When the monster typhoon Haiyan, locally known as Yolanda, hit Central Philippines, it left in its wake unimaginable destruction of property and human life—as well as an admirable outpouring of generosity and solidarity from all walks of life that proves that, through the devastation, the human spirit is battered but not broken.
At 6:30am, Wednesday, 12 November 2013. It is a typical beautiful warm sunny day in the Philippines. The light is spectacular and the skies are a brilliant blue with wisps of clouds across its expanse. There is a cool, refreshing breeze. It seems like another perfect day, but it isn’t. Less that 60km north of where I sit at my desk at home is devastation. On Friday, 8 November, with winds of over 335kph, Typhoon Haiyan, known locally as Typhoon Yolanda left a wide swath of destruction across the Central Philippines including Northern Cebu. In too many areas, towns and cities were ravaged and 80% of all homes were destroyed. People are desperate. They’ve lost their homes, their families, their friends and their livelihoods. Where were you on Friday, 8 December 2013?
7:10am, 8 November 2013. Metro Cebu is quiet. I was up early. I tried to stay in bed to get as much rest as possible before the storm but couldn’t. I was restless. In three hours or so, “Yolanda” was supposed to be at its closest to the City. At home everything was battened down and protected to the best of our abilities. We hopefully had enough water, batteries and food to weather any storm. A couple of days before at the supermarkets, it was funny to see shopping carts laden with water, canned goods, batteries and then funnily, piled with chips, cookies and junk food. People were obviously hunkering down for the long haul. But junk food? I had to ask myself if these guys knew something I didn’t.
By 10:00am, the wind began to blow and the familiar feeling of unease began to set in. Cebu had just been through a terrible earthquake that left Bohol seriously damaged and everyone collectively anxious after thousands of aftershocks. A few short weeks later we sat waiting for another monster to hit Cebu: “Yolanda”, the strongest typhoon in human history. I tried to convince myself that there was no point worrying. According to the latest weather reports, Metro Cebu was going to be spared and we were protected, and our larders were stocked.
Little did we in the City know that, as we sat nervous but dry, vast areas of our country where the monster typhoon had passed and was passing, the relentless wind literally screamed like a horde of banshees, forming the rain into unending, painful horizontal sheets of needle-like spikes. It was effortlessly destroying homes and buildings, toppling trees, and sending debris flying and careening dangerously. Little did we know that a storm surge five to seven meters high was wreaking havoc and misery across wide areas of the Central Philippines killing thousands of people and destroying even more homes and peoples lives. On the morning of 8 November we were naturally worried about ourselves, but completely clueless to the epic human tragedy that was quickly unfolding.
Today, it is still unimaginable and near impossible to understand what it was like to live through the worst day of fear in the lives of millions, and millions of Filipinos. Till today, it is still very difficult to imagine and comprehend the tragedy that followed in the desperate hours and days immediately after super-typhoon “Yolanda”. And unless it has happened to you, it is still impossible to appreciate what it is to be a homeless refugee sleeping on the streets, sitting in the sun, bereft of family, food and water, surrounded by the ruins of your home.
My heart breaks every time I see the news. The tales of suffering are endless.
5:12pm, Saturday, 16 November 2013. I received a text from my friend, economist and professor, Perry Fajardo. It read, “I am very disturbed these days by these people that have done nothing but criticize the relief operation. It hurts the thousands who are sacrificing everything to help.”
Perry’s sentiment is correct. There is a fine line between expressing frustration, as many of us did, and unending criticism for political opportunism. While there is a yawning chasm between sincerity and the ‘pretension of assistance for political gain,’ the time for action is now. “Eastern Samar is gone” read a recent headline of The Philippine Star, underlining the urgent need to coalesce, to link our arms in support of millions of Filipinos instead of indulging in shallow political games.
11:06pm, 16 November 2013. From a Facebook friend Ronna Mae O’Connell: “Hi Dondi, I was informed that Bantayan Island needs relief badly. Please ask info from Alex Badayos and Felipe Tariman.”
