A Debt of Gratitude

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WHERE IT HAPPENED

 

The Philippines is an archipelago situated in the western rim of the Pacific Ocean just below the Tropic of Cancer in Southeast Asia. It has a total population esti mated today of around 106-million people. About 12-million of them live and work overseas in some 187 countries. On 8 November 2013, Typhoon Haiyan – the strongest tropical cyclone at landfall ever recorded in history, struck a devas tating blow on these islands killing at least 6,201 people but as of January 2014, more bodies are being found. This animated radar map below shows the path of Typhoon Haiyan as it raged and rumbled through the central islands of the archi pelago on that fateful day.

 

View The Animated Map

Radar_loop_of_Typhoon_Haiyan_(Yolanda)_making_landfall_on_Leyte_Island

 

The Philippines and New Zealand along with a host of other countries in the vast region of the Western Pacific sit atop what is known as the ‘Ring of Fire’ – an area where a large number of earthquakes and volcanic eruptions occur in the basin of the Pacific Ocean. Of recent vintage, the city of Christchurch situated in the Canterbury Plain of the South Island of New Zealand experienced a major 7.1 magnitude earthquake (at 4:35AM) on 4 September 2010. Centred 40-km west of Christchurch at a depth of 11-km. Widespread damage occurred, but no loss of life other than disruption to water, power and sewerage services.

 

That event was followed 6-months later by another magnitude 6.3 earthquake (at 12:51pm) on 22 February 2011. It was centred 10-km southeast of Christchurch at a depth of 5-km and as a result of its shallow depth it was more destructive, with 185-people being killed, including nine Filipino nurses who were crushed inside the CTV building which collapsed like an accordion. To this day, aftershocks still occur.

 

But over and above this, the Philippines is the most-exposed country in the world to tropical cyclones and just a month before Typhoon Haiyan struck the country, a magnitude 7.2 earthquake jolted the island of Bohol in the Central Philippines (on 15 October 2013) just a month before Typhoon Haiyan came rumbling in.

 

While the Philippines is used to experiencing natural calamities, especially large-sized  typhoons which occur about 3- to 5-times every year, Haiyan (Yolanda) was not an ordinary typhoon. It was a Super Typhoon which is said to be the strongest one in the world. What was different with Super-Typhoon Haiyan was the unex pected level of storm surge and flooding, combined with sustained winds that ex ceeded 196-mph (315-km/h) with gusts far higher.

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RAGING HERD OF BULLS

 

Like a raging herd of bulls running amok, Typhoon Haiyan descended on the eastern shorelines of the largest islands of Cebu, Bohol, Leyte and Samar at the centre of the Philippines in the wee hours of the morning before sunrise.

 

It tore through and ravaged mercilessly the provincial cities and towns on its trajectory towards the Western Philippine Sea.

 

In doing so, it created a horrid landscape of smashed buildings, homes and completely defoliated trees. The aftermath was a scene of utter desolation that numbed people who managed to survive the onslaught.

 

Haiyan moved fast, furious and didn’t last long – only a few hours, but it struck with absolutely terrifying ferocity. A nightmare from hell as people described it. Debris scattered everywhere. Lifeless bodies beginning to emerge as the storm surges subsided back into the surrounding sea. The unmistakable stench and vapour of death was beginning to form.

 

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People walked aimlessly around like zombies searching for family members and friends in vain hope that they too had – by the grace of God, made it through even as hope receded with the passing of hours into the darkness of a waning twilight. A candle wick flame gone blown. No power, no water, no food. The shel ter of homes they yearned to return to destroyed beyond recognition.

 

All affected provincial seaside ports and airports, roads, bridges and all lines of communications – destroyed and unserviceable. Litter and shards of just about everything strewn everywhere. There was no clear way out of or into the miasma created by Nature’s wrath. If any help was on its way, it would be many days before the outside world could have an opportunity to reach them. For them, it was the heart of darkness and despair of the highest order.

