By Winnie Aguilar
Six months ago, Super Typhoon Haiyan struck the Philippines, leaving more than 6,000 people dead, affecting more than 14 million people and forcing some four million people from their homes.
Amidst the tragedy and chaos, Mamamia brought you the story of a baby girl born in a church where 300 people had taken shelter from the storm.
Lourdes Hermilda, who had become separated from her husband and two children, named her little girl Yolanda – the local name for the typhoon.
But she is Baby Yolanda no more.
Six months after the baby’s arrival, CARE Australia caught up with Yolanda and her family, who have since returned to their home in Tacloban.
Her mother, Lourdes has renamed the baby ‘Mary Alphons’ after St Alphonsus Ligouri, a statue of whom stands on the church grounds where the baby was born.
Lourdes said: “’Yolanda’ devastated Tacloban. Maybe it’s fitting that my baby is named after a saint since she is somewhat of a miracle baby. Imagine during Haiyan, I was turned down by two hospitals! Our neighbourhood doctor turned me away as well. We had just lost our home. The only place open for me to give birth was our church.”
After spending several days in the church, Lourdes and her family spent the next two months travelling between towns across Leyte to stay with relatives.
All this time, baby Mary was proving to be an angel to her mother and family who are still struggling to survive after the disaster.
Carrying little but hope, Lourdes and her family finally decided to return to Tacloban. And somehow, little by little, month by month, they are recovering.
Her husband has been able to resume his work as a truck delivery driver. His earnings of almost Php 5,000 per month (approx. $120) helps pay for the family’s necessities like food, and they have started to rebuild their home.
The worst is over. And Lourdes considers baby Mary their lucky charm.
“Our baby is really a blessing to us. She is healthy! She is a good baby, rarely crying unless she is hungry. She does not give me any headaches,” Lourdes added.
On November 8 this year, baby Mary Alphons will turn one. Before then, Lourdes hopes to have her baptised in the same church where she was born.
“We must wait to save money for her baptism, because of course we prioritised the rebuilding of our small house,” Lourdes said.
CARE Australia is continuing to work with families like Lourdes’, providing grants and support to help survivors return to work in communities throughout Panay and Samar, two of the islands hardest hit by the typhoon.
Since the response began, CARE has reached more than 300,000 people – around 65,000 families – with food, shelter and support to rebuild their lives.
Australians wishing to support families affected by Typhoon Haiyan can donate at www.care.org.au/typhoon-haiyan. $73 can help a family restart their income by building a vegetable farm, replanting rice or raising livestock such as chickens or goats.