I am sure everyone is getting calls, messages and texts like these constantly. The need is great. My first reaction was to jump and start hollering for help but after a moment of reflection, I decided to try to find out who was organizing to help Bantayan – to see if they were already in action. They were. Bantayan Island was wrecked and is one of dozens in dire need of assistance. All across Visayas, South Luzon and Northern Palawan are islands, islets, villages and settlements that need urgent assistance. Even the one-time leper colony of Culion is in dire need of relief and medical care. We all need to keep this kind of information flowing so we can help make sure no one gets left behind.
While I have never in my life seen this sheer scale of suffering in the Philippines, I have also never seen this sheer scale of profound outpouring of generosity, and the willingness and determination to help in whatever way possible. I shouldn’t be surprised. It is the heart of the Filipino and in the hearts of the friends of Filipinos.
Today, on social media and on the local and foreign news, there are expressions and stories of personal initiatives of concern and care even as inspiring tales of individual and civic heroism are emerging. All over Cebu, all over the Philippines, pockets of friends, employees, foreign residents, neighbors, classmates, government and social workers, businessmen, and even tourists are working hand in hand to help in whichever way they can. Foreign-based Filipinos are organizing, and ordinary people in many countries are donating what they can to help, even those with little or no particular affinity for the Philippines. In most cases, these generous souls weren’t asked to help. They just asked how they could help – and they did and they are helping – just as so many Filipinos are helping, even at the sacrifice of their finances, family, school and work time, and even their businesses.
Make no mistake. It may take only weeks or months to rebuild homes, but it will take years to replace lost livelihoods and to heal hearts torn apart by loss. Our relief work will not end in a few weeks, or even in a few months. We will have to stay focused and continue helping our brothers and sisters rebuild their lives, even as the sense of urgency wanes, and even when the next hot news story hits the headlines. We must never forget Yolanda – not only for the sake of those who suffered, but for the sake of those who survived and still live in the peril of more catastrophes – as we all do.
Nor can we neglect the Boholanos who are still rebuilding their lives after the terrible earthquake. They still need you.
Yolanda has left her profound footprint on the Philippines. In all likelihood she will not be the last super-storm to bludgeon its way through our country. I shudder to think of what will happen if another angry typhoon follows on heels of Yolanda. In today’s world of mutated weather, as certain as an angry woman’s slap, another Yolanda, Ruping, Dading, Ondoy or Pepang will come. We can no longer be ill-prepared and we only have to look at how many other countries prepare for and respond to disasters: the USA, Fukushima in Japan, and even in India in 2012, where 800,000 people were forcibly evacuated following a major typhoon warning. The storm hit and only a handful of lives were lost. Seventeen years earlier a similar typhoon hit the same area of India and 10,000 people died. They learned. They prepared. They lived.
Time is short, and the waters may rise again.
Professor Perry, I have been guilty of being critical, constructively I hope, because like many others I can’t help but think, in the clarity of hindsight, that more could have been done before the typhoon, when the red light warnings were flashing, and immediately after when it became crystal clear that Yolanda wreaked immeasurable havoc. We can and should do the post-mortems later – after this growing human catastrophe is averted. And hopefully, just hopefully, this painful lesson will help our country leapfrog from spastic adolescence to deeper political and social maturity as we put aside petty political differences in the interest of the common good of all Filipinos – once and for all. This was a humanly expensive and painful lesson that must never, ever happen again.
If anyone would like to assist, there are three ways to help: the first is to volunteer time. There are many companies, organizations, and private initiatives that collect, organize and distribute relief goods. If you live abroad, come to Cebu in the Philippines and help in these relief operations. Or send your kids. We will look after them. It will be a great human experience and we can point people in the right direction and put them in contact with the right organizations, formal or informal. The second is to donate funds. The expenses are enormous. The third is to hope and keep the Philippines and those who were affected close to your hearts, in your thoughts and if you pray, in your prayers.
The Filipino is a wonderful resilient person and I have no doubt that even now as I sit at my desk, in the face of immense hardship and suffering, the Filipinos affected by this disaster will once again begin to smile and hope – and sing – as they always do. Bangon Pilipinas!
