The Philippines has been struck by so many calamities that devastated livelihood, properties, and even lives. I am emotionally affected watching how our fellow kababayans have to endure the wrath of nature.
On November 08, 2013, in the Western part of Visayas, Leyte faced a massive devastation after one of the strongest typhoons, Yolanda (International name Haiyan), hit the country.
As a founder of a Non-Profit Organization called Pink Women on Fire, it has been my desire to reach the remotest areas in the Philippines. Back then, though, the only way for us to help was to send relief goods. But my hopes of personally seeing the people and speaking encouragement to them after the destruction never died. Fast forward to two years after, through the help of so many generous individuals, setting foot on Leyte was no longer an impossibility.
Last September, through the kindness and support of Air Asia Philippines, we took part in a mission to spread hope and blessing to the children of Palompon, Leyte. From checking in at NAIA Terminal 4 to boarding Air Asia’s 180-passenger Airbus 320, we were greeted with sets of warm smiles by pleasant staff and flight attendants. It was a small gesture of cordiality that is an indication of how far they would go to make every passenger feel safe and comfortable.
Finally in Leyte, a phone call came through. It was our cheerful hostess, Miss Warblitz Martinez of the Palompon Chamber of Commerce. She was already waiting for us with her 4×4. Her warm greetings finally eased my mind of any worries being at an unfamiliar place. My mixed emotions were simply replaced with excitement. I couldn’t wait to go to the mountain and meet the 200 students of Mabini Elementary School.
The pledges and donations were shipped 2 days ahead of us by Air Asia Philippines’ Cargo Agent, Flash Cargo Manila, through the assistance of Mr. Emery Mariano, who took care of the hiccups we encountered lodging the boxes. I was in awe how God took care of everything from Manila to Tacloban City.
Tita Blitz (we now fondly call her), became our instant tour guide following the enthusiasm she had bringing us to the landmarks of Tacloban City including the MacArthur Landing monument in Palo, and the mass grave of some of the 10,0000 people who perished from the tragic Yolanda typhoon. And a local, Glenda, shared her story of survival that tore our hearts apart, but at the same time left us with pride of how a Filipino could face such challenges with faith and hope that everything will be fine.
Two years after the typhoon, the province has shown progression where establishments stand tall. Churches were rebuilt and people have demonstrated a positive outlook; perhaps the reason they have learned to move on and let wounds heal and accept the scars of the past. St. Francis Xavier Church was completely rebuilt and became the dwelling place of thousands of reposed souls after the typhoon. I didn’t know how and what to feel that moment. I was completely out of words.
The local barangay informed us that Pink Women on Fire was the first NGO to visit their place after the wrath of Yolanda. Situated in the mountain, Mabini is the farthest barangay in Palompon town. The school head and barangay official were teary-eyed upon seeing us, but we felt honored more than anything else to be given this opportunity. To hear their voices, and to make them feel they are not alone in this battle.