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Typhoon Haiyan: A First-Hand Account

This post was written by Sasha Poll, an American Red Cross staff member deployed to the Philippines in early February.

For the past month, I’ve been in the Philippines helping the global Red Cross network to distribute cash grants to families affected by Typhoon Haiyan. We have succeeded in getting cash in the hands of more than 57,000 families. In the process, I’ve had the privilege of talking with dozens of survivors about their experiences since Typhoon Haiyan made landfall about three and a half months ago. I recently spoke with Robinson Sandagan, chairman of a barangay (village) called Talisay on the island of Leyte. Here’s what he had to say*.

Sasha Poll speaks with Robinson Sandagan (left) and a Philippine Red Cross volunteer (right) in Talisay.

Photo credit: Hiba Anwar

Can you tell me a little about the days leading up to Typhoon Yolanda [globally known as Haiyan]?
When the storm came, the whole community was very scared – I tried to get the community to evacuate to the centers.

What type of damage did your town experience?
There were three deaths in the barangay: one was killed by a hollow block, one was killed by a falling coconut tree, and one died of hypothermia – one of the deaths was my nephew. After the storm, my roof flew off my house and three coconut trees flattened my kitchen.

How will this Red Cross cash grant help your family?
Within five days of the typhoon, I had patched my roof, but this cash grant will help me repair my kitchen, which is still destroyed from the storm.

How are your neighbors recovering from the storm?
The families have come together to help one another recover – we call this kind of shared help “bayanihan.” After the storm hit, five families left the barangay, but after three months, everyone is back in Talisay and the community continues to work together. We have kept up our spirits by playing the Philippines national pastime – basketball. Groups come together and play in competitions to entertain the community and lighten the heavy, everyday work of rehabilitation.

* Robinson’s answers have been edited for clarity and brevity.

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