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Welcome to my Home

Today, I write from home.

I longed to write but didn't have the chance to do so mainly because the infrastructure for internet connectivity wasn't here for more than three (3) months. The world knows what happened to Tacloban City and the rest of the towns and provinces in Eastern Visayas when Supertyphoon Yolanda (international code name Haiyan) struck in the morning of November 8, 2013. I lost contact with my family and it was the longest 96 hours of my life. The lack of access to internet aggravated the digital divide, diminishing our opportunity to connect and respond to potential donors and supporters.

What happened to my home?

My home is in the village of Guindapunan, one of the coastal communities of the town of Palo, 13 kilometers away from Tacloban in the province of Leyte. Our house is located 10 minutes brisk walk from the MacArthur beach, the site of the Leyte Landings along the gulf where the biggest naval battle in history happened in World War II. Supertyphoon Yolanda affected 41 towns in Leyte, took away hundreds of lives, destroyed more than 90% of the houses, closed down all business establishments and government offices, damaged our crops (mainly coconut and rice) and sources of livelihoods. It was a shocking, depressing and sorry state like we were hit by an atomic bomb.

My home city, Tacloban was in a worse state. Our office which was located along the shore was razed to the ground. All power, telecommunications, airport, markets, hospitals, schools and other urban infrastructure were immobilized. Ships went aground. Houses were flattened. Tacloban was cut off from the rest of the country for more than 24 hours. Help was not immediately available which forced homeless, roofless and hungry city folks to loot for food, water and clothing. Every remaining government and private space with a semblance of roof and wall turned into evacuation centers. Roads were covered with huge debris and hundreds of dead bodies were retrieved among the debris, waste and mud. The lack of food, safe drinking water, security, electricity, health services, communication and income caused the exodus of people to the cities of Samar, Cebu and Metro Manila.

The world listened when the news came out about the sorry state of Tacloban. The shed like airport hosted far more flights than it could during normal operations. It was like a war zone with military planes and helicopters bringing in uniformed personnel, medics, telecommunication engineers and media people. Curfew was imposed for weeks. There was no public transportation. The hospitals were taken over by volunteer medics from different parts of the Philippines and the world. Tent hospitals were set up in several towns. A Chinese Naval Hospital was stationed across Cancabatok Bay.

Generosity poured like no other. More than a hundred humanitarian organizations responded. People of different colors, faith and political persuasions, vocations and missions volunteered to help. We depended on them for food, clothing and shelter. They are helping us until now to recover our livelihoods, build our schools and churches and put roof over our heads.

The sun has been shining bright these days. Schools have opened. The markets are busy. The construction business is brisk. Prices of goods and services have doubled. The informal settlers went back to build their homes in the "no build/dwelling zone" due to uncertain and unclear government resettlement plans. Displaced people still live in tents. Widows, yes, there are about 126 Yolanda widows in my town alone. Widows still wondering how to make both ends meet and start a new life.

We now have electricity at home after three (3) months. We also have slower than turtle internet connection. With this better than nothing amenity, we can now talk about recovery, rehabilitation, reconstruction and disaster risk reduction over a cup of coffee and roscas.

Sisters, friends from all over, welcome to my home.

This story was written for World Pulse’s Women Weave the Web Digital Action Campaign. Learn more »

Comments

kellyannaustin's picture

thank you

Thank you so much for sharing your experiences, Paulina. What a trial! Although the hardships must have been very difficult, you also paint a picture of people helping one another, a picture of some of the finer things we humans are capable of in times of crisis. And, as you say, you have remained connected to the rest of the world, even when the conveniences of internet connection are suspended! I'm glad to be able to read your voice now!

Wishing you peace,

Kelly

Paulina Lawsin's picture

You're welcome Kelly. Thank

You're welcome Kelly. Thank you for the prayers and support. This reminds me of a line in Desiderata which says, " With all its drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world."

amymorros's picture

Your Home

I am so sorry for all that you and your country have been through. Thank you for a great description of life during and after the super-typhoon. We take Internet access for granted and can't even imagine if it was not there for even a day. I, of course, grew up without it but we have all become so dependent on it for so many things.
I have a friend who served in the Philippines in the Peace Corps and she is planning an event to raise funds for recovery in your country. I do hope that daily life continues to improve and please keep the World Pulse community updated on any progress. I read one of your journal entries before and am glad to read one again for the WWW Campaign.

