Philippines - After the Storm


Additional Info

  • Project Description: Philippines: After the Storm

    Leyte Island, Philippines was hit by Typhoon Yolanda / Haiyan on November 8, 2013. Some of the strongest winds ever recorded drove on shore a wall of water up to twenty-five feet high with winds of over one hundred and forty miles an hour. The storm killed over ten thousand Filipinos and affected over fourteen million.

    I arrived in Tacloban three months after Typhoon Yolanda’s wrath. I had made arrangements to live with the family of a friend from California. The Penero Family live in Alang-Alang, a small village about ten miles from Tacloban on Leyte Island. In late January, 2014 there was still no electricity or running water in their home. The Peneros were extremely welcoming and gracious. They gave me an upstairs bedroom to myself. Their house was one of the few left standing on the island.

    The first week I traveled around the Island in a jeepney owned by the Penero family. Riding in a jeepney is is like riding in a cross between a WWII jeep and a small school bus, but less comfortably. In a strange way, it was entertaining. Randy and Jo Ann, members of the family, were my appointed guides for the two weeks I was there . They introduced me to the areas of the island that had been the hardest hit by Typhoon Yolanda. The entire eastern coast of Leyte was completely flooded and thousands of Filipinos were washed out to sea. We discovered evidence of this walking on the beach where there were many human skeletal remains and personal items that had washed up on the shore.

    The school at San Joaquin Parish was a designated shelter during the storm. Many people perished when the school was flooded. There are many touching stories told to me by the children who lost one or all of their family members in the typhoon. There is a mass grave on the grounds of the parish. The children gather every afternoon at 3:30 pm to visit the graves of family members and friends. They light candles, as well as take flowers, favorite toys and personal mementoes to decorate the graves and show respect for their deceased loved ones. There was one group of children that had written valentines to their English teacher.

    There was so much devastation and debris from the storm that there were several refuge sites for it’s disposal. In one of the locations there was a group of children that came almost every day to look for metal to sell. Some of the children were attending school on a part time basis, though some were not attending at all. All of the children were making money to contribute to the family income. A few of the children had been abandoned by their parents and were living with older siblings. All of the heavy machine operators and government employees are very mindful of the children’s presence and well being.

    My first visit to the Philippines was short. In the time that I was there I found an incredibly loving and warm people who have had an unfair share of hardship. The devastation from the most recent catastrophe, Typhoon Yolanda, will take years to recover from. I have future plans to revisit the friends that I made on Leyte Island, and to continue the story of a beautiful and resilient people.