The Philippines is one of the few countries in the world that is very much prone to deadly cyclones. An average of eight to nine tropical storms hit its land every year, aside from the 10 others that enter the nation’s territory. The worst was in 1993, when a total of 19 typhoons made landfall and lashed parts of the archipelago.
With these relatively high numbers, Filipinos have become all too familiar with natural disasters. We brace ourselves as storms rage over our roofs while knowing that this would definitely not be the last. The worst is most probably yet to come.
And there was Super Typhoon Yolanda (international name: Haiyan): the strongest to ever hit land and the most powerful storm to pound the Philippines. Its maximum sustained winds peaked at 315 kilometers per hour, about the speed of a single-propeller jet.
The devastation it caused, though predicted, was unprecedented. The overwhelming sight of the aftermath became the highlight at that time not only in the local media but also in the international scene, bringing in massive aid but at the same time underlining the poor disaster response by the Philippine government.
But with the surge of reports on political bickering, of the government’s inefficient and lack of response, there came stories of hope and inspiration: the spirit of bayanihan during and after the storm and people who sacrificed their life and limb to help the victims.
David Guttenfelder, a photojournalist for Associated Press and contributor for the National Geographic, lauded Yolanda survivors for their resilience weeks after the calamity hit.
“It’s almost confusing because people are so good-natured here. Filipino people have an incredible spirit and an incredible way of moving on. If it were any other place in the world, it would be so different,” Guttenfelder said.
Even renowned CNN broadcaster Anderson Cooper expressed his admiration to the victims of Yolanda when he reported live from the ravaged city of Tacloban, Leyte five days after the deady storm.
“Honestly, I feel it’s an honor to be there and to be able to give voice to people who don’t have a voice, who don’t have access to power and to be able to tell that woman’s story,” Cooper said in an interview on CBS’ the Late Night Show with David Letterman, recalling a mother who lost three of her children to Yolanda and took days before their bodies were picked up by authorities.
Filipinos, indeed, have different ways of surviving—ways that cut across all kinds of catastrophe, whether natural or man-made. This is now what we call the Filipino resilience, which is slowly becoming an essential part our character and culture—a culture that stemmed from years of poverty and the desire to survive.