The struggles I share with the victims of Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda)

I grew up in the province of Samar (one of the affected and damaged by typhoon Haiyan), there I see how my people work hard with their livelihood especially in my municipality; how people value their loved ones and the concern they show to each other. However, when I see the miseries they face today, with the videos and photos on media and the internet; all my personal struggles in life serve as my strength and motivation to extend my help in all means I can. After the typhoon Haiyan battered the Philippines, unexpected casualties and horrible situations left the country ravaged with extreme devastation – some lost their families, properties damaged, or worse left with nothing.

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A young boy shields himself from the rain while waiting for an evacuation flight at the airport in Tacloban on Thursday, Nov. 14, 2013. Typhoon Haiyan, one of the most powerful storms on record, hit the country’s eastern seaboard on Friday, destroying tens of thousands of buildings and displacing hundreds of thousands of people. AP/Wally Santana

Seeking for shelter

Whenever I see people in rehabilitation areas, streets, and open spaces to seek shelter, I feel them. I remember, when I was in high school my parents work in Manila and they always try to save money so I can visit them. One time, since my father was just renting out a small room-like space, he had a fight with his relative – and so we had to leave. And that time, we didn’t know where to go. A night with silence that seemed like the world is whispering hopelessness towards me (trying to figure out) what will happen next. And so as my father decided to call his friend who works at a parking area in Makati Ave., he asked if we can stay there for a night, and so we did. I know at a young age, it wasn’t safe. The survival instinct inside me, says you have no choice but to survive for the night. And so the one night of stay, turned out a month of hearing cars, horns, and buses passing by the street – I didn’t care for as long as we have a place to stay for the mean time (looking for a place to live in Manila is quite hard, especially when you have to have enough money for you to deposit in advance). I remember, I had to cross three rows of cars parked at the area so I can take my shower for the day.

Now, when I see the victims hit by typhoon Haiyan, this experience of seeking for shelter is the first thing that comes to my mind – how difficult and uncomfortable that is to experience. When I see families who do not know where to go, I cannot help but compare myself to them. I know it is hard, no one said that life would be easy, but I believe in my people; they will survive.

What to eat

 I grew up in a family that is fortunate in life at the very least. However, things we used to have didn’t last long. And so my father had to work as a tricycle driver in my province, my mother as a midwife in the city government hospital. Honestly, I care less about what they do for a living when I was young – what they do to provide the needs of the family. My aunt took responsibility over my education (because my parents can’t provide the financial requirements that education demands) up to college and it seemed like I feel secured about the dependence I have to her. When I reached university, things were getting tougher for me; I had to release the dependence from my aunt that I thought offers security forever for a very personal reason. My father’s income was just enough to provide all the domestic responsibilities he has and the medicine for my sick mother. There were times, when I needed to owe from our neighbor’s carinderia so we have something to eat. (I didn’t care because I know as their only son; I hold accountability to my parents even at a young age). I had to double my effort so I can finish my university course, I had to go to my internship at 8am and leave the office at 5-ish so I can come on time to my part-time work as an English instructor from 6pm to 11 at night. It was a roller-coaster ride!

Now, when I see my people in Leyte and Samar begging for food I know the feeling inside when you ask for something you need in times of your desperate phase in life. There are points in our lives that we find ourselves alone. However, there are people always willing to lift you up from the drowning situation you are into.

Losing your loved one

 I have a brother, probably the greatest blessing for me to have. Someone you can play with, and someone you can guide when he enters the phase of adulthood. However, as life sometimes betrays you, it gives you the most heartbreaking vengeance. My brother died with hormonal imbalance and diabetes at a young age. We know how hard it is to lose your loved ones. Now, with how death stole the lives of the typhoon victims, we feel the grief and misery they have today.

The things I have mentioned may not be the worst things one might experience; because I know there are people out there who may be experiencing the toughest offer of life that someone has to deal with, like what happened in the Visayas. We all have our own personal struggles and in times like these, let’s use it as the compelling force to help our fellow countrymen. More than the resiliency of Filipinos, let us unite as one. This too shall pass.

Follow me on Twitter: @rjamesbarrete

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