Hope Amidst Devastation

It has been more than two weeks since my last post. I did not feel like writing about soap when there were other more pressing issues at hand.  As I had mentioned, Cebu City (where I live) narrowly escaped the wrath of Typhoon Haiyan, but thousands of families in the northern part of Cebu province were not as lucky. They lost their homes, but thankfully, the number of casualties was low because they were able to evacuate to safer grounds. However, it was a totally different story in the city of Tacloban and the other municipalities of Leyte.  More than 5,000 people died and the destruction was simply staggering.

I am sure most of you have seen enough of the devastation on the news and have had your hearts wrung out. Even though I took a lot of photos of the destruction in Northern Cebu, I thought I’d rather share with you a different side to this tragedy – the innocent and carefree smiles of the children, the resilient spirit of the people, the beauty of the land, and the hope of rising again.

Last weekend, I and a group of friends went to Bantayan Island, one of the areas in the direct path of Typhoon Haiyan. To get there, it is a 3-hour drive to Hagnaya in the north, and from there, another 1.5-hour barge ride to the island of Bantayan, famous for its white sand beaches, and also known as the egg basket of Central Visayas.  Bantayan belongs to a group of small islands, and because of their remoteness, it is logistically challenging to reach some of them. Goods have to be loaded from Bantayan on outrigger motor/pump boats to get to the other smaller islands.

Haiyan- Loading relief goods

Carrying sacks of relief goods on low tide to be loaded onto a pump boat.

Haiyan -loading

We would not have been able to carry out our little relief work by ourselves. First, we needed a truck to haul the goods all the way from Cebu City to Bantayan Island, and from there, load them onto pump boats. Through friends of friends, we were put in touch with Nelson, the proprietor of Anika Island Resort, whose property was the only one miraculously not damaged by the typhoon. With two generators, Anika was the only resort with electricity, so it naturally became the headquarters of relief groups, both foreign and local. Nelson has been personally very much involved with relief works in his area and neighboring islands, and he has also become a point person/coordinator and facilitator for groups wanting to help. We are indeed very grateful for his generosity and kindness.

A short distance from Bantayan Island is the small fishing island of Hilantagaan, home to nearly 900 families, and badly damaged by the typhoon.  Together with Nelson and his church group, this was where we distributed relief goods.

Haiyan- Boy with Bike

The island in the background is Hilantagaan Island.

Haiyan -unloading goods

Arriving in Hilantagaan Island and unloading goods

Haiyan -Hilantagaan Children

Posing with the children of Hilantagaan are Mary Anne from Canada who works with Samaritan’s Purse International Relief Org., and volunteers, Ahmad and Reza.

Haiyan - 3 girls

Beautiful smiles amidst the ruins.

Haiyan -Shelter Box

Mother and daughter with the tent they received from ShelterBox.

Haiyan - baby

The young grandmother proudly showing off her grandchild, safe from the elements in their ShelterBox tent. Families with infants were given priority with the tents.

Lining up for coupons, one per family, before distribution of goods.

Lining up for coupons, one per family, before distribution of goods.

Haiyan - hilantagaan

The pristine shore of Hilantagaan. A 180˚ turn would reveal an island in ruins.

In the bigger island of Bantayan, life goes on…

Haiyan - 3 boys

Children laughing and catching small fish using a scrap curtain fabric as net.

Haiyan- Girl with clams

A girl digging the sand for clams.

Biking around the beach.

Biking around the beach.

Business as usual in the public market.

Business as usual in the public market.

View of the pier and the barge from the sandy shores of Bantayan.

View of the pier and the barge from the sandy shores of Bantayan.

The Philippines has received a tremendous outpouring of generosity and support from many countries, organizations, and individuals from all over the world. Thank you all, from the bottom of our hearts. 

10 thoughts on “Hope Amidst Devastation

  1. Gordana

    Even though that you suffered a lot it is good to see the light at the end of dark tunnel… Those smiles on children faces are really something special. Be strong and have good spirit, you will need it… I whish you all the best Silvia!

  2. Cee

    What a beautiful and insightful tribute. Your story really sheds light on the personal struggles and triumphs everyone must be experiencing, thank you so much for sharing your personal stories Silvia!

  3. DivaSoap

    Thanks for this direct broadcast, Silvia! It’s nice to see smiles on people’s faces, knowing what they must have gone through! The rage of nature was huge,but the determination for life wins! Keep safe and well!

  4. Vicki

    A beautiful and moving post Silvia. It’s wonderful to see that the relief aid is getting through to those who need it most, and that people are still managing to smile despite their troubles. Thank you for sharing your pictures!

    1. soapjam Post author

      We are so thankful and moved by all the help we’ve received from the whole world. It will be a long road to rebuilding, but I have faith that we will come out of this better and stronger!

  5. ecovioletsoap

    It is good to hear that you and your family escaped the devastation of Typhoon Haiyan. I am also inspired to see the resilience of the people there. I am half Filipino and I have a lot of extended family in the Philippines. I am very thankful that they too escaped the worst of the typhoon. Thank you for all your efforts to help the people who need it most,

    1. soapjam Post author

      The whole community and the whole world came to help, and it’s still ongoing. We are very thankful. Glad to hear your family was not affected by the typhoon.


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