By Florence Joy Maluyo, World Vision Philippines
They all looked beautiful in white. It was graduation day at Botongon Elementary School.
I watched them arrive, one by one. Some arrived with their parents, some with their siblings, some with relatives. The girls were made-up while the young boys put an effort in their hairstyles. Graduation songs started to play. Parents were smiling.
I looked around. Destroyed classrooms. Scattered boats. Debris. Even after four months, the fury of Typhoon Haiyan is still evident.
There I met two girls, Romelia and Angel.
“It’s good to be back in our school for our graduation. It is sad to see how it looked after the typhoon but we’re happy that we can still march here today,” says Romelia, class valedictorian.
So overcoming with joy during the ceremony, she burst into tears.
Angel’s house was destroyed when a barge ran aground during the typhoon. Aside from the devastation caused by Haiyan, the people of Botongon in Estancia, Iloilo were also faced with health risks because of the oil spill.
“We lost our house. And because our place is near the shoreline, we were not allowed to go back. Until now, we are living in the tent city.”
She’s referring to the evacuation centre. Some families like hers can no longer go back because their neighborhood is a danger zone.
I began to wonder if that day, their graduation day is at least easing the struggles of the two girls.
I knew the answer was yes- this day spelled hope.
“Thank you to our parents, to our teachers and thanks to you, classmates. Thank you to the many people who helped us after the typhoon,” said Angel in her speech.
After the ceremony, they shared with me their hopes for themselves and for their school.
“Both of us want to be teachers someday. We will teach here,” said Angel while smiling at Romelia.
Yes, their community may be shattered physically, but the strength in their hearts, including all other graduates in Haiyan-hit areas remains unshakeable.
World Vision has been working hand in hand with this community. Food and non-food items were distributed during the emergency response after Typhoon Haiyan, while a Child-friendly Space was set up in the evacuation centre to provide children with a safe place to play and express themselves. World Vision is set to provide shelter kits and tools to more than 1000 families in Estancia, Iloilo. World Vision staff were invited to speak at the graduation ceremony.