A Faith Community's Collective Journey after Typhoon Haiyan
During the last quarter of the past year, the Philippines has been made more vulnerable by disasters that hit the Visayas region. Majority of the provinces affected by two consecutive calamities belong to the poorest of the poor provinces. In October 2013, the province of Bohol and several communities of Cebu were rocked by an intensity 7.2 earthquake which devastated homes and centuries-old churches and infrastructures. On the first week of November, a category 5 typhoon, codenamed Yolanda/Haiyan hit provinces in the Eastern and Western Visayas, flattening the city of Tacloban and other municipalities of Leyte, pummeling communities in Samar and destroying homes and precious crops in the Panay peninsula.
Homes made of light materials were destroyed by the strong winds, soon to be harvested crops were uprooted and laid to waste. For so many days after the storm, communication lines were down and there was total black-out in these areas. The people subsisted on available root crops because there were no other food left. In their impoverished communities, where their livelihood centered on fishing, farming and growing food for consumption, finding alternative livelihood after the devastation proved doubly difficult. Many establishments closed down for an indefinite period of time.
It was during a sharing activity with faith community workers, in the last week of January 2014, where I learned more about the hope and determination of ordinary people living in the communities hit by the storm in Antique.
Together with a group of volunteers in an activity sponsored by a church organization, I facilitated a psychosocial activity for faith community workers living in some of the marginalized communities of Antique. A number of the participants to the activity lived in a farming community at the foot of Mt. Madia-as, the tallest mountain in the Panay peninsula. Some traveled on foot to reach the designated area where they could have respite and be able to share their personal narrative to the community.
They are faith community workers who continued to reach out to other members of their community even while they themselves experienced fear and anxiety from the devastation they witnessed.
|(Photography of Amy Muga, 2014)|
One faith community worker shared that she did not expect that the storm shall surpass Typhoon Frank, which is the strongest to hit their community. Her family has prepared for it; they pruned the trees surrounding their home, stocked on wood to use in the event of electric power failure, covered their humble furniture with plastic and kept tuned in their local radio station for updates on the storm’s path. She steeled herself when the storm was ravaging their surrounding by praying and singing church hymns.
A church worker related that while she was still fearful for her family after the storm, she decided to continue reaching out to other members of her community. Two community elders shared how their faith and the presence of their family members provided them strength and resolve to survive the storm.
|(Photography of Amy Muga, 2014)|
I joined them as a facilitator in these sharing sessions, highlighting segments in their stories where they showed their resolve, their courage, their values and their hope.I felt humbled by opportunity to be able to work with them, men and women whose faith and courage abounds, who continue to serve despite experiencing tremendous pain and difficulties brought about by one particular storm to their community.