PANDEMIC DIARIES: Twelve Months Later
Photos taken by Pablo Quiza around Cebu City during the months of March, April and May 202
AS WE APPROACH ONE YEAR under pandemic times, we look back at March 2020 with fascination. And awe. We had 12 months of lockdown and survived the so called new normal. We lived with masks and alcohol even today. Carless roads and dark malls. Those were the early days of March, April and May.
It stretched to October and past Christmas. No Sinulog. Virtual parties on Zoom and virtual mass on You Tube and FB Live. We debated on the best meds to take if we get sick and whether to wear masks (please do!). We scampered for face shields and anti-viral sprays. Vitamins C and D and zinc. Later, we survived being swabbed and we learned the difference between a PCR and an anti-gene test. The latter cost less.
We dreaded the declarations of IATF mandated from Manila. And we got mad at the police chief who had a birthday party while his people were busy locking up everyone violating the lockdown. Most horrifying of all, we needed to produce IDs! Are you a resident of Barangay Lahug or Banilad? Are you employed and why are you still working? Everyone suffered thru endless checkpoints. Most sad of all are those using motorbikes, they seem to get the raw end of the deal since those with cars are not as scrutinized. We managed to trick the system by putting a big handwritten note in front of the car: COMPANY CAR, and zipped tru the police desks in the middle of the road. Don’t even think of travelling, by plane, boat or bus. The collection of the required documents is enough for one to get exposed to Covid.
We learned to shop online, order groceries and necessities thru delivery. We slowly moved towards cashless payments. Gcash and banks like Union Bank and China Bank with friendly apps are heroes for making life easy for most of us to spend what little cash we have to spend on Lazada or pay the VECO bill. Oh and we binged on K dramas on Netflix and You Tube, kamsaminada.
As 2021 enters, there are some good news. For those obsessed with news, you already know that 7,000 vaccines arrived last March 2 in Cebu, with more expected in the next few weeks. The death rate is not as high among those who caught this pesky virus, which tells us that doctors in the hospitals have some proven expertise in dealing with Covid. More cures should be in the horizon.
Meanwhile, lets continue dreaming of the day when we can cross borders again, even if its just Bohol or Boracay, Bangkok or Hong Kong. Ready those luggages and bags bought during the 3/3 sale in Shopee in preparation for the day when we can take the ferry or the plane for new adventures.
Keep Calm by Knowing These Myths About COVID-19
by Chrissy Grey Resaba
In these times of pandemic, hysteria and panic have taken over the world and nonchalance is a word not to be manifested for today. Worry and fear are enveloping around Cebu with enough evidence of the actions taken by the public – the hoarding of necessities and goods.
Cebu – both the city and the province – is working towards making the island a safe haven from the pandemic caused by the Novel Coronavirus. Entry points of both ports – aerial and naval – are now closed. Curfew hours are being implemented to secure that no one is outside during the hours indicated. Business and academic sectors shifted their modes to work-from-home and online classes. Medical professionals have been on the frontlines battling against the proliferation of COVID-19.
It is quite eerie to look at the main streets of the Queen City of the South having few crowds to none. The hustle and bustle of the metropolis has gone into an empty space. The actions taken by the government and the Republic of the Philippines are for better or for worse; it is only for the good of the public.
Cebu has been under the state of community quarantine and certain measures were implemented to ensure the public’s safety and well-being. However, there are still myths making rounds in social media and the public in general about the ways to avoid COVID-19. These myths are not supported by scientific evidence. The scattering of fake news worsens the situation instead.
Here are some myths about the Novel Coronavirus:
1. Hot and cold weather
Contrary to popular belief, the COVID-19 virus will never die when exposed to hot or cold weather. This type of coronavirus can be transmitted in all areas regardless of the weather.
2. Drinking water
It is necessary to hydrate ourselves and to moisturize the throats but there is no scientific evidence that consuming volumes of water can flush out the virus.
Clear enough from the name of the medicine, antibiotic never kills the virus but bacteria instead. It is not advisable to take antibiotics to prevent COVID-19.
