I’m in Tacloban, which was ground zero of the November typhoon in the Philippines. Survivors observed today by placing red and white balloons all over the city’s ravaged waterfront, with the slogan “Keep the love alive” and the handwritten name of one of the UN agencies or NGOs working here.
I got back from a remote village in time to spend the last two hours of daylight there, and the main street was lined with hundreds of people holding balloons. Just about everyone I met wished me “Happy Valentine’s Day.” Among them was Oscar Mabini, a grizzled old man holding a balloon and a photo of his daughter Cristina, who died in the storm along with two of her children. I talked with him for a while, and like everyone else I’ve met here, he repeatedly voiced his appreciation for the way the world has helped.
I’m struck by two things here: the resilient nature of Filipinos and Filipinas to work hard to be survivors, and not simply victims, and the incredible grace that they display toward those whose solidarity has helped in some way. Amid the ruins of Typhoon Haiyan, it is indeed a happy Valentine’s Day.
By Paul Jeffrey, a United Methodist photojournalist