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Looking from Abroad: Typhoon Haiyan Strikes the Phillipines
December 18, 2013

On Friday, November 8, 2013, Typhoon Haiyan crossed over the Philippines, leaving horror in its aftermath. The city of Tacloban, located in Leyte province, received most of the storm’s force.

Associate Director of Admissions Jose Briones, who grew up in the Philippines, said of his reaction upon hearing of the typhoon’s occurrence: “Absolute shock. Shock and grief because we are a small country, we are not a wealthy country, and this is just an absolute disaster, really a tragedy in so many ways. I think the biggest shock is just the number of deaths that have been recorded and will be recorded, and the severity of what’s going on right now is just really, really difficult.” Mr. Briones was raised near the city of Tacloban and still has family who live there. “This stuff really hits home for me,” he said.

Mr. Briones’ brother, Matthew Briones ’90, shared similar emotions: “I’ve been quite crestfallen by the disaster,” he said. “When you see other humans in such distress and amid such horror, you can’t help but be moved and made anxious. What’s more, my daughters look exactly like those kids crying and struggling in Tacloban; while it makes you endlessly grateful for your own safety, it certainly makes even a non-religious person, like me, say, ‘There but for the grace of God, go I.’ You try to help in any way possible, then with…as much as you can give.”

According to Mr. Matthew Briones, some of his family living in the Philippines were affected: “Distant relatives in Northern Leyte are in dire need of food and water, so we’re doing all that we can to reach them. But many of our relatives are, thankfully, okay so far. In turn, they’re helping out those in far less fortunate straits.”

Former Deerfield English teacher Ms. Gina Apostol, who grew up in Tacloban, recently wrote an article for The New York Times about the typhoon and the history of the Philippines. In the article, entitled “Surrender, Oblivion, Survival,” Ms. Apostol wrote, “This year’s post-typhoon cleansing has become an unimaginable orgy of grief. Friends who have escaped speak of strangled, directionless horror: no one is in charge. We don’t know how to account for our damage, or where to go to repair our fate.” Ms. Apostol will be coming back to Deerfield on January 8 during School Meeting to reflect further on the typhoon and the country as a whole.

Recognizing the damage in the wake of Typhoon Haiyan, the Deerfield community will be engaging in relief efforts by packaging meals on Martin Luther King Jr. Day to send to the Phillipines.

Mr. Jose Briones commented on the Deerfield community in response to such international natural disaster. He said, “We did something for Haiti a few years back . . . Deerfield is very attuned to things that happen outside of our community. The Deerfield community has always been very [responsive] to . . . any disasters that have happened.”