Amy
@amyinstl

William's picture

Tragedy in the Philippines

Dear Paulina,

Thank you for sharing the story of what happened to your village after the typhoon and how it affected every life within the area. I've been praying for "all women" in the world, as the number of places where women are facing hardships has been increasing beyond named countries. The courage you alluded to is very admirable. I hope neighbors have been helping each other in the reconstrucion of their lives. The thing I find truly depressing in your letter was knowing the economic hardships prevailing before the typhoon and how you all are coping, now that "the cost of goods and services have doubled." I know the prices will not go down once people pay the higher prices, so what are the widows and those living in poverty doing for food and shelter.
Pauline, I'll pray for you and your village neighbors and hope your next letter will show some humanitarian benefits.
blessings,
William

Dear Paulina,

Thank you for reliving your survival story through your writing, so that those who were not on the ground can better understand the gravity of the situation. I recently interviewed a few Filipino reporters for the International Women's Media Foundation and they both talked about the importance of environmental reporting, especially when things like climate change have resulted in numerous deadly typhoons in recent years. As you mentioned, Internet access is equally important because strong communications/information systems help keep people safe and aid in recovery efforts. I wish you all the best, as you continue to rebuild your home and your community!

Best,
Erin

Nancy Janus's picture

Your story

Paulina, I really enjoyed reading your story, difficult as it is. A personal story like yours gives, for those of us who did not experience the typhoon, a much clearer picture of how individual lives were affected. I can only imagine the frustration of living for three months without electricity and cut off from internet communication. Your own positive spirit comes through your writing as you describe the sun shining now and the rebuilding taking place. I do feel concerned to learn of those rebuilding in what may be danger zones. And it must be very difficult for everybody to have the costs of necessities doubled. I feel so sad for all the widows in your community, and I hope that they find the strength to rebuild their lives.

Thank you so much for sharing with us.

Nancy

Kit's picture

Thank you

Beautifully written. I can see in my mind, what you have described. Blessings to all of you in the Philippines.

With kindness,
Kit

Lylinaguas's picture

Glad You're OK

It's good to know that you're ok and things are starting to move at your hometown after Yolanda. It was sad to hear though that a lot of what has been sent to help Yolanda victims are now rotting and have gone to waste. You have written your story of survival, hope and recovery so well which can only come from someone who has gone through that experience. You shared a personal part of what you went through that we were somehow able to see Qthrough your words. Tthank you for sharing this with us.

Lylin

mimiryan's picture

Recovery and Reconstruction

What you have been through and continue to face is unimaginable. I appreciate the details which paint an accurate picture from someone who is actually living through the reality. I am also very sorry for all in your and surrounding communities to have lost so much, especially loved ones. Having said that, your words also convey hope and appreciation for the generosity that has been extended in the wake of the disaster. By writing these more positive words, you show exceptional strength, wisdom and mindfulness. Your words, while deeply sad, leave me with a sense of optimism and I know that you must also be inspiring all of the people in your community to recover and reconstruct, as you mentioned. You are making it happen!

Thank you so much and I send you and your community support and love.

Mimi

Paulina,

Thank you for sharing your home with us. You write so well. I feel that your description conveyed the bitter realities of losing so much, but still the opportunity for beauty there - the beauty of so many people showing love and giving help without prejudice, the beauty of regrowth - the sorrow of the truest losses.

We look on, not knowing what it is to be in your shoes, but happy that you are there to share your experience with us. And we all will share ours with you and each other as well, and through all of these differences, the beauty and simplicity remains - we are human, we care for one another and we want a safe and happy life.

Best of luck Paulina - I'm sure you brighten every life you encounter.

-Amanda

SanPatagonia's picture

A tale of desolation...

Dear Paulina,
You took me to your home from the very first line and kept me there to the last one. I felt guided by your writing through all the desolation and uncertainty about the future. I could feel that "tabula rasa" emptiness when you described the state of your city after the typhoon, also the sorrow of those 126 widows left behind.
Internet is such a powerful tool for us to get there and know what is really happening, as well as for you to connect to the world and tell the story of these days.
Blessings for you and your community… Stay strong!

@SanPatagonia
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