The Philippines, a country of around 7107 islands located in the Pacific Rim of Fire, bordered by the Pacific Ocean and the South China Sea, faces its share of natural calamities on a regular basis. Typhoon season wreaks havoc every year, disrupting lives by bringing down houses, power lines, trees, and flooding roads making traffic even more of a mess than it already is. Needless to say, people are used to it. But nothing could have prepared any country for the destruction of Typhoon Haiyan or Yolanda as it was called in the Philippines.
It struck in November and the world watched as it made landfall landing first on the eastern islands of the country. Winds of over 186 miles per hour and a dreadful storm surge battered the islands. The casualty rate kept rising. The world watched as the effects and devastation became more and more clear. It was a disaster such as no one has ever seen, but it was unclear at first how badly it affected the hardest hit areas because communication lines were down, and the airports were inoperable for the first few days. Eventually, news started to trickle in. It was worse than anyone could have imagined. Aerial views of the areas before and after the typhoon were giving the world an idea of the physical damage. Pictures of handwritten notes of family and friends trying to reach their loved ones, or trying to get a message out to loved ones in other parts of the country and abroad, were heartbreaking.
I had planned a trip already to visit the Philippines towards the end of November into December. I was to travel with my mom and my partner in crime, Clay, and we were going because there was going to be a memorial for the first death anniversary of my grandfather, but also for a nice vacation since I haven’t been back in 5 years. It was going to be Clay’s first time and I was very excited to be the tour guide and translator this time for my world traveler of a partner. After the storm struck however, people asked if I was still going and if it was even feasible to go. I assured them it was going to be fine since the destruction was localized and we were not going to be in the areas of the damage. I looked forward to it. I had plenty of opportunities here to help and Sonic Union started a fundraiser. So many people gave help in the form of money, time, and sincere words of concern and prayers for those affected. I felt like it would be nice to be in my homeland to be closer to my countrymen during a time of difficulty and attempts at recovery. It was also going to be nice to see family and friends again.
And so we went. It was WONDERFUL. People asked me if I felt a difference because of the typhoon and because we didn’t go to the affected areas, I didn’t see any of the damage, but people in the rest of the country were doing their part. Companies toned down their usual big Christmas parties and opted for smaller affairs, donating the money instead to the victims. Hearts and thoughts and prayers kept going out. Aside from these, the country was as fun and as delightful as ever. I enjoyed taking Clay to the places I spent my childhood in. I introduced him to family and friends I’ve been talking about for years. We ate food, ate food, ate food, drank, relaxed, explored, took in lots of culture, had fun. Did I mention we also ate some food?
Here I am about to dig into some fresh lobster from the market behind Boracay.
Where is Boracay you may ask? It’s in the middle of the Philippines in the province of Aklan. It’s a worldwide tourist destination and it’s paradise defined.
But before you get too jealous and start cursing the closest New Yorker you can find for bringing the wrath of winter, let me tell you about living in paradise. First we got there at about 8:30 but we couldn’t check in until 1:00, so we lounged beachside for hours. Sometimes when we got too hot (and it gets hot) we would swim in the 77 degree ocean. We even got dangerously close to sunburned. One time when we were snorkeling looking at the marvelous marine life I felt some stings on my arm and face which our tour guide said might have been a jellyfish brushing past me. It stung and burned for a few minutes. I even got a swollen track of red on my arm.
So don’t feel too bad about being in a rainy 48 degree city. In between fresh seafood meals, massages, sun bathing and clear blue water swimming in a tropical island, there lurk certain dangers. I even had sand stuck in my scalp for days! Sometimes it would be on my face and look funny with my tan! Being on the beach is a big job, but I took one for the team ;)
We promised the people who donated to the Sonic Union fundraiser little gifts from the Philippines to say thank you for their generous donation. A lot of these gifts are from Sagada, Mountain Province, in the northern part of the Philippines. For those who got honey, here’s a glimpse of where those bees feed.
A month after our trip and two months after the typhoon struck, people are still trying desperately to get their lives back together. It will be a long road. But thanks to the kindness of people around the world (generous people like you guys), the victims are slowly trying to get there. The spirit and strength of the people affected will always be an inspiration. Filipinos are always said to be like bamboo in the wind. We sway and bend, but we never break. This latest calamity serves as proof of this again and stands as testament of the uncanny ability of the human spirit to get back up after we fall down. The typhoon also showed again the inherent kindness of people. The outpouring of support and love was overwhelming.
For this, for many other things, we here at Sonic Union would like to say thank you so much again from the bottom of our hearts. Your generosity will vibrate forever. It is as warm as the rays of the sun and as infinite as the sky.
Gratitude and love,
Kristine and the family of Sonic Union