Imagine for a moment that you are walking within the high school you attended in your younger years. Think of the halls and the classrooms, the cafeteria and the flag pole, the assembly hall and the basketball court. Think about all these things that have been imprinted on your mind by the years you stayed there. However you managed then, whether you thrived or simply survived, everyone remembers their second home that is their high school.
Then maintain the image against an incoming storm of incomparable magnitude ravaging the empty and evacuated school. Furious clashing winds and forceful rain batter the walls, break the windows and the doors letting the elements invade everywhere leaving nothing but destruction in its wake. After a while, the longest hours from your stretched and panicked perception, the giant storm moves on as it gains even more speed. How would you feel if this actually happened to your alma mater?
Now you probably have an idea of how I reacted upon seeing these pictures of my high school near the ravaged city of Tacloban in the province of Leyte, Philippines – one of the regions most heavily affected by Haiyan, the strongest storm in the recorded history of man.
There it stood, a towering skeleton of the institution that rears some of the country’s best and brightest. At the facade that would always flash in my mind at the mere mention of the name PSHS System lay broken the fences that our batch once painted ourselves – they hold the memories of the softballs that wheezed over and past those tall barriers that secured us from outside and discouraged us from cutting classes. It is hard not to notice the bare crown of the buildings, the rooftops that my very own batch mates somehow stocked with volleyballs three floors up from the ground during some of our friendly and competitive games. Then I focus in on the broken windows without their glass that are probably scattered inside the classrooms we so painstakingly cleaned and maintained on our brief stay there. They were never perfect, those windows, some of them won’t close properly and one even got replaced when another batch mate broke it with a tennis ball (or was it a baseball). Everywhere I looked there is damage showing how much those young buildings suffered and replacing the vivid memories of four years of education.
Seeing it in this state broke my heart. I always thought this was the one structure that would stand as the monument of things our batch and friends have and will accomplish; it was an immutable symbol of our pride. The photos however made me realize how something so well-kept and deeply guarded in memory, something so ingrained in my very being can still be sullied and violated.
More importantly and most painfully personal, it has turned and become the collective imagery of my batch, school, region, and kinsmen’s tragedy and suffering. Having survived the storm, everyone still faces the chaotic aftermath. The desperation and the helplessness is suffocating. For the past few days and the days to follow there is no Tacloban City.
One week has passed since the seawater, spurred on by powerful gusts and rain, swallowed the City. And still people are starving and thirsty and are badly in need of medical care. With nothing to their name, they struggle day after day hoping for help and relief. Some of them are people I know personally but could not help individually because the entire area is paralyzed in every manner a municipality, town, and city can be incapacitated. I am a selfish person and I do want to help my friends but I can only do that by helping all the victims of the typhoon. And one thing I can certainly do is share my story so that maybe, just maybe, one more person can lend and reach out a helping hand.
Please do send your help. Send the victims of the storm your prayers and give them your sympathy. Because they may have survived Haiyan but they must weather its challenges still.
Here are links to veritable institutions you can send your donations to:
Philippine Red Cross
British Red Cross
American Red Cross
Cruz Roja Española
Deutsch Rote Kreuz
Irish Red Cross
Japanese Red Cross
Croce Rosse Italiana
Australian Red Cross
Emirates Red Crescent
Canadian Red Cross
Sverige Roda Korset
Nederlandse Rode Kruis
Singapore Red Cross
My wicked witch is the unregulated and unhindered carbon emissions of major players in the global scheme. Wicked is the witch that is the never ending tactless antics of the politicians. Just as vile are the apathetic and the insensitive.