Today is Thanksgiving in the US, the day we pause and give thanks for the many blessings in our lives. This year, for those of us with family members in Samar, Leyte, and the other areas devastated by typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan), it feels different. Our family has been spared loss of life, and for that we are deeply, deeply thankful. Eight of Rena’s brothers and sisters and their families have lost their homes, but homes can be rebuilt. Livelihoods have been lost — the boats are destroyed, the coconut trees that yielded copra are gone. But everyone is alive.
As Rochelle, a niece said, “We starting a second life.”
I’ve been thinking about this a lot.
Could Samar and Leyte be starting a second life too?
Is it possible that this horrible destruction can somehow lead to a better future?
I am hesitant to put forward that idea — but I keep feeling it, stronger every day.
In some way, the horror of the typhoon was like an intervention — it stopped everything, and now it starts again from scratch, and as it starts, the devastated areas have an immense reservoir of goodwill from the rest of the Philippines and the international community. Billions and billions of dollars of aid will flow, at first to “stabilize the patient” — food, medicine, shelter.
But then it will be livelihood.
And then development.
The world hardly knew Samar before this happened. And yet it is one of the most beautiful, diverse, and abundant places on the entire planet. The same is true of Leyte and I don’t mean to leave Leyte out — but Samar is home for our family and there is a wildness about it, with the varied, spectacular coastlines and the mysterious, largely uninhabited jungle and mountain interior.
What will the future hold?
When I think about the aid that will come in, the first thought that comes to mind is — will it reach those it is supposed to reach? Will it have the intended affect?
It is easy to fall victim to cynicism and think that old ways will prevail, but maybe not this time.
We know Filipinos are resilient, we know the smile is already back in spite of the devastation.
I think we can count on the world being ready to respond.
But I also think that Filipinos — and especially our Waray brethren in Samar and Leyte — will not sit idly by and let this moment pass. Those who would rip-off the people will, I believe, this time find that the people won’ tstand for it.
So today, as I give thanks that our family is alive, I also give thanks for the spirit of the people who will, I believe, prevail at the end of all this, and who will rebuild everything better than it was. When the history is finally written, I believe it will say that as painful and devastating as the typhoon was, in the end it brought about a painful but meaningful rebirth.
I know it’s easy to say these things from half a world away, sitting on my comfortable couch and with a turkey ready to go into the oven when people in the affected area are grateful for a bowl of rice and a handful of nails to patch together shelter. And so I will understand if me saying “maybe some good will come of this” doesn’t resonate for everyone.
But I can’t help it.
I feel it.
Maybe some good will come of this.
Here’s a gallery of pictures of Samar and Leyte — not the devastation, but what was there before, and what we can hope will be there again when all is said and done, but better.