The images of the aftermath from typhoon Yolanda or Haiyan have evoked a myriad of emotions in people—pity, sorrow, grief, disappointment, and anger for some. Then too, we have all been comforted by scenes of people aiding each other, and of nations coming together for the survivors of the typhoon.
For days, images of death and devastation flashed onscreen. However, like a ray of hope, survivors expressed such an unusual sense of humor and resilience despite their difficulties. Then too, the creativity and resourcefulness of the Filipino also emerged through these all. Just take a look at that video on how to open a can without a can opener; or how UP Physics majors are turning discarded cell phone batteries into rechargeable solar battery packs. I suppose if we all put our minds into achieving something, we will succeed in doing so.
If there is one thing Filipinos should truly take pride in, it is also the manifest spirit of bayanihan within our communities. In the days after the tragedy, it was evident that many private individuals and non-government organizations pitched in a ton of time and effort into relief actions. As soon as the highways connecting Luzon to the devastated provinces were opened, private individuals and volunteers went their own way to bring in much needed supplies to families and countrymen. Anecdotal accounts include how some people tucked in cash in shoes, socks, and underwear so they wouldn’t be mobbed, or how even canned goods were fit into every nook and cranny of cars.
Days later as well, we soon recognized that true and successful leadership inherently begins with empathy and decisiveness, and not one blinded by ambition and self-aggrandizement. Fortunately, in the tragedy we did find these traits in unnamed leaders and unsung heroes–families, entrepreneurs, professionals, ordinary people–all volunteers who pitched in all they could to raise whatever amount possible, or to help pack goods until the early hours of the morning. It was heartwarming to hear too about office employees sacrificing planned Christmas celebrations as a fund-raising activities. In my workplace, we just had “Art with a Heart” auctions to raise whatever donations we could make.
The task of rebuilding communities will take a bit of innovative and strategic thinking, maybe akin to coming up with out of the box solutions. The challenge is immensely overwhelming even for anyone with the best intentions. The rebuilding efforts will definitely be long and tedious, but also an opportunity to do things right this time. If the affected towns and cities will be better planned and rebuilt accordingly, these might even turn out to be exemplars in the future – a reality we hope to see some day.
Yet, beyond reconstructing the physical infrastructure is the urgent sense of rebuilding the spirit of hope and supporting the survivors through their loss and grief. For how does one indeed move forward and begin to find renewed hope if loved ones were swept away before your eyes? I guess we’ve seen how many of the grieving had turned to prayer and the sympathy offered by neighbors. Now as a nation, our prayers and individual or collective acts of generosity and empathy will make the difference in someone’s life.