Too often I find myself being so selfishly wrapped up in my own little bubble that I forget to be an active participant in this big world that we live in.
So many things have transpired since my last post over a month ago. If you had asked me how I felt about heading off to 200 hours of Yoga Teacher Training in New York for the entire month of October, I would have told you that I felt sad about leaving home and being away from DFJ, that I was nervous about not knowing how to find my way in the city, that I fretted about not knowing what the training days will look like, that I had a big fear of getting injured during asana practice, that I worried about getting too tired during class time, that I wondered if my fellow yogis would like me or not, and that I was scared shitless of practice teaching in front of the group.
I have always wanted to be an optimist but unfortunately, most of the time, my little head is ruled by too many negative thoughts. Being able to go to New York City for yoga is a privilege that I somehow overlooked.
What happened after Yoga Teacher Training was a flurry of going to 2-4 yoga classes every day for another week, a 30th birthday weekend celebration in New York (low key, as always), and coming home to Maryland late Sunday night. For the next few days that followed, my days were slow and easy. I worked hard on my teacher training take home final which made my head spin. The fridge was looking bare and bachelor-like so I went out to do some food shopping. There were a couple of bank errands that needed to be done. Since we were not home for a while there were a few loads of laundry waiting to be done. DFJ said he missed eating vegetables when I was not around, so I indulged him. And always, I found time to escape upstairs and do my yoga practice. Since the training, I have also taken to practice teaching to an imaginary student. You would think I have completely lost my mind if you see me.
Who the hell am I? I am not sure I recognize this person who has all of a sudden become domesticated and not busy, yet still manages to lose track of time and accomplish nothing. On top of that, I complain about not having anything to do. What a joke!
As I selfishly lament my fate in the safe cocoon of Maryland, on the other side of the world, people in the Philippines are heartbroken and devastated over the loss of their loved ones and homes due to the brutal Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda). If I weren’t here, I would be in the midst of all that devastation, just like my family and friends are.
On November 7th (Thursday morning here), I talked to my mom and sister on the phone and they told me they were getting ready for the typhoon that’s coming. They were busy filling water bottles and had some life jackets out in case of flooding. I told them to put important documents in a safe place so they don’t get wet and with that, we said goodbye. Since the Philippines is always hit by typhoons and storms, we thought this one would just be slightly stronger than the usual and nothing more.
WE WERE SO WRONG. This typhoon was like no other. It was worse than the flash flood that killed almost 8,000 people in my hometown, Ormoc City, on November 5, 1991. I was there when it happened, two weeks after my father passed away, and three days after I turned eight. That flash flood happened so fast, we just barely got home from school. I remember not knowing why we came home early when the rain wasn’t even so bad… then all of a sudden, water came rushing into our house and rose about 5 feet. The next thing I knew, we were crouched on top of our heavy dining table just watching the murky water flood in. My uncle punched a hole in the ceiling and we hid there listening to the raindrops pelting the roof that was only a few inches away from our heads. When all that was over, we moved to our grandparents’ house in the next town, Albuera. That was our temporary shelter while our house was getting cleaned, fixed, and repainted. Then life went back to normal somehow… I was only eight and my mother did an amazing job shielding us from the worst, after she just lost her husband and experienced a severe catastrophe.
Now, as an adult, seeing the current devastation caused by another natural calamity, I can see so much more. DFJ and I stayed up late last Thursday watching the news, knowing that the eye of the storm was right there over my beloved hometown, threatening the lives of my family and friends, relentlessly unleashing it’s wrath over thousands of people who live in houses not built to withstand even a gentle storm. I called home even though I knew that was futile and there was nothing I could do but sit and watch and panic. All communications in the hardest hit areas were down. Facebook was my only source of live news from the Philippines as friends from other parts of the country who were unaffected continued to post updates. I read somewhere that there was going to be a storm surge and fear rose up my spine. The storm surge spared Ormoc City but flowed through Tacloban City, which is about 65 miles away from my hometown, and it left the town in ruins. The current death toll in the Leyte Province is 2,000-2,500 people with thousands of people rendered homeless.
As the days passed, I heard from my cousins that everyone in our family is ok and our homes as well. Relief flooded over me but I was still full of unease as I have not heard from my mom directly yet. On Tuesday night, I finally got to talk to my mom. They are all fine and unharmed and our house only sustained very minimal damage. So far, they have enough food supply to last for a while and some rusty water from a pump for showers, dishes, and the toilets. My mom is smart, on the day before the typhoon, she hired someone to cut the trees surrounding our house and someone to reinforce the roof of our house. Since the flash food in 1991, she has had iron grills screwed outside all the glass windows and doors of our house to prevent debris from breaking the glass in case another calamity happens. She also took this carpenter to my grandparents’ house and had him reinforce their big doors. Had she not done these before the typhoon came, those trees would have fallen on our house and that big door would have blown into my grandparents’ house. She told me that she sat in our living room for a while, watching the sky get dark and the storm brewing outside through the glass doors. When she thought she couldn’t stand death coming towards them, she and my two sisters all hid in the master bedroom. They held each other and talked about how lucky I am to be the sole survivor of the family as the wind continued to howl outside. Her words gripped my heart and while she talked to me I could hear the wind crying in my head as I have heard that sound countless of times during typhoons and storms growing up in the Philippines. My mom said all they could do was cover their ears and wait it out, ever-ready to take action if and when the roof blows off and debris starts flying towards them. The 195 mile/hour winds finally came to an end and thankfully left my entire family unscathed and our home standing strong. My family is very fortunate to have survived Haiyan, one of the strongest cyclones in history.
The vast majority of the victims of Haiyan are now homeless, injured, and hungry. Even worse, they are out there, grieving or looking for lost family members. As far as I know, although things are really bad in Ormoc City, what happened to our town is not nearly as bad as Tacloban City. My mom told me that as far as she has seen, walking and driving around, no trees are left standing. Almost all business establishments are destroyed and roofs look like crumpled newspaper. My uncle was the 3,000th person in line to get 2 liters of gas. There’s a loooong line for charging a cellphone and it costs 20 pesos per charge (about 50 cents here). They have no electricity and running water. People who have been left homeless are suffering under the scorching heat, especially since there is no more shade.
The Philippines has received an overwhelming amount of international aid and our hearts are extremely thankful for all the support that you are giving to our country. Filipinos overseas and all over the Philippines are rallying to help out by donating money and packing relief goods to be sent to the hard hit areas. You are all heroes and thank you for all your efforts!
Friends, let us continue to help the Philippines… there are so many bellies that need food, parched throats that need clean water, so many injured who need medicine and treatment, hundreds of thousands left homeless, debris that needs to be cleared out, better infrastructure that need to be built to avoid extreme damages in the future… I could go on. We may not be able to heal the grieving hearts of so many but we can provide them with their physical needs. So maybe for today or the next few days, save your latte/fresh juice/ beer and cocktail/new outfit/new shoes/new purse/ money and donate it to the Philippines instead.
If you are wary about donating because you are not sure exactly whether that money goes to where you would want it to go, here are some of the big and trustworthy organizations to donate to:
Every penny counts and the Philippines need as much help as we can give. PLEASE HELP MY PEOPLE RISE. Thank you so much.
Daghang salamat kaninyong tanan.