Due to its unprecedented ferocity, Super typhoon Yolanda (international code name: Haiyan) would go down in history as one of the most powerful typhoons to slam Planet Earth.
With its center winds packing speed of almost 150 miles per hour, the howler leveled almost anything on its path, leaving some 40 towns and cities in Eastern Visayas, Philippines in total ruins. The destruction was so complete that some towns like Guian, Eastern Samar and Tanauan, Leyte look as if these were bombarded by days of relentless artillery shelling.
The death toll, more than 5,000, was staggeringly high with bodies of people lying in the streets and canals and underneath smashed houses and buildings. Hundreds more were believed to have been swept to the sea by the accompanying storm surge that engulfed buildings and caused vehicles to turn upside down.
Tacloban City, which used to be a progressive place, was a desolate landscape of tangled iron, rubbles, flipped vehicles, mountains of debris, fallen electric posts and trees. People wandered aimlessly in the streets, looking for the bodies of their loved ones in their destroyed houses or salvaging valuable items.
Deeply touching was the plight of those who survived the hellish disaster: They were hungry, homeless and forlorn. Hunger stalked them for days since the typhoon struck, and they feared they were going to die of starvation.
Members of a farming family were forced to eat water-damaged rice which they normally feed to the pigs. Their rice stock got soaked in the typhoon-spawned floods, and they had to wash it five times before cooking it.
Extreme hunger prompted some people to steal and loot stores, warehouses and houses. Out of sympathy, a rich man could not shoot the thieves who broke into his house.
In one of the devastated towns, there were hundreds of famish people lining on the roadside and waiting for relief foodstuff.
To avoid death by starvation, many of the victims evacuated to Metro Manila by boarding cargo planes that were transporting relief goods. A mother of a family of five, with her four children in tow, shed profuse tears as she told reporters they left behind her dead child in a funeral parlor in Tacloban so she could save her other kids from hunger.
The graphic footages of the destroyed towns and the tales of woes of the victims, which were shown in international TV, whipped up an unprecedented surge of emotion in people in many parts of the world.
Not a few cried unabashedly while viewing the widespread devastation and the thousands of survivors who were grieving over the death of their loved ones.
What followed was a worldwide outpouring of sympathy for the victims. The response of nations, relief agencies, groups and plain individuals to the disaster was overwhelming.
The United States donated outright $20 million to lead the nations that gave funds for the massive relief and rehabilitation efforts.
An Associated Press (AP) report listed foreign governments and agencies that donated funds and supplies to the relief operations.
Aside from the US, some of those in the AP list are United Nations, $25 million; Britain, 10 million pounds (roughly $16 million); Australia, 10 million Australian dollars ($9.4 million US dollars); United Nations World Food Program, $2 million; UNICEF, 66 tons of emergency supplies; Japan, $10 million; Canada, $5 million; China, $200,000; Taiwan, $200,000; and HSBC Group, $1 million.
Filipinos all over the world have likewise responded with a sense of urgency to the plight of their suffering “kababayan.” They launched fund-raising campaigns and collected relief items such as clothes, hygienic supplies and canned goods.
Here in the United States, the National Federation of Filipino American Associations (NaFFAA) is spearheading efforts to raise funds for the victims.
Here in Michigan, the Filipino American Community Council (FILAMCCO) collected $16,000 on the spot during a hastily called meeting last Nov. 12 at the Philippine American Community Center (PACCM). As of Nov. 22, the collections totaled more than $47,000. The local chapter of the Salvation Army headed by Romeo Alip pledged to donate a sum equal to the total amount to be collected by FILAMCCO.
The bulk of the amount collected by FILAMCCO will be turned over to the Sagip Kapamilya Foundation, the charity arm of ABS-CBN which is the biggest radio-TV network in the Philippines. The balance will be given to the Salvation Army which is conducting its own relief operations in the typhoon-hit areas.
As of Nov. 18, ABS-CBN reported that it has already collected 203 million pesos (roughly $5 million) from donors in the Philippines and abroad.
The plight of the typhoon victims has tugged the heart of millions of people all over the world.
But what make one cries in profound happiness are the acts of pure kindness demonstrated by children and poor people.
Among them is a woman in Tondo, Manila who earns some 100 pesos ($2.50) a day by transporting people in a foot-pedaled tricycle. A mother of three, she donated her one-day income for the victims, saying she is more blessed than the victims.
Even many prisoners at the National Bilibid Prisons in Muntinglupa City, Philippines showed they are also softhearted, donating clothes and other relief items to the victims.
Two grade school girls in General Santos City, Philippines brought out their piggy banks and donated their contents (amounting to 2,000 pesos each) to the survivors.
Yes, it seems almost everybody empathizes with the victims. The unprecedented outpouring of aid seems to indicate that in this world, the kind-hearted people still outnumber those whose hearts are made of stone.