Philippines | A Time to Rebuild and Start Anew

Photo: Jonathan Sta. Rosa, NCCP-Faith, Witness and Service
Photo: Jonathan Sta. Rosa, NCCP-Faith, Witness and Service

Reflecting on Typhoon Haiyan a Month On

By Jonathon Sta. Rosa

A month after Typhoon Haiyan struck the Philippines, killing 5,000 and displacing 3.4 million people, I travelled with the National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP)-ACT Alliance relief operation to Tacloban, one of the hardest hit regions. .

A month had passed and I imagined that everything had returned to normal.

I was wrong.

The destruction the typhoon wrought was still very much visible. It was as if the city had been ravaged by war. Everywhere you looked there were roofless houses, debris from concrete walls and fences, shattered glass from windows and vehicles, wood and iron sheets. Trucks lay overturned by the roadside and garbage was strewn on the highway. The air reeked of decaying carcasses.

It was midday when we arrived at the UCCP relief center. The relief distribution team was already carrying out its operations in the city. That evening I walked the streets near the center to witness the devastation caused by the deadly typhoon one month on.

I heard people shouting, calling for food and help. On one side of the street, children and adults rummaged through garbage looking for useful items to sell. On the other side of the street, some people were lighting a fire to cook dinner. Electric power has not yet been restored in the city.

A curfew is in place from eight o’clock in the evening until five in the morning. My first night was dark and quiet except for the whir of a few generators, which a small number of homes have.

Early next morning, I travelled to the bay area, which is now a temporary dump site. The sun was slowly rising, its rays reflecting on the quiet, dark blue water of the sea.

On the far end of the quay, an old man was fishing. I walked up to him to strike up a conversation but he could only manage a smile in return. I watched him for a time, surprised at how easy it was for him to catch fish. It was as if the fish were just waiting for the bait. I didn’t want to disturb him anymore so I headed back to the center of the city, turning around at one point to take a photograph with my camera.

I may not have had a word from the old man but truly there is a time for everything.

For now, it seems it is a time to mourn and weep…

But, it is also a time to rebuild and start anew…

Jonathon Sta. Rosa is part of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines' Faith, Witness and Service

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this blog are those of the author, and not necessarily representative of Lutheran World Federation policy.