Winner of the student competition: Fight against the wind

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This piece is one of the 10 winners of our Profile competition 2022. You can find more here. Yueyang Gethe author, is 16 years old and goes to UWC Southeast AsiaDover Campus, Singapore.


By Yueyang Ge

Ynnel Villarias left her hometown the day her youngest daughter turned 6.

“I had to explain to her, over and over again, that it was for her future. Our future. Mom is leaving to earn money so we can pay for college and build our own little house,” he said. she said, “In front of the house, we will plant as many orchids. As many as we want.”

Seven years later, Mrs. Villarias will remember this dream that she painted as much for her three daughters as for herself. She would remember the night she landed in Singapore and became a migrant domestic worker. Remember squeezing out every last bit of toothpaste and skimping for seven years. The funds she sent. The photos of the house of his dreams materialized brick by brick.

Ms. Villarias remembered all of this when Typhoon Rai hit her hometown in the Philippines and swept it all away. This interview has been edited and condensed.

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What was your first reaction when you heard about the typhoon situation in your hometown?

Around 9 p.m. on December 16, I received a text message from my eldest daughter: “Mom, the typhoon has hit our city. We go to take refuge with our uncle.

Immediately I was hit with flashbacks of the night I first experienced a Category 3 typhoon. My younger sister and I were walking to my aunt’s house for shelter when a large mango tree came crashed to the ground right behind us – less than five paces away. I felt the water splashing on my back. We could have died.

I was only 13 then. So is my youngest daughter. What if the same thing happened to him? To my two other daughters? Would they be fast enough to escape a falling tree, when the electricity is out and their surroundings are in darkness?

But no one could tell me what had happened. For the next 48 hours, the signals were completely cut off.

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What emotional challenges did you face when you lost touch with your family?

I have never felt more anxious. At night I lay awake and prayed, God, please protect us. Every time I turned on my phone, I was like, “Maybe this time.” Maybe, just for once, one of my daughters would be online. “Please let me talk to them.” But no. Nothing for 48 hours.

How did you cope?

I knew I had to keep working – fighting. As I was stuck in Singapore due to Covid, it was the only thing I could do for my family. It’s hard for me as a mother because when my children needed me the most, I took care of other people’s children. I cooked breakfast for my employer’s children, cleaned their rooms and sent them to school…

My friends (also migrant domestic workers in Singapore) also helped me deal with my anxiety. Once in a while they would text me and say, “Are you okay?” I always answered, “Yes, I’m fine. Keep fighting.” A friend of mine said to me, “You take it positively. You put yourself down. I’m here as your sister to help you.

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How has this typhoon affected your family and other people in your town?

When my eldest daughter woke up on December 18, she saw that all the houses in our town had been razed. Fishing boats were torn to pieces and everywhere lay the corpses of pigs and cows – the livelihood of my town was destroyed. There was nothing left of my house. My sister’s little shop had disappeared. But I really thank God that everyone in my family is safe. The house can be rebuilt, but if my relatives had left, they would never come back. I felt lost because it was a lot of money I spent to build the house, but I can start over.

What’s next for you? Lessons to pass on?

I will continue to work in Singapore until all my daughters go to university and until our house is rebuilt. All of life’s trials are like a typhoon – a violent storm that uproots everything you have. But you never let the wind destroy you. You fight and fight until you get strong. I always fight.

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