Typhoon Haiyan: Helping the Philippines Stand Up


By Laura Sheahen with CARE in Ormoc, Philippines

“Bangon Ormoc!” It’s scrawled on walls that Typhoon Haiyan has stripped of metal railings. It’s written on plywood stacked against bent electrical poles. It’s on T-shirts. In the city of Ormoc, nearly brought to its knees by massive typhoon destruction, it means: “Stand Up.”

The people of the Philippines are standing up. Typhoon Haiyan was of paralyzing strength, but in Ormoc, people aren’t paralyzed. Piles of wires surround electrical crews working on restoring power. More stores are opening up, short on supplies and dimly lit by outdoor light, but there. At an outdoor market, there’s a brisk trade in flashlights—alongside barbecue, oranges and ever-present, ever-necessary bottled water.

People who saw their possessions whirled away by 150-mph winds smile and say “Good morning” to me in English. They wait patiently in long lines at banks and generator-powered phone charging stations. Twice now I’ve made a purchase and left without my change; people come running after me, waving it.

The villages outside the city are full of the sounds of hammering and sawing. Half the men in any given village are on their roofs, trying to repair them enough to keep out the rain. They pull out nails from salvaged wood and pound them straight to reuse them. They don't have enough building material, but what they do have they make the most of.

This week, CARE has been distributing food in these villages. Waiting in the hot sun for their turn, community members talk about their houses—and shield me with their sun umbrellas.

“If we cry, our house will not come back,” says a remarkably self-possessed 14-year-old girl in one village. Her family home was wiped out, and she’s now living with relatives. As we watch men pull debris from classrooms, I ask what she does to fill up the time now that schools are closed. “We sing,” she says—and proceeds to do so.

Not everyone impacted by the typhoon is singing right now, of course. Families have suffered painful losses. But in this region of the Philippines, people have shown astounding patience and resilience as they start to rebuild.

One “Bangon Ormoc” sign sits atop a destroyed building that flies the flag of the Philippines. Underneath the slogan is another message, this one written in English: “We are homeless, roofless—but not hopeless.”