4. Eating banana
There is a video circulating in social media about the banana fruit that miraculously kills the COVID-19 virus. However, if one should be keen enough to examine the video, it is a hoax. To date, there are no approved treatments for the virus. Eating a banana and other fruits can boost the immune system instead but not kill the COVID-19 virus.
Practicing proper hygiene such as regular hand washing with soap and water remains to be an effective way of preventing infection since soap dissolves the structure of the virus. The public should not be very complacent enough to rely on hand washing alone. Maintaining social distance, staying at home, having proper coughing or sneezing etiquette, and putting oneself in self-quarantine if one traveled from outside Cebu or the country are some of the best ways to avoid the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
La Liga Henerales: Shaping History Awareness Back Again in Cebu
La Liga Henerales is a community of young talents passionately promotes historical awareness through periodic costumes carefully researched for its authenticity and accuracy and promoted as well in events and schools.
Only few individuals before were into pursuit in this historical awareness project until the age of communication where internet is convenient in the palm of our hands through our gadgets. New information travel fast and data is retrievable, yet also possess a disadvantage with the plethora of different social media platforms carried by various makers as well. In a daily basis, historical backgrounds are unearthed making its trend until now as new discoveries are released, but the idea of these information being shown and shared is as close as not valuing or commemorating to its sources leaving this information just a trend.
There is a certain community of Cebuanos that are taking a quest to rewrite and restructure what was in the past, filling the gaps in facts with further research of variable sources that are made debatable but sticks to it true cause, to unveil the truths of our heritage and our origins, as Cebuanos and as Filipinos as well.
La Liga Henerales is a Cebu-based, non-profit organization composed of a group of talented, committed and respectable individuals from different walks of life, schools and profession whose primary aim is to promote both, Cebuano and filipino culture and heritage that was depicted before in pre-colonial and colonial eras via re-enactment with costumes vested in proper research and investigation to achieve authenticity. They also push their cause on schools and other social gatherings promoting and spreading awareness about our local, and national heroes that we look up to. With these said, they also portray a closer look of the lifestyle of the past to where they perform stories, perform forgotten dances and rituals and portray their individual roles, vital in the fight of our country’s future during those challenging times, and in honor to spread awareness of the lost practices we had in those times.
Louis Kenneth Villaflor, an entrepreneur and an avid history enthusiast and costumer, founded the group on the purpose of re-educating the youth about real local and national history, he saw the opportunity to combine his favourite hobbies which is costuming and story role-playing and the process to instill the historical awareness and value among the youth and in schools, along with a group of fellow enthusiasts who shares his passion about research and history, they took it among themselves to be purposeful in the advocacy in spreading historical awareness in schools or events by wearing periodically correct costumes and sharing the stories and its value to the youth.
Behind the Garments
Meet Rodney “Pee-Wee” Senining, who has been in the fashion industry since the late 90’s, strives in concepts of avant-garde, innovation and cutting edge-fashion forward design. And also a teacher of Architecture, Fine Arts and Design of University of San Carlos, he had grown into research of books like the holy grail in the Library Resource Center and is always fascinated of the periodical times and how to preserve it; Hence, his interest had grown for the affinity of Periodical Costumes and Sustainable Fashion.
Being part of the group La Liga Henerales, he was tasked to instantly be their mentor for the young talents and as the organization is still new and developing with limited funds, resourcefulness and research were done to come up with a good output of photo shoot and was quite proud of it and still promise on the next editions of pieces to be more historically accurate. Even as teacher for Fashion Design in SAFAD, his expertise comes hand in hand with the members as he helps them do research as well. His passion and interest somehow led him with enough knowledge to key the insights of the significant periods and historical backgrounds of it.
Historical Awareness in Cebu
The strength and progress of a country is anchored on how well they know and honor its history. The means of historical awareness in Cebu is almost non-existent among the Cebuanos, although we push forward in tourism and promote beauty through sceneries and other aspects of culture yet never commemorate deeply on historical icons such as our other local heroes, and ancient cultures as well that is almost been forgotten in an urban Cebu. Nevertheless, as long as communities’ like La Liga Henerales are now evolving in a learning state by real discovery by multiple resources, this will always reflect of how we appreciate love, patriotism and honor to our country and would look forward to progress.