Her name was Yolanda
She leaves behind painful images of devastation and inspiring portraits of hope
After hitting land in the wee hours of the morning in the town of Guiuan in Eastern Samar, she went "island-hopping" – touching down in Tolosa town in Leyte, then Daang Bantayan and Bantayan Island in Cebu, on to Concepcion town in Iloilo, passing through Aklan, Antique and Mindoro, before finally making her 6th landfall in Busuanga, Palawan.
The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council said at least 6,300 were left dead. Earlier numbers said as many as 10,000; other aid groups estimated 8,000.
Relief and recovery efforts started painfully slow. Remains of the dead littered towns and cities. Survivors scrambled for food and shelter. Local governments were overwhelmed. They had never seen anything like her before.
Six months after she swept through the country, over 4 million individuals have been displaced and left homeless, more than 1,000 are still missing.
On the eve of the sixth month that marked her destructive arrival, the national government said it is still without a final rehabilitation plan.
November 8, 2013, is a day at least 16 million people will never forget.
“The waves, rain, and wind were so strong. It was like Tacloban was under attack.” – Wilfredo Enrique Celis, Barangay Captain.
Her name was Yolanda. And her fury devastated everything in her path. She trampled upon sacred places and rudely broke through ceilings and closed doors.
Yolanda cut through some of the country's poorest regions. With winds of more than 300 kilometers per hour, she snatched lives, ravaged homes, and vanquished dreams.
“The once scenic and laid back town that was the skimboarding capital of the Philippines became a living horror. Nothing but misery lingered throughout the town.” – Paul Cinco, travel photographer and Tanauan local
But life had to go on. While the wounds have yet to fully heal, the pain of recovery still persists.
Fishermen are back out at sea, using boats bought on loan or gifted them by non-governmental groups.
Locals struggle to find normalcy in their lives. They try to rebuild what they can.
The faithful go back to hear Mass outside the still damaged Sto Niño Church in Tacloban.
But the scars remain. Survivors from coastal communities continue to live in tents or makeshift houses, waiting for permanent shelter promised them by their mayors. In some places, the living coexist with the dead. Children play, oblivious to remnants of Yolanda's wrath.
The path to normal is long and winding.
Tacloban Mayor Alfred Romualdez says the deadline for permanent housing is way past.
"Building back better" means piecing together homes, livelihood, and dreams that were crushed when Yolanda reared her ugly head. This much is true: some say 6 months after Yolanda, much has improved.
But "much" isn't a lot at all when you don't know when the next meal will come, when you'll have to leave your home or where you're headed next, and when you'll finally be able to call home, home. – Rappler.com