Yolanda: Seeing beyond
FIVE YEARS AFTER
Nothing was left except ourselves. How do we begin? Where will I get shelter for my big family.
“Hindi dapat matapos sa isang delubyo ang buhay ng tao (A person’s life should not end after a disaster).”
This was what 43-year-old Lani Navales kept in mind after the havoc of Typhoon Yolanda did not leave a roof for her family in Tolosa town, Leyte province in November of 2013.
Navales, a mother of six, recalled how she and her family clung on to a devastated evacuation center with an eight-month-old daughter tied in her arms, just to survive the wrath of the Philippines worst ever tropical cyclone.
“Nakita ng dalawang mata ko yung hugis at lakas ng hangin na pwedeng kumitil sa buhay namin. Nakita ko yung tubig. It was a matter of seconds bago kami nakaakyat sa bubong ng evacuation [center] at saka bumigay yung pader ng building (I saw with my own two eyes the shape and strength of the winds that could have killed us. I saw the waters. It was a matter of seconds before we managed to go up the roof of the evacuation center and then the wall gave in),” Navales told Cebu Daily News.
“Milagro talaga (It was really a miracle we survived),” she added.
What was harder, according to Navales, was how to rebuild their lives after the tragedy.
“Mahirap kasi wala talagang natira sa iyo kundi sarili mo lang. Paano ka magsisimula? Saan mo kukunin yung shelter para sa malaking pamilya na kinabibilangan ko, may anim akong anak (It was hard because nothing was left except ourselves. How do we begin? Where will I get shelter for my big family. I have six kids),” Navales said.
Navales recalled that they had to pick up whatever was left by the tragedy like tomatoes and fallen coconuts just to have something to eat as it took over a week before relief goods reached her place.
But if Yolanda taught her a lesson, Navales said it would be that the world had so much to offer and she had a lot to give in return despite losing every material possession in life.
“Nagsimula sa walang alam tapos lumipat ka sa realization na ang lawak pala ng mundong aking kinabibilangan. Doon ko naramdaman kung ano yung halaga ko sa buhay na ito. Doon ko nakita. Tinuruan ako kung paano hanapin ang sarili ko bilang isang individual na may lakas at nakatago lang pala (I started with not knowing anything until I reached the realization that the world I’m in is wide and it was then that I felt that my life mattered. I learned to find myself as an individual with a hidden strength),” said Navales.
Navales’ realization came after international non-government organizations (NGOs) came to build the Tukod project for Yolanda-stricken communities of Samar and Leyte provinces in 2015.
Tukod project is a sustainable livelihood project for the women of the devastated communities.
Funded by the Canadian government, Canada-based NGO Center for International Studies and Cooperation (CECI), and the Philippines-based Center for Emergency Aid and Rehabilitation (Concern, Inc.), the project provided seed capital of up to P25,000 to individual women entrepreneurs who wanted to start a business.
Navales joined project Tukod and revived the handicraft livelihood of her father with her husband Alfredo, using the seed capital given by Tukod.
At a glance, Tukod has engaged 27,500 individuals in sustainable economic activities; provided skills training to at least 10,000 people; and helped around 500 women, including Navales, establish small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in their communities.
The project looks at the economic empowerment of women in calamity-stricken regions as a sustainable strategy to help the families get back on their feet.
“Hindi ko masasabing mayaman kami. Lumaki ako sa isang mahirap na pamilya. Nasa laylayan ng lipunan. Pero meron akong anak ngayong ga-graduate ng accountancy, lahat ng iba kung anak ay nag-aaral (We are not rich. I grew up in a poor family at the bottommost part of society. But I have a child now about to graduate from accountancy and all my other children are in school), ”
Navales said while trying to hold back her tears as she told their story to CDN.
Aside from providing sustainable livelihood to victims of Yolanda, Tukod, through a campaign called ‘Rise!’, also promotes gender sensitivity in the calamity-devastated areas though community-based organizations.
(CBOs) in areas severely-hit by Yolanda, go around their region to give talks about gender empowerment, gender sensitivity and the women’s role in rising above the challenges of disaster.
Navales, together with other Rise leaders Fe Aballe, Jamillahlyn Moron and Anastacia Esquilona of Palo, Leyte, found a new mission after rising betond the devastation wrought by Yolanda: To inspire other women, who went through the same situation, that there is still life after the tragedy.
“I want to be an inspiration to others. Yung iba after Yolanda went to the big cities to look for jobs, but that is not the only key to rise. Kami mismo, bawat isa, (We are proof, each of us that) we are an opportunity. We just have to discover what we have and what we can offer to inspire others,” said Fe Aballe, one of the gender facilitators from Tacloban City who also survived Yolanda.
“Yung iba, nanatili silang lugmok, di nila alam kung paano tumayo. Tayong malalakas, manatili tayong malakas upang ipakita natin sa kanila yung bigay na lakas ng Panginoon at mabahagian natin sila ng lakas na tumayo (Others remained helpless not knowing how to recover; but we are stronger and we will remain strong so that we can show to others the strength God has given us and share this with others so they will also have the strength to get up), ” Navales added.
On the 5th year anniversary of Typhoon Yolanda yesterday, November 8, the women leaders visited Cebu for a photo exhibit that depicts the tragedy and how the communities slowly began to rise again.
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