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Typhoon Haiyan: Philippines’ disaster hits home for PLNU student and alumnus

Typhoon Haiyan’s devastation on the Philippines garners support on PLNU’s campus as students, faculty and staff comfort those that were affected by the strongest storm ever to make landfall.

One such person affected is PLNU alumnus Peter Varberg (’13), who grew up in the Philippine city of Tacloban. Tacloban is a major coastal city located on the eastern island of Leyte in the central island chain Visayas in the Philippines. Because of its location and size of population, Tacloban sustained heavy damage from the Typhoon Haiyan and has received a lot of media attention.

According to Varberg, typhoons are an ordinary occurrence for the Philippines, which led him to believe that Typhoon Haiyan would be just like any other storm Tacloban weathered throughout the year.

“I had no idea [Typhoon Haiyan] was a big deal until my dad sent an email the day before, it was like the quiet before the storm, explaining that it was this huge, super typhoon, but I still didn’t think it was going to be a big deal because typhoons kill lots of people every year in the Philippines,” said Varberg.

Varberg attributes the annual death toll from typhoons, specifically, to the nipa huts most Filipinos live in, which are built from either palm fronds or metal sheets. According to Time magazine on Nov. 11, “a large number of the country’s 96 million people live in areas with poor infrastructure and flimsy housing.”

“I started hearing more about it on the news and doing research and my dad sent an email after the storm that was showing pictures of stuff, and that’s when I realized this was a pretty big deal,” said Varberg.

When the Category 5 typhoon hit the Philippines on Nov. 8, it was producing sustained wind speeds of 190-195 mph and gusts of 230 mph. The typhoon also produced a 13-foot storm surge that directly hit Tacloban. The combination wreaked havoc on Tacloban’s landscape.

As of Friday night, CNN reports that the death toll is 3,633 according to the Philippine government official death count.

Varberg’s parents, Paul and Margie, are missionaries in Tacloban and have started the Bethel International School, University Student Center, and Tacloban Community Church.

“We’ve been trying to build this [covered] basketball court for the past year and a half, and my dad’s been raising funds for it, and it was designed specifically to withstand typhoons, and then he sent a picture of it and its crumpled… and you can’t even tell what it is,” said Varberg.

The construction of the covered basketball court prior to Typhoon Haiyan that Varberg’s father worked to withstand typhoons.
Very little is left of the covered basketball court after Typhoon Haiyan hit Tacloban.



Though physical damage left by Typhoon Haiyan has been limited to the Philippine central islands, the rest of the country is mourning this recent event in what seems to be a streak of misfortunes.

Megan Camballa, a sophomore nursing student whose family lives in the Philippine capital of Manila, located in the northern islands of the Philippines and not hit by the typhoon, spoke of her family’s view on recent events that happened in the Philippines.

“My family is pretty sad about the whole thing because first there was the earthquake that happened, and then about three months ago the Philippines discovered that a government official named Napoles had apparently stolen 10 billion pesos,” said Camballa. “So they had gotten cheated with money and then got struck by the earthquake and they got struck by the typhoon… They don’t understand why this is all happening to the Philippines right now.”

In different aspects of the community, PLNU has gathered around those affected by Typhoon Haiyan to offer support.

“Community wise, people were just asking me ‘how is your family’ and ‘how are they doing, are they safe? I heard about the typhoon’ and ‘I remember you telling me that your grandma is going back to the Philippines, I just wanted to see if she was safe,’” said Camballa about friends back home and at PLNU. “People were really worried and it felt, like community wise, it felt really good.”

In last Wednesday’s morning chapel, Timeout, and Friday chapel, Brian Becker, director of International Ministries, took offerings to send to Nazarene Compassionate Ministries.

“It’s us partnering with local Filipino community and church leaders who already maintain preparedness and training for times of disaster tragedy such as this,” said Becker via email. “The local leaders’ priorities are medical assistance, water/sanitation, child safety (safe spaces for children to be and play), and provision of temporary housing. NCM is partnering with Samaritan’s Purse to do the water/sanitation work.”

No more offerings will be taken for the Philippines in chapel, but Mary Paul, vice president of Spiritual Development, has included links in her “Chapel this Week” email that go to organizations that students can read about and give to if they choose.

For those who wish to donate by other means, Peter Varberg posts links to different organizations on his Facebook wall offering relief in the Philippines as well as links to his father’s ministry in Tacloban.

The destruction in San Jose was very widespread.
The destruction in San Jose was very widespread.
Varberg's father uploaded photos like this one, of Kanluran, after the storm to his blog to spread the word of the destruction.
Varberg’s father uploaded photos like this one to his blog to spread the word of the destruction.
The before and after photos of Bethel International School
The before and after photos of Bethel International School show the extreme nature of change in this community.
This is an aerial shot of the damage in the area where Varberg's family works and lives.
This is an aerial shot of the damage in the area where Varberg’s family works and lives.
This is all that remains of Varberg's old room in Tacloban.
This is all that remains of Varberg’s old room in Tacloban.


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