19 February 2014

100 Days Later: New family ties form in wake of Super Typhoon Haiyan

2/19/2014: Super Typhoon Haiyan spelled devastation for homes and buildings in Southeast Asia, and now, more than 100 days later, it’s clear that the storm impacted another pillar of life in the Philippines: family.

Evelyn Manalo, 31, lost her parents, and the immediate family of her now-orphaned niece, Erikalyn Masubay, 11.

She and her husband, Severo, have taken in Erikalyn as their own child following the tragedy. Evelyn’s brother, Eduardo, 25, and sister, Catelyn, 19, have also joined the family, which includes Evelyn and Severos’ biological children, Severlyn, 7, and Shanna, 5.

It’s a big responsibility that Evelyn and her husband didn’t hesitate to assume.

“We had already lost too much in the typhoon. Seven people in our family died, and there are seven of us left. It will be hard, but we know we have to stay together, no matter what,” Evelyn said.

“At first, I didn’t know what to say to (Erikalyn). What can you say to comfort an 11-year-old child who has lost her family? I just told her, ‘whatever my children have, you will have as well. I will not treat you differently. You are my child now.’”
It’s never too late
Most people wouldn’t opt to ‘restart’ parenthood at the age of 57, but Rebecca Salvatierra had no choice.
Super Typhoon Haiyan orphaned her teenage nephews, Emman Jude Rayvera, 18, and Earl Joseph, 15.  
“Just last night, (Earl Joseph) woke up in the middle of the night. It was the first time he told me that he had witnessed his mother’s dying moments,” Rebecca said.
“He told me that they were eye to eye and that she had tears in her eyes before a huge wave swallowed her up. I hadn’t known this. It’s during these times that I feel how much they both still need their mother. They’re not children anymore, but they are not grown up either. It’s painful to witness.”
Rebecca, unfortunately, is not just a witness to loss. Haiyan killed her parents and her only daughter.
 “There’s a reason why I survived. I may have lost one child, but I was given two in return. Maybe it’s really my destiny to take care of them,” she said.
The dream of education
Both Rebecca and Evelyn said they know their lost loved ones would have wanted their kids to finish school.
“That was what we always talked about,” Evelyn said. “We dreamed that our children would one day finish their studies and have a good life.”
This dream is financially daunting for Evelyn, who relies solely on her husband’s income as a mechanic, and for retiree Rebecca.
SOS Children’s Villages recognizes the plight of augmented families and created the Kinship Program specifically with their realities in mind.
In the program, SOS Children’s Villages provides nutritional, educational and health needs to children as they continue to live with relatives. The program also includes training sessions and resources for parents, like Evelyn and Rebecca, who have expanded their families.
Leah Lace, a social worker and coordinator for the SOS Kinship Program, said the program bolsters hope in tragedy.
“At the end of the day, we want the children to realize that there is hope. That they have lost their parents, but they have relatives and organizations ready, willing, and eager to help them.”