There were a few stars in the sky, the moon was visible, it promised to be another normal night that night of November 8, 2013.
Except that it quickly became a nightmare.
Those who lived to tell the tale said it was worse than a nightmare.
“Storm surge,” a word unknown in the Philippine vocabulary, and the world’s, lashed out at the tiny island of Visayas in the Philippines, its waves engulfing Samar and Leyte and nearby towns.
Nenita Yap’s family—unprepared at the ferocity of the storm like many other families—held on to hope, to debris, to their lives that night. Some made it, some not.
Nenita, a thousand miles away—safe in Canada—thought she would not make it. She could only think of her daughter, her mother, her siblings, her relatives, her friends; of the town she knew like the back of her hand. At that moment, utterly destroyed.
“First there was nothing, no news of what’s going on at my home place. Then, Friday night when the news coverage started, I realized how strong the power of this Haiyan/Yolanda Typhoon was. I [could] not sleep, I [could] not take my eyes off the computer, every minute count[ed]. [I was] searching [for] any bit of news about Leyte, Tanauan in particular. Every now and then I kept on clicking the refresh button on my Facebook page just to see if there is something new, a piece of news or if anyone from my hometown managed to post,” she said.
She felt so helpless.
“What can I do against the fury of nature? All I can do [at that time was] pray to God that He may spare and protect all the people that’s in the path of the typhoon, especially my family.”
There was no sleep for Nenita that entire weekend.
“I just kept staring [at] the computer, reading, looking for any bit of news until the words got blurred from my tears and exhaustion. Then, I closed my eyes and prayed and cried my heart out to God Almighty that He may send His angels to protect my entire family, especially my daughter, but His will be done. I just prayed for strength and peace in my heart to accept whatever His decision will be.
“Until we finally confirmed whom we lost and who survived.
“I mourned for my mother, she was the first one that was confirmed that we lost. But we have to concentrate and be strong for those who survived.”
Months after, the nightmare was still too real.
“Although there are still times when I cry [myself] to sleep, or wake up crying for the ones that we lost, I still thank God that He answered my prayers. He spared some of my family, specially my daughter,” she said.
After the storm
The Philippines has recently faced the wrath of another storm, Glenda (Ramassun).
“I thought Glenda is Yolanda all over again. Every time I read something in the news that another super typhoon is in the Philippines, I get worried. I don’t want anyone to experience what the victims of Haiyan/Yolanda have experienced. All I can do is pray to God that HE will spare our beloved country,” says Nenita.
A veteran of life’s trials, however, Nenita knows that after every storm, a rainbow appears.
“In life, there are always hurdles preventing us to reach our dreams.
“Just keep on dreaming, don’t give up. Take one step each day trying to reach that dream of a better life, partner it with hard-work, perseverance, prayers and faith.”
For her kababayans who hit rough weather in Canada, she says, “Access some Government funded programs that gives free courses to connect you to your dream jobs. The best is yet to come.”
In March 2014, Sprott Shaw College and the University of the Philippines Alumni Association in British Columbia (UPAABC) launched the Sprott Shaw-UPAABC Iskolar ng Bayan Scholarship, an initiative to benefit those who were victims, or whose families were victims, of Typhoon Haiyan.
Several applications were received and Nenita was selected to receive the scholarship which fully covered tuition, student fees and books for the Health Care Assistant diploma program at Sprott Shaw College.
In her speech during the awarding ceremonies held at the offices of the Philippine Consulate General in Vancouver, Nenita thanked all those who made the scholarship possible.
“To all the people behind Sprott Shaw and to its president Patrick Dang, thank you very much for your generosity and for choosing me for this scholarship grant. By giving me this opportunity, you are not only helping me but you will be helping my family too. God bless you all.
“To UPAABC, I want to thank you for conceptualizing this project. It is through your collective ideas and efforts that the Sprott Shaw Scholarship materialized. You are doing good, so please continue doing this kind of projects. Mabuhay! God bless.”
When asked about her plans for the future, Nenita said, “[My] short term plan is to finish the HCA course and at the same time continue working to financially support myself and my daughter back home. God willing, when I get my diploma, I will have a chance of getting a better paying job as a Health Care Assistant and hopefully someone will hire me immediately. Then I will be able to help my siblings’ families back home, for them to rebuild their homes.”
Are you ready?
Storms that can topple hundred year old trees, fling concrete, and fold-up steel—these are the storms of today.
Nenita advises, “Do not underestimate the power of nature. Be vigilant, be ready to evacuate immediately. There should be an emergency evacuation center in every barangay or municipality that can withstand such calamities like Typhoon Haiyan.”
She adds, “Be strong. Don’t give up. Have faith. Everything will be better.”
And everything will be better because Nenita’s Permanent Resident visa will soon be issued. More importantly, her daughter will also be joining her. She adds, wistfully, however, “It is up to Citizenship & Immigration Canada. I hope it will before September 2014.”
On June 30, 2014, Nenita was awarded the Sprott Shaw-UPAABC Iskolar ng Bayan Scholarship at the offices of the Philippine Consulate General in Vancouver. Consul General Neil Frank Ferrer and Sprott Shaw President Patrick Dang gave her the award. PCI Editor / UPAABC President Melissa Briones, consular officials, executives from Sprott Shaw and UPAABC directors and members were also present during the awarding ceremony.