinos trying to fend for themselves and struggling to flee their neighborhoods in search of relief, comfort and dignity. Cadavers remained uncollected, largely contributing to the unbearable stench of the national government’s relief and rescue operations.

The calamity hit the country at a time when massive dissatisfaction with the central government was  rising at fever pitch, brought about by the pork barrel scandal that saw billions of taxpayer money going into the pockets of top politicians and their citizen cronies.  Many calamity victims were quick to point out that the impact of the powerful typhoon could have been minimized had the pork barrel funds been spent as intended — to build public infrastructure and services that would have possibly put rescue and relief operations in times like these into place.

While the Filipino people continued to express their deep gratitude to the international aid they have received so far, they were one in making a last appeal which they described as their greatest, ultimate need.  Today, in a unified message to the United Nations and through international media, the Filipinos appealed for a donation of a functioning government to replace the one that’s currently in place.  “It would be the greatest gift of all, one that would put an end to decades of government corruption as well as suffering by the Filipino people,” they said.

Let’s face it, the Philippines is really a “calamity zone.” I do not mean to be negative. But the very thing that makes us a beautiful composition of lands surrounded by gorgeous water is also the reason why we are so vulnerable to elemental forces. Nevertheless, within these tragic moments of the Filipino people, their spirit triumphs, as seen in smile-filled photos despite the neck-deep baha, and from the evident strength in picking up the pieces from whatever- if any, is left.

National Resource Operation Center is the place that me and 12 other ladies went to this morning to help!

The drive took 40 minutes in traffic to get to the location near the airport where NROC is located, once there, a brief 2 minute “hi thank you for coming to help us, here is what you will be doing” and then we were shown the huge “hanger” where we are to start helping. As we stood around, waiting for out portion to start, I saw some ladies in the next section packing, so I got busy and started to help them, rather than stand around and have someone tell me to do something. In each bag was 8 bags of instant ramen soup, 8 packets instant coffee, 3 cans sardines, 4 cans spam,  and rice.

a sense of peace can over me!

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