Of Storms and the Day After

Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) left in its wake widespread destruction. The statistics are staggering: almost 4,000 dead, almost 20,000 hurt, almost a million rendered homeless, almost 2,000 still missing. Damage to property and agricultural produce is estimated at 12 billion pesos. Graphically translated, the statistics paint heart-breaking pictures of thousands having to face the horrors of death and desperation.

Like our neighbors Leyte and Samar–the provinces most affected by Yolanda–Sorsogon also lies along the country’s typhoon belt. We’ve had, and I’m sure we’ll continue to have, our share of storms. Of recent memory is Milenyo, which ravaged the city in September 2006 and which left us with no electricity for almost three weeks.

Leyte and Samar are showing signs of getting back on their feet now, thanks in no small measure to the outpouring of support from all over. The slow but sure steps to normalcy remind me of post-Milenyo Sorsogon. Below is a re=post of what it was like 365 days later, which in effect echoes Robert Frost’s three-word summing up of life: “it goes on.”

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It’s been a year since Milenyo. A year since I woke up to the glare of the after-the-storm sun and saw these:

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typhoon 507

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But the day after was not just about destruction and loss. It wasn’t just about the prospect of dark, “powerless” nights and–as a visiting friend put it–shoulders weighed down by hopelessness. The day after was for drying out, for picking up the pieces and sponging out the mess. It was about surveying the scene and deciding that the loss is not that insurmountable.

Before Milenyo, storms in these parts were measured against Sisang, a particularly strong typhoon that hit ground 20 years ago. I wasn’t around then, but I was told that the destruction was just terrible. Now, whenever there’s talk of yet another storm, we pray that it won’t be another Milenyo. And we prepare for the worst.

I don’t know, but where I come from, storms do have a way of drawing people together. Maybe it’s the cloud of uncertainty; of not knowing what the next day would be like after the destruction. Or maybe it is a matter of perspective: at the end of it all, it is not what was lost that is important: it is what remains.

A year later, we are back to normal. The leaves are back on the trees, houses have been repaired and we are all the wiser with memories of yet another of life’s storms.

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