On Love, Resilience, and Hope: Things I’ve Learned From Visiting Yolanda Survivors

Three years after the typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) hit the Philippines, Yolanda survivors demonstrated love, resilience, and hope.

VXI and Gawad Kalinga

Tacloban, in general, is a beautiful and highly urbanized city. In fact, on a 2010 survey administered by the Asian Institute of Management Policy Center, Tacloban landed in 5th place as “most competitive city in the Philippines, and second in the emerging cities category.” (Source)

Sadly, on November 8, 2013, the city was destroyed by Typhoon Haiyan, including Samar and Leyte.


 According to the locals, this is the same boat that hit the residences during the typhoon. The remnants are still there but as a display of resilience.

When I was invited by VXI Philippines to visit Tacloban – Samar, two things came to mind, finally: (1) I would be able to authenticate if the story about unfinished houses for Yolanda survivors was true:

Yolanda houses

These were the projects of the National Housing Authority. 

And (2) I would be able to speak to the Yolanda survivors.


He is Jose Dagsa, one of the recipients of the houses donated by VXI Philippines in partnership with Gawad Kalinga. 

While both thoughts happened, I got chin checked! I got hit by reality.

ON LOVE: NOTHING beats Filipino hospitality 

“Wisdom without love is nothing,” says Mr. Romeo Raga, Secretary of the Mayor. This is also the reason why Pia Wurtzbach won the 2015 Miss Universe Pageant because Filipinos are “confidently beautiful with a heart.”

Yolanda VXI

Being hospitable is ubiquitous amongst Filipinos. It’s natural. “Pasensha na po kayo sa munting handa namin,” says one of the families who genuinely prepared the food (boodle fight) for everyone. Truly, nothing beats Filipino hospitality, definitely world-class!

ON RESILIENCE: There’s no such thing as tomorrow. We live today. 

I often tell my friends that we must live our lives to the fullest. That worrying is just a waste of time. That whatever our plans for tomorrow must be done today.


 This is the multi-purpose hall of GK VXI Village residents in Lawaan, Eastern Samar. This is where they welcomed us with open arms. A place where everyone showed resilience.

On my day-trip in Samar, these kids are the epitome of the word “resilient.” They got hit by what appears to be the deadliest typhoon ever recorded in the world. But here they are, three years after, smiling, dancing, and singing with me.

Yolanda VXI

“Ate pichuran mo kami dyan sa hawak mo.” Mike (my partner) always tells me to take photos, regardless if it’s blurry, flashed, or what. Because for him, the only bad photo you have is the one you didn’t take. Also, photos are filled with memories that you’ll treasure forever. And this is just one of them. 

ON HOPE: Because, it’s a good thing

One of my favorite movies is The Shawshank Redemption. Andy Dufresne (portrayed by Tim Robbins) was accused of something he didn’t do. (Sounds, familiar?) I know, we’ve all been there. He hoped that someday, justice will be served. For him, if we don’t hope for the best, nothing will happen. For Yolanda survivors, hope is a good thing. It helps them look forward to a better day.

They prayed and hoped that they would be given a chance to regain what was lost.


These were the houses donated by VXI Philippines, in partnership with Gawad Kalinga.

Fortunately, through the partnership of two genuine organizations, P2.1M was donated for the housing projects, and to give assistance to the affected families.

VXI Village Gawad Kalinga

Just like the tree standing and waiting for its branches and leaves to flourish, these Yolanda survivors are hopeful that with the blessings they are graciously receiving, they will be able to continue to live life to the fullest.

Thank you very much VXI Philippines, Kevin Caballero of Gawad Kalinga, and to ALL Yolanda survivors, for teaching me how to love life and to always hope for the best.

Where were you during the typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda)? Do you have inspiring stories to share?