Imelda Bama – Philippines

When Typhoon Haiyan struck the Philippines in 2013, it tore down thousands of homes, ripped trees from their roots, and threw cars up against buildings.

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In the midst of the storm, in San Joaquin, a village just outside the hardest hit city of Tacloban, 28-year-old Imelda Bama led seven families out of their bamboo shacks. She battled with them through high winds and knee-high water to the safety of a concrete building nearby.

Once inside, she looked out of a second-story window and saw her mother 50 meters away, her arms wrapped around a coconut tree. She called out to her but there was nothing she could do. The storm had already hit.

“In time I couldn’t see her anymore because the storm was so heavy,” Imelda said. The rain and the seawater was so heavy that you couldn’t see a metre ahead of you. Everything was grey.”

When the storm passed, Imelda found her mother. Miraculously, she had survived. 

The morning after the storm, Imelda got up and faced the devastation that surrounded her. At 7am, she walked 11 kilometres to Tacloban airport, determined to get to Manila to bring back supplies to her village. The walk took her five hours, as she had climb around and over the debris that was heaped all over the road.

She had pooled all the money she had, and once in Manila, she collected more money from the relatives of members of her community. Armed with four boxes of food, Imelda boarded a bus back to Tacloban. Two days later, she arrived home, and was able to feed the seven families now residing in her house.

Photography credits: ActionAid