On November 8 2013, the super typhoon Haiyan, one of the strongest on records with winds exceeding 300 km/h, hit Southeast Asia, in particular the Philippines. It washed away the city of Tacloban on the Leyte island in the eastern Visayas, Philippines. It caused tremendous damage – more than 6,000 people were killed, thousands of homes were destroyed, over 14 million Filipinos, including nearly 6 million children, were affected.
The event had a huge resonance in the climate change community, in those days gathered in Warsaw for the COP 191. The Philippine delegate, Yeb Sano, held a touching talk that was broadcasted worldwide. In tears, he told the word about the devastation brought by the typhoon and asked to those present to take action.
I had just started my PhD in Science and Management of Climate Change, investigating disasters and their impacts in relation to climate change. I was feeling the urge to experience first-hand, to see whit my own eyes what my research was about.
A few weeks later, I found myself with a ticket to Tacloban and finally, in July 2014, I joined “International Disaster Volunteers”, a small NGO that had been operating in the field since the start of the disaster.
I took my camera with me and through the viewfinder, I documented my impressions on the typhoon, how it affected the Philippines, its people, their lives and their dreams. How climate change may affect our lives.
I helped rebuilding a school, working as bricklayer among hundreds of children. Some of them had lost their parents, friends, relatives, and homes.
During the heavy rains of another typhoon that occurred that month, I served food to soaked children that had nothing but the air they breathed. I could not avoid seeing my childhood in their eyes, comparing my dreams with theirs.
On one of my last days there, with thousands thoughts in my head about the climate, our future, their dreams, I reached the Lun Tad school in Palo, few kilometers south of Tacloban. I entered the crowded Grade II classroom and wrote on the blackboard: “What’s your dream?”. I collected the answers and fixed them in portraits.