#LeaflessButNotLifeless: A Tribute to Haiyan Victims

#Throwback2013. When the news about Super Typhoon Haiyan came out, I was initially tasked to station at Tacloban CIty. Our team was the second group being prepared for deployment, after the first team was earlier deployed to Bicol province.

Our hometown in Antique was also part of the trajectory of the typhoon. I could still clearly remember how worried I was about my mom that time. She was alone at our house. My father said that he could not be home till the day after the storm. I was monitoring my mom every minute because I knew she was rattled.

I admit, it was partly the reason why my deployment papers were delayed, to a point that flights were already being cancelled. We were later advised that the team deployed to Bicol was tasked to move down to Tacloban in our behalf.

Thinking about my mom, and my pending Mt Everest-high dirty laundry from our Bohol earthquake coverage which ended few days before that, I was relieved.

The landfall of the monstrous typhoon happened. Our colleagues braved a near-death experience. They survived, and were sent back to Manila. Our newsroom needed new set of people to fill in the task. On the third day after the landfall, I was already there. I aired on the fifth night till the third week of November when another team finally came, which ended my adrenalin-draining same-day airing madness for a couple of weeks.

Stressful is an understatement to describe my month-long task of documenting stories during the aftermath of Haiyan. Instagram served as an outlet for me to divert my attention from the depressing situation that I was in. There, I started #LeaflessButNotLifeless photo series.

#LeaflessButNotLifeless is a gallery of leafless trees that I snapped during the aftermath of Haiyan in Leyte and Samar. For me, those leafless trees were symbolic representation of Haiyan-ravaged communities. Houses, even entire communities, had been annihilated, just as trees have gone bald. Like how trees flourished back their leaves, Filipinos built back their communities, one by one.

To date, there are 96 posts using #LeaflessButNotLifess on Instagram. But if you were to track the origins of the hashtag, you’ll find my photo during Haiyan as the first ever post. So, here are a few of them!

View this post on Instagram

#leaflessbutnotlifeless 7 PALOMPON, LEYTE

A post shared by Makoi Popioco (@popiocodes) on

View this post on Instagram

Leafless but not lifeless. #leaflessbutnotlifeless

A post shared by Makoi Popioco (@popiocodes) on


Outtakes’ Notes:

Watch this online discussion about the world’s worst disasters in recents years. Super Typhoon Haiyan was also discussed here.

In a rare opportunity, three remarkable youth activists, from countries affected by the world’s worst disasters in recent years, discuss corruption  in disaster responses.

Their stories show the disturbing realities currently happening in disaster locations in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake, in the Philippines after the 2013 Super Typhoon Haiyan, and in Myanmar after this year’s massive flooding.

Despite the billions of dollars of aid received, thousands of disaster victims remain homeless. Humanitarian aid, if not outright stolen, is ineffectively disbursed or questionably liquidated. Displaced victims ultimately suffer a wide range of human rights abuses.

Paneled by Haitian social activist Louino Robillard, Burmese youth leader Saw Htet Aung, and Filipino journalist and World Youth Movement for Democracy Hurford Youth Fellow Makoi Popioco, this documentary is a call for justice for all marginalized victims of disasters, internally displaced people, and refugees all around the world.

Help us get people talking about corruption in disaster responses! Share this on your social media accounts.

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