Jeremy Sy on Typhoon Haiyan
In November of this year, Typhoon Haiyan or Yolanda swept through the Visayas in my home country, the Philippines, killing more than 5,000 and rendering hundreds of thousands homeless. Adding to the heartbreak and the horror, Yolanda also revealed the extent of the corruption and ineptitude in the Philippine government, as our officials very publicly failed to act in the wake of the calamity, with some being caught red-handed trying to profit from the disaster.
This picture represents the one ray of hope that emerged during Yolanda. It was taken by an anonymous volunteer at one of the hundreds of relief centers that cropped up spontaneously across the Philippines and around the world, filling the void that the government couldn’t or wouldn’t fill. On each can of food in this box, a donor had scribbled messages like “hang in there,” and “don’t lose hope.” This photo made the rounds of the social networks, helping to galvanize relief efforts by reminding people that the work they were doing wasn’t just to help save those displaced by the storm, but also to sustain the country’s near-broken spirit.
Today, many parts of the Visayas remain a disaster zone, but the re-building has begun in earnest, and I think the country’s spirit is stronger than it’s ever been. As one of my friends shared: “I used to want nothing more than to get out of this country because I was ashamed of our government. Now, I realize that the government is not the country. I am my country.” And, in the words of another friend, that’s what makes the Philippines “stronger than the strongest storm.”