Five years after the great disaster known as Typhoon Yolanda, Tzu Chi held a six-day photo exhibit at Robinsons Place Tacloban. Dozens of photos of love and compassion were in display, retelling one of Tzu Chi’s defining moments in the Philippines. The exhibit will last until October 27, Saturday.
Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) in 2013 brought unprecedented destruction to the province of Leyte, namely the capital city of Tacloban. Five years later, visitors and Tzu Chi volunteers look back at how far they’ve come since then.
On October 22, Tzu Chi set up a photo exhibit at Robinsons Place Tacloban. For six days up to October 27, visitors viewed dozens of pictures retelling one of the most notable relief efforts in the foundation’s 52-year history. It featured the faces of love and compassion Tzu Chi has brought to the affected people.
Looking at the photos, some visitors couldn’t hold back their tears as they recalled the suffering they’ve gone through.
"It was really a tough time for everyone. The water was so high, and when we found our way out of the house everyone was crying because the wind and the rain were so strong," shared Imelda Caindoc, a survivor.
Caindoc is still thankful that no one among her family was seriously hurt.
With winds of over 300 km/h, Yolanda is the strongest cyclone to hit the Philippines. On November 8, it devastated Tacloban City along with the northern half of Leyte and left scores of dead in its wake. The disaster initiated a mass mobilization of relief from over a hundred countries and organizations including Tzu Chi.
Identifying the dead became a problem following the disaster. Most of them were buried in mass graves without a name. As respect to the dead, private cemetery owner Pen Escaño donated more than one hectare of his cemetery for the over 2,000 killed by Yolanda to be laid individually.
“I understand that most of the victims were poor people who really couldn’t afford for a decent burial. At least [in my cemetery], they were given a decent burial and with dignity,” Escaño said.
Margela Lusaf from San Jose District, one of the worst-hit communities in Tacloban, shared her experience during Tzu Chi’s cash-for-work program and how it helped rebuild their lives.
“We were displaced after Yolanda. We had nothing but a tent that we made along the street to shelter us. We used the money we received during the cash-for-work to put up a small restaurant. Because of Tzu Chi, we were able to stand on our own,” said a teary-eyed Lusaf.
Cash-for-work participants received Php500 for each day of service. Not only did it help clean the storm-ravaged municipalities of Leyte but also aided in jumpstarting the local economy.
Marikina Tzu Chi volunteer Aida Deguzman witnessed the destruction Yolanda left. After five years, she returned to a happier and livelier Tacloban.
“I am very happy that Tacloban was able to stand again after Yolanda. Tzu Chi has greatly impacted the lives of the people here,” she shared.
The Abayan family also benefitted from relief and cash assistance from Tzu Chi. During the exhibit, they gave back to the spoon that fed them in their darkest hours.
”This is my way of giving thanks for Tzu Chi’s help to our family,” said mother Glainese Abayan.