Eight years after

Published in Eastern Visayas Journal on November 20, 2021

Has it been eight years already? The agony and the panic I felt seemed like it just happened yesterday, and I was not even physically in Leyte at that time. CNN was providing updates on super typhoon Yolanda (international code name: Haiyan) with Tacloban City projected to be ground zero. The forecast made me worried for my relatives. I felt helpless with not being able to contact my parents for several days. From Guam, no phone calls were going through to them and no flights from Manila to Tacloban were available. It was only after several days that we were finally able to confirm they were alive and safe.

They were the lucky ones. More than 6,000 people perished in the strongest tropical storm to make landfall in history. According to official reports, about 27,000 people were injured, 4.1 million displaced, and 16 million affected. Houses and roads were demolished. Dead bodies littered the streets. Electricity, water, and telecommunications facilities destroyed, and services unavailable for months. I can only imagine the heartbreak and the trauma only a Yolanda survivor could truly understand and relate to.

Warays may have developed the resilience from living in the center of the archipelago’s typhoon belt. Yet, this resilience was no match for the extraordinary strength of Yolanda. Families struggled in the aftermath of the super typhoon. They survived Yolanda but lost loved ones. They overcame the fear and the desperation but experienced chaos and lawlessness in the city. They endured the hardship but did not know when life can return to normal; if there ever will be a normal life ever again.

Traumatic stress is a normal response to an abnormal situation. If left unchecked and untreated, this develops to posttraumatic stress disorder or PTSD. Not many Warays can afford therapy to treat PTSD but there are ways to successful approaches to help deal with traumatic stress. The American Psychological Association listed four strategies:

Loved Ones. Family and friends provide invaluable support. Talk to them about emotions and experiences, and do not be afraid to ask for help. This help can be in the form of a listening ear while we talk our feelings through or assistance to help get our lives back on track.

Routine. Traumatic stress can be emotionally and physically paralyzing. It is important to get back to a semblance of a routine as soon as possible. Start with a small routine and build up until you can go through your day normally.

Self-care. Pursuing hobbies, exercising, and eating healthy will help heal our bodies while we are healing our minds and emotions.

Patience. Time heals, but it will take some people longer to heal than others. Know that each one reacts and responds to situations differently, and we all have our timelines to follow.

Looking at Tacloban City and the surrounding towns now, you would not know these places looked like wastelands weeks after the typhoon. You would not know people suffered so much. Let us not be fooled by what we see. Yolanda survivors are still healing, eight years after.

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