If you are given a second life, what will you do? That is the question that always pops up in my mind after my experience with Super Typhoon Yolanda.
It was the 8th of November in 2013 when super typhoon Yolanda or Haiyan brought tremendous destruction in the Philippines. Leyte, particularly Tacloban was one of the many places that was badly hit.
I was there. I witnessed how the rain, the wind and the storm surge ruined properties, flattened communities and triggered scenes of unimaginable death.
Hopelessness and depression permeated the air as each second passed by. The word “missing” took an entirely new meaning as anxious relatives yearned to find loved ones among a sea of debris and the stench of decomposing bodies.
I was a graduating college student at that time, and I lived in a boarding house located near my school. Studying and living far away from home for almost four years made me an independent young lass. But in my 20 years of existence, Yolanda was the first super typhoon I experienced and which I will never forget.
7:30 am, 08 November 2013
I, along with fellow students, was on the ground floor of our boarding house when the water suddenly rose, reaching our shoulders in no time. I panicked because the door leading to the second floor was closed. We tried to break it and, with our combined strength, managed to open the door.
We stayed on the second floor, hoping that the storm will stop. In between sobs and prayers, I was thinking of my family back home in Samar and a twin sister in another part of Leyte. I was praying that they be spared from harm.
That, to me, was the longest day in my life. At three in the afternoon, the rain stopped and the sun rose.
I survived that day. My sister and the entire family did. I was thankful as many others are not as lucky.
According to National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) as of January 2014, more than 6,000 people perished, mostly children and youth. When disaster strikes, it’s always them that suffer the most.
The survivors are not even as lucky. Some of them ended up as out of school youth, while others fell prey to human traffickers. I know this because at an early age, I witnessed these issues in my community.
My life isn’t over after Yolanda. I have experienced fear, cried for friends who didn’t make it and saw the deaths at its worst, but I am alive and there is a reason for that.
About the Author
Janice Tapil is humanitarian worker. Currently, she is employed by an international non-government organization helping youth in Metro Manila and Southern Tagalog studying in technical and vocational institutions to be job-ready in their chosen field. She was 14 when she started volunteering for nonprofit Plan International that promotes children’s rights.