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                  AND THE GREATEST OF ALL IS LOVE

The aftermath of the super typhoon Haiyan that struck the central part of the Philippines on the 8th of November 2013 has left a gruesome image of desolation and unimaginable devastation. What were once symbols of life have become graveyards of sorrow and pain, made lifeless in just a matter of hours by nature’s fury.

Words of gratitude are etched in the hearts and minds of the Filipino People towards the city of Kuching for their kindness and generosity during our time of tragedy.

Early on the morning of the 9th of November 2013 a mass was hastily arranged for the Filipino Community at the Jesuit Fathers House. A special intercession was offered for the victims of the typhoon. Praying was our only comfort while we waited anxiously for messages from our loved ones back home who were totally cut-off from the rest of the world.

After an agonizing wait of over 24 hours news updates finally filtered through from different media outlets. We were glued to the news in disbelief at the sheer magnitude of the devastation along the path of the typhoon. More horrifying stories started to come in and the eyes of the world were fixed on the Philippines.

My anxious wait for days was finally over after receiving a message from Mama telling me that everyone at home was safe and sound. My thoughts then focused on Filipino friends whose families were within the typhoon’s path. Evelyn took the earliest trip she could, to go back to her hometown in Biliran province. She was greeted by welcome tears of joy. Everyone in her family was safe and her relief cannot be expressed in mere words. The damaged houses, lost livelihoods and the communities in tatters were beyond comprehension. Virgilio called me up in desperation to say that the community where his family home once stood was totally wiped out and he had not been able to contact any of his family members for a week. Listening to fears of a father who was anxiously waiting for the unknown was heart-wrenching. His daughter eventually managed to get through and told him that the family had managed to take shelter before the typhoon made landfall. While the families of Filipino friends in Kuching were lucky to have been spared, our hearts sympathised with those whose loved ones perished. As the news of the actual situation on the ground started to unravel, calls started coming in from friends as far as Kuala Lumpur asking for proper channels for donations in cash or in kind or how to volunteer for relief operations. I was busy coordinating with the Philippine Embassy in Kuala Lumpur for updates and organising donation drives amongst our Filipino Community in Kuching. Schools, churches and various civic organizations, individuals, media outlets and private companies initiated action plans to raise funds for the victims. The entire those whose loved ones perished.

As the news of the actual situation on the ground started to unravel, calls started coming in from friends as far as Kuala Lumpur asking for proper channels for donations in cash or in kind or how to volunteer for relief operations. I was busy coordinating with the Philippine Embassy in Kuala Lumpur for updates and organising donation drives amongst our Filipino Community in Kuching. Schools, churches and various civic organizations, individuals, media outlets and private companies initiated action plans to raise funds for the victims. The entire community became united and one in spirit of generosity and compassion.

A year on, the lives of millions of Filipinos directly affected by super typhoon Haiyan continue despite the enormous challenges ahead. Although many are left with nothing, they are resilient and determined to rebuild their lives for their children and remaining loved ones. The emotional scars of the survivors continue to linger on. We remain united with them in thoughts and prayers, and as one nation we will always remember a caring society, the generous Malaysians who in one way or another gave our Kababayans the hope to stand up and live again.

On behalf of the Filipino people, I extend my deepest gratitude to all for their kind thoughts, prayers and generous donations to the victims of typhoon Haiyan.

Justin Yntig Bersales Jr is from Brgy. Minapasuk, Calatrava, Philippines. His direct involvement as Chairman of the Kuching Filipino Community over Haiyan was in the organising of donations. Justin holds a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering. He is married with 2 children and lives in Kuching.

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