Books & Art

This Typhoon Odette Photo Exhibit Captures the Beauty in Collectivism

A little faith in humanity goes a long way.

In the last month of 2021, the last typhoon of the year reduced millions of homes in Visayas and Mindanao to rubble. Some lives were lost and others were left with nothing. Typhoon Odette powered through 11 of the country's 17 regions, leaving places like the Siargao and the Dinagat Islands, as well as Cebu and Bohol in shambles. With it, relief operations ensued and communities were forged to alleviate the shared burden.

But our islands have found a way to get back on their feet since then. Amid the debris and unpleasant memories, residents have banded together to reclaim their lives, with some help from the local government and the international community.

Donations from the European Union, Japan, Australia, France, Spain, and the UN Central Emergency Response Fund, among others, were urgently distributed to affected areas. Early recovery programs that focused on food security and nutrition, shelter, health, protection, and more were implemented along the way—some 15,000 activities of them, to be exact.

In April, the government even announced that its response phase was over. Three months later, the United Nations (UN) is commemorating the country's progress from Odette by officially launching Typhoon Odette Six Months On Photo Exhibition.


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Humanitarian partners earlier deployed 562 trucks to deliver relief items, which included food, hygiene, family kits, and more. These were documented, as well.

Photo by Instituto Cervantes.
Photo by Instituto Cervantes.

The exhibition shows us the more intimate and human portraits of the disaster, highlighting how interconnectedness can make or break a society's development, especially during times of crisis.

Hosted by the Embassy of Spain, Instituto Cervantes, and Agency for International Development Cooperation, Typhoon Odette Six Months On Photo Exhibition hopes to raise awareness about the increasing occurrences of typhoons and how the development of nations are hampered by the effects of climate change.

“The Humanitarian community will continue its support to the affected communities to ensure that progress made in the last six months is not rolled back,” said UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in the Philippines Gustavo Gonzalez.

The Typhoon Odette Six Months On Photo Exhibition reminds us just how deep the roots of the typhoon overwhelmed the state's capacity. Shelter assistance and malnutrition (46,000 children have been screened for acute malnutrition) still persists.

Citing a report by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, Gonzalez stated that the number of damaged homes was still more than two million. There are about 3,000 people who remain displaced in the regions of Regions VI, VII, VIII, MIMAROPA, and Caraga, as well.

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The Humanitarian Needs and Priorities plan was devised to address these problems. This led to more than 210,000 typhoon-stricken households and more than 66,000 families receiving assistance. Resettlement sites were prepared, too. Over one million people also received livelihood support.

“Humanitarian partners will continue to work closely with local authorities to pilot new approaches such as anticipatory action,” Gonzalez said. “As nations continue to address the different impacts of the global pandemic, the reality is several hazards may strike at once."

He added: "the Philippines has already experienced responding to catastrophes in a COVID-19 crisis scenario and amid difficult access to resources due to the war in Ukraine. This is forcing all of us to change the way operations are being conducted."

While long-term and sustained recovery is the project's overall goal until the end of the year, it hopes to inspire future measures for preparedness and resiliency.

Look through the photos and you can see images of ruin and catastrophe, showing us the struggles the victims went through in the aftermath of the typhoon. It also offers us a glimpse into how our future might look like if we don't act swiftly. The photos call for a combined obligation to protect the environment in some ways. There are, after all, much bigger disasters yet to come, the exhibit warns.

In the middle of the Typhoon Odette Six Months On Photo Exhibition is a recreation of the ruin brought by the onslaught of Odette. The installation serves as a reminder of the work that's been done and how far collectivism and solidarity can take us.


Typhoon Odette Six Months On is open to the public at the Instituto Cervantes in Intramuros, Manila until August 20 to commemorate World Humanitarian Day.

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Bryle B. Suralta
Assistant Section Editor
Bryle B. Suralta is the assistant section editor of Esquire Philippines.
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