I was 9 years old when Typhoon Ruping (international name Mike) hit Cebu. I don’t remember much of it, really. I know we camped out in our living room, in the middle of our house, and opened the windows of our bedrooms in the [mistaken?] belief that this would lessen the impact of the winds. I know that we brought in our pet parrot to shelter him from the storm but that he died anyway. I know it took a long time before our water and electricity were restored and that the one thing I was really looking forward to doing once the power came back was watch MacGyver.
Mostly, though, I remember going to the nearest river with my mother to do our laundry. I remember how people dug tabay in the pebbly banks of the river and continuously scooped water out of it until the water that seeped through was clear and usable for washing clothes. I remember actually enjoying that! And I remember, after coming home from the river on my birthday, a few days after the typhoon, someone had cooked a huge kaldero of tanghon and we had a wonderful celebratory lunch.
I know Typhoon Ruping was awful for a lot of people but if I’m completely honest, what I feel about that time immediately after the typhoon is actually nothing but positive. I don’t have any lingering trauma from it and I actually think [mistakenly, for sure] that if needed, I would know how to build a tabay in a riverbank.
Nearly two months ago, another storm hit our island. Typhoon Odette (international name Rai) was roughly the same strength as Ruping but because I can’t actually remember how strong Ruping was, the intensity of Odette really took me by surprise. This time, I remember looking out our windows at the crazy way the winds were slapping the trees in all directions and feeling a flicker of fear. I remember the winds howling — and by howling, I truly mean they were making an eerie high-pitched hum as they surged through the spaces between buildings. I remember wiping the floor near our stairs — the winds had blown the rain inside by sheer force — and getting choked up, thinking it would be a very poor Christmas for a lot of my countrymen.
My son is nine years old now, the same age I was during Typhoon Ruping, and he seems as untraumatized by Odette as I was by Ruping. Still, I’m thankful that his school is giving him and his classmates psychosocial support as they restart classes for the first time since the typhoon. I’ve heard from some friends about how their kids burst into tears when the rain starts or when they hear thunder, and I know that for kids like them, debriefing by a caring adult will go a long way.
I’ve written an article for Rappler titled 7 Practical Ways Parents Can Help Their Kids Cope with Traumatic Natural Disasters and I’ve listed down below a bunch of resources that I think will be really useful for those of us who want to make sure our kids/students are okay after experiencing a jarring event like Typhoon Odette. I hope you find it helpful, and if you have resources you also want to share to other parents/teachers, do get in touch with me — let’s put it in!
In one of the resources below, experts talk about how a traumatic event actually consists of three Es:
Our kids might have been exposed to the same event but might have had very different experiences of it. Since no two kids are alike, it’s important that we really pay attention to our kids and see if they might need a little help processing what has happened. The resources below talk about everything from preparing for an emergency to dealing with it afterwards.