In the news: Typhoon Haiyan left a trail of destruction in its wake on 8 November. The death toll stands at more than 5000, and millions of people were displaced.
Comments by Maricar Salacinas, a PhD student at Plant Research International, and Verna Duque, MSc student of environmental sciences, both from the Philippines.
Maricar: ‘I head through social media the day before that the typhoon would hit the Philippines. I got up in the middle of the night to phone my sister – luckily it wasn’t too bad in her region. I was stunned the next day when I saw on the news how massive the typhoon was. We are used to typhoons on the Philippines, but this one was in a class of its own.’
Verna: ‘I stayed up all night to stay in touch with my family on Skype. A moderate storm impact was expected in our region, but because our house has been flooded before, the children were moved elsewhere anyway. And just as well, because the house did get flooded again. Luckily everyone was spared.’
Verna: ‘The family of a friend of mine who is a PhD student in Belgium was at the centre of the storm. All communication was cut off and he heard nothing for five days, which got him very worried. With the help of colleagues, who had a whip-round, he could fly back to the Philippines. And he found his family, fortunately unharmed. He took food and a filter system for drinking water with him. They are living off that now.’
Maricar: ‘Together with Wageningen Filipinos and the Filipino community in Nijmegen, we organized a dinner, the proceeds from which have gone to the people of the Philippines. A lot is being done here for the victims in the Philippines. That touches us deeply. There are so few Filipino students in Wageningen, but with all these efforts we feel that people are aware of us, that we matter to them.’
Verna: ‘One of my professors sent me an email and a lot of people ask how it’s going. That really does us good. Even if we are far from our own families, it is as if we have a family here.