Family friends are currently living in the Philippines. I invited Kim Miller to share their experiences of the recent disasters. God certainly has them there for a reason.
You never know when you take a path, where it will lead. Even if you think you are in control, you’re not. Last year my husband and I decided to take a temporary work assignment in the Philippines. We dreamed of tropical fruits, white sandy beaches and turquoise waters. The Philippines delivered, and we had some wonderful destinations. After the first year, we decided to do it again for another year. We had plans!! What other islands could we visit? What countries could we visit? But our plans were not Gods’ plans.
18 days after our return to Cebu, we woke up to a massive 7.2 earthquake. October 15th will be forever etched in my kids minds. They wanted to come home. My husband questioned staying and wondered if we were putting our kids in danger. I believed that no matter where we are in the world there are dangers and what mattered was being together. We got used to the aftershocks, thousands of them. It became normal. So did the cracks in the walls.
23 days later, we are preparing for what the internet is calling the Super Typhoon. It was heading our way. We had already experienced several typhoons, and felt we were safe. We are on a hill, 12 stories up in a high-rise. What could happen?
Everything shut down in Cebu the day before the storm. People were told to go home and secure their homes and belongings. Tie down their roof. Seek shelter if your home is not strong. We lost power at 7 am the morning of the storm. We had no T.V. to keep us updated. We had no internet. We just sat in the house watching the wind and rain beat on the building. It stopped after three hours and we had a calm 30 minutes and thought, “That wasn’t so bad.” It started again for another three hours. We have a generator in the building, so we had one light on and the refrigerator! No bathroom light, so we had to use flashlights after 5:30pm to use the restroom.
We weren’t to affected. Kids complained that we had no internet and they were bored, but we kept telling them that we might not have power for months. We didn’t know the extent of the storm. We had no power for 30 hours. We lived through it. We told the kids it was good for them. We knew the storm hadn’t hit us directly. It went north of us. We were lucky. It wasn’t until we got internet on the third day after the storm that we realized the extent of the damage. Slowly, reports starting coming in. The Philippines is comprised of over 7,000 islands. News comes a little slower when the only transportation is a boat to get from one island to another. The seas were rough for a few days after and many of the ferries were not running. Cell phone towers were down. Power lines were down. It took several days to even get word from all the other islands surrounding Cebu.
We have some friends that live on one of the northern Cebu islands. We also have a live in helper whose family lives on a small northern island. She was beside herself. She didn’t know if her parents and sisters were alive or dead for three days. We finally got word. They were ok but the house was gone. I immediately sent a message to our friends and asked them to let us know how they were. The next day our friends got word to us. “Please help us. We have no power, no water, no food. The kids are getting sick. My house is gone. I have nowhere to go to work now. I don’t know how we are going to get through this.” We were helpless. No ferries running. Banks closed. Aid couldn’t get to the islands. The islands were totally isolated from any help for two more days. In places like Leyte, even the local government officials were injured or dead.
How do you help others when you are in shock. I spent the next few days feeling helpless. The desire to help was overwhelming but unsure of where to go or who to help. We got up one morning and headed to the Capital building where relief goods were being packaged. It was such a chaotic mess. People everywhere, but no instruction. Lack of relief bags had stopped the packing of goods that were still coming in by the truckload. Again, we felt helpless.
I went home and prayed. This is where my path takes a sharp left turn and isn’t mine. I had to help. If I had to help, I was going to make a difference to someone I knew. Another storm was heading our way. All these people with no homes were going to get soaked again. We prayed that the tropical storm stayed a storm and not morph into a typhoon. My friend Jonas messaged me again, “Please help, more storms and we have no house. My wife and daughter are getting sick. We have no clean water or food.” I wrote him back that I would help him, but my hands were tied. Still no boats were running and no banks were transferring money to the typhoon devastated areas. Helpless. It took 6 days after the storm for relief goods to come in. 7 days after the storm the passengers ferries were running, and I was on one headed to my friends. The devastation was overwhelming, Leyte and Samar is where the storm hit first. So many families with no homes. They were living under makeshift tents with rice sacks or tarps with holes in them. The homes that did withstand the storm didn’t have a roof. Fields of banana trees flattened. Coconut trees snapped in half. Hundreds of people in line for medical attention. The Municipalities were hoarding the rice until they had enough to distribute to the local Barangays. Armed guards were surrounding the rice. Power lines snapped in half. It looked like a war zone.
So much damage. So much help needed. I needed focus. I decided to focus on my friends even though I wanted to help everyone. I have set up a fund to help raise money to rebuild my helpers parents home, and two of our friends. The more time you spend in any of these devastated areas the more stories you hear and the more you want to help. I have been blessed to be able to be on the ground and help. As a family we have delivered over $400 worth of food to our friends. We have raised over $6,000 to help rebuild the homes. It is just not enough. Power will not be restored for at least four months in some remote places. The Philippine government is trying to get power up and running by Christmas. We can only hope.
I never imaged that my extending vacation in paradise would turn out to be a relief mission. If we had left after the earthquake, I would be feeling helpless in the states. I would not have the joy of watching their demeanor change to hope. I feel blessed that I have been giving this opportunity. I also have been blessed that my four children have been able to be a part of the relief efforts. Even though they have asked, “Mom, what is going to happen next month?” To which I reply, lets hope calm.
If you are interested in helping with my personal effort to help more families rebuild on Bantayan Island visit :http://www.gofundme.com/584vco