because joy is meant to be shared

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Such heartwarming photos sent by our friends, from their relief operations in Doong Island, Bantayan. This tiny island is one of the worst-hit areas, directly along the path of Typhoon Haiyan, and yet, when you look at these photos, there is so much joy in their faces. Amazing.

*UPDATE 10/28: Our small fundraiser had such an amazing turnout! We are so grateful for the outpouring of love and support from all over the world! We couldn't have done it without you.

Truly, THANK YOU. It really means so much.

Odessa xx

what happiness looks like



With support from UNICEF, (clean) water supply is now back at full capacity in Tacloban, one of the worst-hit areas by Typhoon Haiyan. I can watch this 15-second video over and over, and still have the biggest smile on my face.

Thank you, UNICEF. And thank you to all the people who are on the ground helping survivors in the Philippines right now.

(Video repost from UNICEF Instagram)

a little space

"And we are put on earth a little space, / That we may learn to bear the beams of love"
-- William Blake

I've only just begun to understand the true meaning of these words. These days, it feels like my heart is about to burst at the seams. I am overwhelmed by the outpouring of kindness and generosity for my typhoon-ravaged homeland. People from all over the world, who rushed to our aid, helping in whatever way they could. I've never felt this much emotion, this much gratitude.

Then I see images of devastation and shattered lives, and I'm plunged into a deep and aching sadness again. I want to cry. I want to yell in frustration at the inefficiency of some government officials. I want so badly to go home and distribute the relief goods myself. I want to hug each child, tell every survivor that he/she is not alone.

Indeed, this must be how it is, to bear the beams of love.

let's make this happen!

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Dear friends, we started a grassroots fundraiser to support our friends, who are on the ground, doing relief work to help typhoon victims in the Philippines right now. I would really appreciate it if you can click on the image above, take a moment to read our campaign, and where and how our funds will go. And please share this to others, if you can.

Every little bit helps, no matter how small, to our brothers and sisters who are currently suffering in the Philippines right now. Thank you so much!

(Special thanks to my friend Melania who made the graphics above)

after the storm

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This post is very difficult to write. I've been struggling to control my emotions these past few days and it's not easy. But writing has always been the one thing that keeps me from falling apart, so here I am.

You may have heard about the super typhoon in the Philippines 3 days ago, one of the strongest ever recorded in history, and the devastation left in its wake. As of today, local officials estimated 10,000 fatalities in one city alone and so many more still unaccounted for (read here). And while I'm very grateful that my family is safe and our home island of Cebu was spared from the brunt of the storm, my heart bleeds for our neighboring islands who were completely ravaged.

Our country is used to natural calamities. Because of our location in the Pacific, the Philippines is the most exposed country in the world to tropical storms, with an average of 20 each year. In fact, when I was finally able to get a hold of my family on Friday night, my dad calmly reminded me that we've been through this before. "Life goes on. We do what needs to be done," he said.

Come Saturday however, after the storm left the country and we started getting reports on social media from initial rescue operations, I was getting more and more worried. On Facebook, some relatives and friends are desperately waiting to hear from loved ones who are still missing. I feel so utterly helpless, living on the other side of the Pacific, and watching my country grapple with the storm's aftermath from afar.

"I feel like I'm under a nimbus cloud," one of my closest friends said, after we started reaching out to each other to figure out ways to send help to the Philippines. I knew exactly what she meant for I could feel myself on the verge of sobbing uncontrollably at any given moment. Reading stories from survivors, watching videos of children hungry and displaced, it's all too heartbreaking.

Then I saw a photo of the two girls above and I just wept. It reminded me of my sister and I, years ago, when we also had our picture taken after Typhoon Nitang destroyed our coastal town. We were standing on top of a fallen tree, our neighbor's roof was completely torn apart, but like the girls in the photograph, we also had our arm around each other.

I can only imagine the tragedy and desperation in the worst-hit areas of the Philippines right now. Missing family members, without food, clean water, or shelter, I don't know if I can bear it. But I must stop thinking this way and remind myself of hope and resilience of the human spirit. I need to remember the girls in the photograph; despite all destruction, love and beauty still exists.

If you are able to, and want to help those affected by Typhoon Haiyan, here are organizations confirmed to be on the ground with their relief and rescue efforts right now. Click on the links to read more and how you may contribute:

(Photo via Buzzfeed Twitter)