I've thought long and hard about this blog post. I've probably written and re-written and deleted it about 5 times, trying to get the words right. To do justice to the subject.
And I finally realized that the pictures alone can say far more than I ever could.
So without further ado..
This is Tacloban. This is San Joaquin. This is home to hundreds of thousands.
And this is a small portion of the devastation caused by Typhoon Yolanda as captured by me, more than four months after the fact.
This is what the words on the news couldn't describe. This is the result of winds so powerful that they ripped concrete walls apart and grounded cargo ships. This is what 4 months of recovery looks like, and it is sad to think that the majority of people in the world had already forgotten Typhoon Yolanda ever even happened.
Even I could not really grasp what these people went through, not even seeing it around me brought it home. Not the way the stories did.
Every family member I met had a story of survival, a story of loss, a story of a miracle in the midst of disaster.
This is the future family home of the Almaden family, it was under construction when the Typhoon hit.
Josh's uncle brought us here to tell us his story. I'm going to keep to the condensed version as there is no way I could possibly do the details justice the way that he did.
But I will say that it was a story of survival ; he rescued the family through winds in excess of 200mph and pulled them from waters rapidly rising to the ceilings of the one story houses... brought them to safety by being prepared for things that no one else was. He has a way of knowing things that are not known, a rather wise and mysterious man and someone that was an honor to meet.
I will also say that it was a story of loss; Not the entire family made it through, along with thousands of others in the city.
But like all stories from this country where strange and unexplainable things happen, it was also a story of miracles. A story where people who seemed doomed were saved. Where strength more than what is humanly possible was found. And a story where people who had just lost everything found a way to give to those in more need than themselves.
Typhoon Yolanda has gone down in history as one of the most powerful storms the world has ever seen. And the destruction of Tacloban is proof of this unfortunate and devastating event.
But if I learned anything from my trip to the Philippines, it's that Filipinos are strong. They are generous. They are loving. Even in the midst of their troubles, they are welcoming and wonderful.
And none more so than the Almaden and Makabenta families.
These families and the rest of the Philippines continue to rebuild what was lost, and things are finally starting to look up, slowly but definitely.
I feel so lucky to have been able to see this wonderful country, hear these incredible stories, and meet the most amazing people.
Thank you to Josh, and the rest of the Almaden and Makabenta families for making me feel so welcome in your homes, even when so far away from mine. I will never forget.
And to everyone reading this, thank you for letting me share a small portion of this experience with you.