[OPINION] Remembering Yolanda

THE AFTERMATH. Plastics, debris, and wood are scattered along Cancabato Bay in Tacloban City. Photo courtesy of Lou Fuentebella

THE AFTERMATH. Plastics, debris, and wood are scattered along Cancabato Bay in Tacloban City.

Photo courtesy of Lou Fuentebella

Five years ago, Super Typhoon Yolanda ravaged my hometown, Tacloban City.

I remember the news the night of November 8, 2013: Tacloban was flattened to the ground by the storm surge. I remember asking, "What in the world is a storm surge?"

I remember the gut-wrenching fear and the numbing panic when I got the answer. Since our house is located right by Cancabato Bay, I had serious doubts as to whether my family would survive.

Four days later we had a list of survivors and casualties. We lost 4 loved ones: Lola Catalina "Lily" Buagas Colinares, Tita Aurea Nicolas Tan, Tita Novelita Reglo, and my cousin Mayo Colinares. Houses were damaged, cars were gone, but what pained us the most was the loss of our loved ones. Lola Lily and Baby Mayo remain missing. We tried to look for their bodies but to no avail.

How to grieve

The aftermath was even worse than the storm itself. For a time, we lived under a cloud of sadness where hope was gone and the future was dark. All we could talk about was Yolanda.

During that time of suffering, I remember wishing for a manual, a "Moving on for Dummies" book in yellow and black to outline the steps of getting over a typhoon devastation, with sub-paragraphs on "Losing Properties" and "Losing Loved Ones." 

I remember asking a variety of questions: "Why, God? How do we move on? How do we heal that gash in our souls, pried open by that super typhoon?" (READ: 4 years after Yolanda, trauma still haunts typhoon victims

Little did I know that on November 2, 2013 or the last time the family was with Lola Lily, she already gave the Bible verse that would serve as our foundation towards healing:

"'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'" (Jeremiah 29:11)

There was hope as the debris was cleared and the stench of death began to disappear. Of course, there were still issues that haunted the whole devastation. Nonetheless, I saw hope in the smile of a child despite her telling me that she lost both her parents. I saw hope in our neighbors who helped each other and who were no longer strangers. I saw hope as schools resumed classes and businesses reopened.

People gave hope to others. They shared their resources and stormed the heavens with prayers. The compassion of everyone, both foreigners and locals, contributed greatly to the restoration of our city.

I was a senior law student when Yolanda happened, and I considered dropping out of school to work instead. Five years have passed and I am glad I didn't.

There are still days when the pain gets debilitating, just like today, as we commemorate Yolanda's anniversary. (IN PHOTOS: Tacloban 5 years after Typhoon Yolanda)

We may never know why it happened, and why it took so much and so many good people away. But with the risk of sounding preachy, I say we should not allow this ignorance to push us into darkness. Rather, let us bite the bullet, endure through the waves of sadness, and be thankful for all that was left, all who survived, and all that was given afterwards.

At church, we are always reminded that we can find glory in suffering. The suffering we experience produces perseverance, and with perseverance we build character. With character, we have hope.

Five years have passed, and there is undoubtedly more than a glimmer of hope in the people in Tacloban. Buildings have been reinforced, businesses are booming, and more importantly, the people are more aware of disaster preparedness.

The new Tacloban continues to rise from the remnants of Yolanda, and God-willing, it would be far better than what it used to be. – Rappler.com

Mari Colinares, 28 years old, is a lawyer at the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas. Born and raised in Tacloban City, Leyte, she loves Muay Thai, scuba diving, reading, and dancing. She is the daughter of Francisco Colinares IV and Maria Angeles Colinares.