In November 2013, one of the strongest typhoons ever recorded struck the Philippines. News of the tragedy, called “Haiyan” in most places outside of the Philippines, spread worldwide after nine catastrophic days. Seeing the devastation and compelled to help, volunteers from a U.S. disaster relief organization deployed to the Philippines, which incidentally formed a smaller group of people that repeatedly joined forces to reach Tacloban.
Upon arrival, destruction of the typhoon, known as “Yolanda” in the Philippines, was more severe than reported. “We Call Her Yolanda” was inspired by the recurring team, made up of three U.S. military veterans and a native Red Cross volunteer, who returned one year later with the intent to gather stories of bravery and recovery. However, recovery was minimal. Many families still lived in tents, coconut plantations were still destroyed, and fishermen were still reeling from the loss of their boats. The health of their land and ocean was also troubling.
Visits and services to the community became continuous for the team, each time growing closer to the families that recall their experiences and share their paths to recovery. Stories of loss and survival are recounted by a Lieutenant Commander, a Barangay (village) Captain, a farmer, a couple, and two fishermen. Although there was still much pain and grievance over lives destroyed, their stories and spirits reveal a community strengthened.
The team returns two years later to find that circumstances have greatly improved. Their resilience is clear, with hope leading the way against all odds. “We Call Her Yolanda” captures it all and shares these stories of strength and inspiration.