 

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LAST PLACE OF REFUGE

 

Many Filipinos in the capital region of Metro Manila in the island of Luzon and elsewhere in unaffected areas had family members trapped in what turned out to be a black hole. Filipinos residing in other countries at the same time desperately trying to establish some form of communications with their own relatives in hope of hearing any news be it bad or good.

 

For the most part, the Philippines are a dominantly Catholic or devoutly Chris tian country. The blackout – the sounds of silence rummaging through their heads, was becoming unbearable. “Are my parents, uncles and aunts still alive?” “Did my brothers, sisters and cousins make it though?” “And what of my lifelong friends, have they survived?” Faith and solemn prayer – this was their last place of refuge and hope as Haiyan treacherously departed.

 

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A GLIMMER OF HOPE

 

It has been said that the true essence of humankind is kindness. There are other qualities which come from education or knowledge, but it is essential, if one wishes to be a genuine human being and impart satisfying meaning to one’s exist ence, to have a good heart.

 

During those dark hours and days of despair, the world’s media covered the catastrophe wrought by Haiyan in stark detail along with the suffering it caused the Filipino people. Then, the humanity of Mankind emerged as some govern ments, organisations and plain people of every walk of life from near and far off places realised just how serious the scale of destruction was.

 

It is well to give when asked, but it is better to give unasked, through understand ing. So, they stepped up and stepped in. Help was on its way. A glimmer of hope was beginning to shine again on the islands of the Philippines once more.

 

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OUR DEBT OF GRATITUDE

 

The time of dire need has come and gone even as much work and resources still need to be sourced and employed at present to be able to restore a modicum of normalcy. Filipinos never forget their debt of gratitude or “utang na loob”.

 

In the end, however, maybe we must all give up trying to pay back all those of this world who sustained our lives when we found ourselves at bottom of a deep barrel.

 

At this time, maybe it’s wiser to surrender before the miraculous scope of human generosity and to just keep saying ‘thank you‘, forever and sincerely, for as long as we have voices.

 

Because you have given and restored our faith and hope, and because our child ren too are the hope of our future as a people, it is now that we would like them who live where you live all over the world including the Philippines to say ‘thank you’ on our behalf for the generosity and kindness you all displayed in time of our need and in response to our collective answered prayer.

 

This song of prayer from the collective hearts of the Filipino people around the world is dedicated to you:

 

Watch The Video

The Prayer’ is a popular song written by David Foster, Carole Bayer Sager, Alberto Testa and Tony Renis. It is most commonly known as a duet between Celine Dion and Andrea Bocelli. Filipinos have become renowned the world over for their singing ability, so it only made sense to put their vocal talents to use. In this parti cular rendition, more than a dozen “Filipino YouTube singers” – children mostly from various locations across the globe, enthusiastically dedicated their time and talents to this project. (Video Credits: Conceptualised, arranged and edited by Derek Wanner of grnmngodotcom. Audio mix courtesy of Love One Another Studio (Manila).

 

May these voices reach each of you in the countries where you come from:

 

| Algeria | Australia | Bahrain | Bangladesh | Belgium | Botswana | Brazil | Brunei | Cambodia | Canada | China | Czech Republic | Denmark | Finland | France | Germany | Hungary | Iceland | India | Indonesia | Iraq | Ireland | Israel | Italy | Japan | Kuwait | Laos | Liechtenstein | Luxembourg | Macau SAR | Malaysia | Marshall Islands | Mexico | Mongolia | Burma/Myanmar | Netherlands | New Zealand | Norway | Pakistan | Panama | Papua New Guinea | Qatar | Romania | Russia | Saudi Arabia | Singapore | Slovakia | South Africa | South Korea | Spain | Sri Lanka | Sweden | Switzerland | Taiwan | Thailand | Turkey | Ukraine | United Arab Emirates | United Kingdom | United States | Vatican | Vietnam |

 

Thank you from the width and depths of our hearts!

 

Filipinos in New Zealand | A Debt of Gratitude

 

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