More than one hundred days after Yolanda, the memories of ferocious winds, falling debris, dilapidated houses and devastation everywhere are still fresh in Jocelyn Barcoma’s mind. The 16-year-old girl, who was born and raised in Leyte all her life, admitted she still kept having nightmares about the devastation.
“Palagi po ako nananaginip yung mga nangyari sa amin. Kahit konti po ang ulan, natatakot pa din ako,” she candidly shares. (I’ve had nightmares about what happened. I still do. When it rains a little, I easily become paranoid)
Jocelyn’s story is not uncommon to hundreds of Yolanda survivors who are still struggling to restore their lives back to normalcy days after the supertyphoon slashed Leyte, Samar and other neighbouring islands, killing more than 6,000 people in the process and destroying billions of dollars worth of property. The ordeal is far from over, but Jocelyn, with the heart of a survivor, begins to look forward to the future, knowing that God is with her and her family on their long journey back to recovery.
Aspires to Inspire
As the 5th child in a family of six living in a small town at Carigara, Leyte, Jocelyn is no stranger to hardship and financial difficulties while growing up. Her mom makes a living out of washing other peoples’ clothes, having no permanent income to support the family. Jocelyn barely remembers her father. He abandoned them when she was only 4 years old, and they rarely heard from him ever since.
“Kung hindi ko po nakilala ang mga taga-International Needs, mahihirapan po yung nanay kong magpa-aral sa akin at baka po hindi na ako makapag-aral kasi walang pera yung nanay ko at tsaka iniwan na po namin ng tatay ko,” (If it weren’t for IN, my mother wouldn’t know what to do just to send me school. There’s a chance that I might drop out because we don’t have any money and my father had abandoned us a long time ago)
With the help of IN, Jocelyn manages to continue her education through highschool. She is now a 3rd year student in the School of Fisheries, an active member of the church and a daughter whom her mother dotes on. She is one of the remaining two Barcoma children who still have the chance to finish their highschool education.
Jocelyn gleefully recalls that being a Batang Pag-asa (Child of Hope) helped her envision her future and career goals. Because of pastor lectures and church activities, she now dreams herself to be a teacher who can inspire her students in the future, just as IN and her ates and kuyas at church inspired her.
“Malaki ang tulong ng pananampalataya ko sa Panginoon. Pag nag-pray po ako na. Pag may hinihingi ako sa kanya, ibinibigay niya.” Right now, her only prayer is that she would graduate with good grades and achieve the dreams she had for herself and her family. (My faith to the Lord helped me a lot. He listens to my prayers and gives whatever I ask for at a right time)
Things are looking well for young Jocelyn and her family when Yolanda struck on November 08, 2013. Jocelyn has no idea that the typhoon’s ferocity will not only test her character, but also her faith.
Surviving the deadliest storm
Jocelyn recalls that the night before Yolanda is a typical, calm one. That’s why when she tuned in to the TV before going to bed, she had been surprised that Leyte was placed under Signal #5, something that hasn’t happened for a long time in Eastern Visayas’ typhoon history. She prayed hard that somehow along the way, the storm would lose some of its power when it arrives to Leyte.
The next day, the storm unleashes its deadly fury.
“Yung mga kasama ko umiiyak na sila kasi lumalakas na ang ulan at nung mag-aalas syete, dun na po talaga lumakas yung ulan at nakikita ko po yung mga puno, nagsisitumba,” her voice catches upon recalling the past events, but she persisted on. “Na-trauma po talaga ako. Yung pader po sa likod ng bahay namin, hindi ko po akalain na matutumba.” (All the people around me were crying. It’s around 7 AM when the winds and the rains grew more powerful. I’ve witnessed trees being uprooted from the ground. Even the concrete wall behind our house, we didn’t expect it to be destroyed like that)
At one point while telling her story, Jocelyn breaks off in a typical Pinoy humour by making light of an otherwise grim situation. While bracing themselves during the storm, her mother, an ardent Catholic, repeatedly urges her to read aloud Catholic reading materials, an action she vehemently refuses to do so because of her newfound faith. She finds it amusing that despite the chaos around them, she and her mother were still having a heated argument about religion.
“Sabi ko, ‘Nay, nay ayokong magbasa niyan’ Alam ko po kasing pray lang yung kailangan ko, kaso pinipilit po ako ng nanay ko mag-pray kasi yung nanay ko hindi marunong magbasa.” (I told my mother, ‘No, I don’t have to read that. I know prayer is the only thing I need, but my mother insists because she can’t read for herself)
Amid the destruction, Jocelyn still hadn’t lost her sense to pray and look for something that will help them escape from their house and the falling debris. “Nag-pray po ako sa Panginoon, ‘Sige po, Lord kung ito po yung ano ninyo sa amin, alam namin na may purpose po kayo sa amin. Proteksyunan ninyo po yung mga nandito. “ she said, “Naisip ko, gamitin na lang ang plywood ang ipangtatabang sa mga ulo natin habang tumatakabo.” (I prayed to Him, ‘Lord, if this is your will, let it be. I know you have a purpose for this. Just protect all of us from harm. Then I spotted a bunch of plywood and thought we can carry these on top of our heads while we flee from the house)
Giving thanks to Him and to the people He used
For Jocelyn and her family, surviving the aftermath of the storm has proven to be more difficult than surviving through it. Now that their house is no more and they’ve lost most of their possessions, starting everything again from the scratch is no less than a herculean challenge for her and other victims.
That’s why when the IN team and her sponsor arrived six days after Yolanda, she was thankful beyond words.
“Sila po kasi yung nauna magbigay ng relief goods, tapos nakakakain na po kami,” she explains. “Mahalaga po sa akin yun lalo na po yung pagpapagawa ng bahay namin, tsaka po yung mga activities lalo na yung psycho-social activity” she shares. “Nagpapasalamat po ako sa Panginoon na may ginamit po siyang mga tao, yun nga po ang mga IN.” (They were the first one to give help. It was very important to all of us, especially for me because we were able to fix our house back thanks to their help. The activities also helped a lot, especially the psycho-social activity. I’m very grateful for the Lord that He used people like IN to help us in need.)
“Sinasabi nila sa akin, ‘Uy maraming salamat sa tulong ninyo’ tapos sinasabi ko po ‘Wag po kayong magpasalamat sa akin. Magpasalamat po kayo sa Panginoon dahil po ginamit ng Panginoon ang IN na tumulong sa mga tao’” (They were telling me, ‘Thank you for your help’ and I only say to them, ‘Don’t thank me. Thank God because He used people like those in IN to help us)
More than the relief operations and the avenue which IN granted to her to help other people, Jocelyn is also thankful for the inspiration the team has instilled to her. Being a Batang Pag-asa, she hopes she would also inspire the kids of her generation when the time comes.
“Nagpapasalamat po ako sa mga sponsors and donors. Binigyan ninyo po ng mga materials. Kung hindi po sa inyo, hindi po mapapagawa yung bahay namin. Tsaka po yung for relief. Salamat po sa lahat. Salamat po sa mga prayers ninyo,” she ends. (I thank the sponsors and the donors for giving us the materials. If it weren’t for you, we won’t be able to reconstruct our house. And also, for the relief. Thank you for your prayers.)
As what Jocelyn’s story taught us, Yolanda is not just about pain and loss. Above all else, it is also filled with stories of hope, compassion, unity and survival; a mosaic of stories told through those who are left behind to tell the tale. Jocelyn’s story is a story among many, but hers is filled with calm optimism, an unwavering spirit, and the drive to be an inspiration for others as she knows God wants her to be. And that in itself, is an inspiration at best.