NewYorker - On November 8th, after Typhoon Haiyan hit, Helen Merino, a forty-four-year-old housemaid in Manila, tried to reach her parents in rural Barangay Tolingon, part of Isabel municipality in Leyte province. All power and communication lines were down, but somehow Facebook was accessible—not for nothing is the Philippines known as the world’s social-media capital. That evening, a cousin messaged Helen’s son on Facebook and posted a picture of a tree that had crushed her parents’ house. But they were alive—they had taken refuge in a school that had been turned into an evacuation center. The school’s roof had been blown off. Throughout the weekend, Helen, her three siblings in Manila, and two in the Davao region, in the south, tried to contact their parents. Helen finally got through to her mother, Rosella, on Monday morning. Rosella reported that she and her husband were all right, but they were still in their wet clothes, and had lost all their possessions. All the trees on their land had been knocked over. They had a little food—unripe bananas picked from a fallen tree. Rosella asked Helen to send them rice by air transport. Meanwhile, Helen’s brother heard that relief trucks were making their way to Isabel. Helen and her siblings, none of whom makes more than three hundred U.S. dollars a month, pooled their funds and asked a relative in Cebu province to bring rice and other supplies to their parents in Leyte.
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