CARE BLOG

Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines: "Bangon, Philippines!"

12/17/13

Blog by Barbara Jackson, humanitarian director CARE International:

Traveling through the northern part of Panay, one is stuck by the lushness of the countryside juxtaposed with the twisted, broken remnants of steel, wood and bamboo structures.  Panay is the fourth in the horizontal row of islands to be hit by the terrifying force of the typhoon locally known as Yolanda. Along the many kilometers of roadside nearly every pole carrying power lines seems to be down, often on top of what was a home or building.  It is as if one pulled on a thread and the rest came tumbling down. 

As I travelled with my four companions from CARE Philippines and one of our partner organizations, of the SEED Cooperative for Microfinance, we stopped at schoolyards, homes and met with the governors and representatives of two of the northernmost provinces.   In every case, we were taken with the enormous good will, good humor, and amazing resilience that nearly everyone we met shared with us so very spontaneously.  Never in my 25 years of working in humanitarian settings, have I met people who have been so unfailingly gracious, receptive and consistently displaying the Filipino hard working ethic exemplified by the slogan of "Bangon" – meaning "rise up, we will overcome".

Yet, there are so very many people affected and in so many different parts of the islands, many of them quite difficult to reach even by small boat. In quite a few places we found that women were leading the efforts of households to rebuild, although with the support of neighbors and families. In the case of Concepcion (pictured), her entire house was demolished, as were many of her neighbors’, while a few concrete houses had held firm and provided safe haven during the storm.  Concepcion beckoned me to come see the provisional house where she now lived with her young nephew, whom she cares for while his parents work in Manila. 

Concepcion's neighbours told us that there are few livelihood opportunities, as the fish ponds are no longer productive and crabbing efforts are no longer viable.  Concepcion and her neighbours told us that they were so very relieved to see CARE and our partners providing support, as there had been very little support to date – and again with a smiling face, a very huge thanks while standing in front of a house that was literally flattened, her bed upside down and smashed, and remnants of clothing strewn across what was once a floor. I wanted to thank Concepcion and all of her neighbours, and the Filipinos in general, for their amazing efforts to restore their lives as quickly as possible, to make whatever homes they can from what were once their houses, and to build back safer and better for the future.  The resiliency and fortitude of the Filipinos is a beacon in the horror of Typhoon Haiyan.

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