MANILA, Philippines – November 8 marks the one-year anniversary of the deadly Super Typhoon Haiyan that ravaged the Philippines and triggered a storm surge that washed away towns and villages.
There are conflicting reports on the death toll, ranging from as many as 10,000 to the more official 6,200, with around 1,000 still missing. Others claim the number of dead could actually reach 18,000.
Perhaps the harshest impact of Haiyan was on children. The United Nations reports at least 14 million people have been affected, including 1.2 million children in the Visayas.
In Leyte and Samar alone, where majority of the casualties were recorded, the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) says 66 children lost one or both parents in the disaster – and they’re still struggling to cope with the memory of what happened that day.
Clifford Kent Cobacha, 7, vividly recalls when the storm surge raced through their house in San Joaquin village in Palo, Leyte: he was swept up, but managed to survive. His parents and two younger siblings were swept away.
“The wind and water were so strong. I don’t even know how I survived,” says Clifford.
In Tacloban City’s San Jose village, the storm surge, which locals described as a “tsunami”, also swept away thousands of houses, leaving behind a horror 8-year-old Jack Ross Basilides cannot forget.
Jack Ross kept himself afloat by holding on to building trusses. Unfortunately, his mother and 5 other siblings failed to survive. Their bodies are still missing.
However, his ordeal did not end after the typhoon. Weeks after the tragedy, his father would often get drunk and physically abuse him, which forced him to leave the tent city without his father’s knowledge.
He is now staying at the city’s Shelter for Abused Women and Children (SAWC), along with his half-sister, who has long been there even before the massive storm.
According to Carmela Bastes, SAWC director, Jack Ross would get emotional every time his family is mentioned in any discussion.
“That’s why we don’t ask him about what happened to him and his family during the typhoon,” Bastes says.
While a few kids were brought to some orphanages in Manila weeks after the typhoon, Maeten Silmar, like most orphans, insisted on staying with their relatives.
She says losing her parents and two other siblings was tragic enough and being separated from her relatives and home neighborhood in San Joaquin will hurt her more.
Beautiful memories are all the 7-year-old has of her family now.
As Maeten was trying to recall what happened to them during the onslaught of the typhoon, her eyes returned to her hands as tears flowed uncontrollably down her face.
“I miss them so much,” she says.
Some of the images are part of the photographer’s climate change story for a reporting grant from the Goethe-Institut Philippinen. – Rappler.com
For Rappler’s full coverage of the 1st anniversary of Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan), go to this page.