Five years after Haiyan , Tacloban youth creates beautiful emotional artwork

Survivor Coleen Alcaraz turned to painting to cope with the trauma of the typhoon. This is her self-portrait.  (Photo: Mildred German)

Updated: August 4, 2019, 7:30 AM


Fear, rage, and hope amidst Super Typhoon Haiyan

(Ed’s note: Vancouver artist/activist Mildred German, who hails from Leyte, Eastern Visayas, was in the Philippines earlier this year and took time to visit the City of Tacloban, ground zero for the super typhoon Haiyan and met artist Coleen Alcaraz. This is her report.)

By Mildred German
Vancouver, BC

Five  years after Super Typhoon Haiyan hit Eastern Visayas, the ruins of the destruction remain visible. Typhoon Haiyan known in the Philippines as Super Typhoon Yolanda was one of the most powerful tropical cyclones ever recorded, and also one of the deadliest, with nearly 7,000 dead and many bodies remain unrecovered.

Five years too after Super Typhoon Haiyan hit Eastern Visayas, M/V Eva Jocelyn Yolanda Memorial Monument was built in Brgy. Anibong, Tacloban, Leyte to commemorate the victims of the Super Typhoon.   From the steps of the monument to the top of the memorial ship, the view of the nearby waters and roof houses greet. From atop, it is visible how slow the rebuilding of the shelters and the imminent possibility of another tragedy, and the more work to be done to keep it a safe zone for natural calamities.

German on top of the memorial ship. (Provided)

After Super Typhoon Haiyan ravaged the Philippines, climate change representatives and the people of the Philippines demanded immediate action at the United Nations Climate Meeting in Warsaw, Poland. In 2015, the United Nations Climate Change Conference was held in Paris, France, to negotiate the Paris Agreement / Accord de Paris, with the goal that each country must determine, plan, and regularly report on the contribution that it undertakes to reduce global warming.

Coleen Alcaraz is a Junior High School student born and raised in Tacloban, Leyte.  She was in Tacloban when Super Typhoon Haiyan hit Eastern Visayas and left her hometown with the devastation. 

I had the privilege of staying with Coleen Alcaraz’s and her family. I was struck by Coleen’s paintings when I stayed in their family’s home in Tacloban, Leyte.  I want to share Coleen’s paintings as when I met her, she was finding solace in drawing and artwork.  The first painting I saw was the one hanging by the stairs that was hard to miss. The image and craft of the painting intrigued me as it is a painting of mountains in the dark.

Photo by Mildred German.

It was also during my stay with her family and neighbourhood that I learned more how the Super Typhoon was. Even without me asking, I heard the stories of the experiences of fear, rage, and hope. I cannot imagine the experiences Coleen and her family went through; the water rose so quickly, that if they didn’t make it to a higher ground via the stairs, they could have drowned. The water filled and ravages below and the floor might have collapsed. I heard the stories of Coleen and her family holding each other in early dawn fighting the swaying of the strong winds during the Super Typhoon.  They were women too! Coleen, her mother, her grandmother, and her sister. The Super Typhoon happened in the dark, and the sea-mountain areas of Eastern Visayas were being hit by the fangs of climate change, that this area did not cause.

Coleen is a very talented young artist, although I guess at this young age, her aim is to graduate high school.  She likes Art, but in the Philippines, Arts is not a “job” as a misconception. I am reminded of her talent and commitment as we shared the table or the floor drawing on a hot siesta, and played with her cat.  We kept in touch and I asked her and her mom about Coleen’s artwork –  her new paintings amaze me.

Artwork and Photo by Coleen Alcaraz