Yvanna Vien Tica

typhoon pag-asa

Photo by Madison Swart, Photographer



he Manila Bay breaks

under a spring storm. I am again five


& watching the flood rise

out of season. There goes a dog


straining to swim. The flashlight dies

so my mother lights a candle


we reserve for birthdays.

The wax slips down the wick. Hours before,


I’d watched the weather gray

& believed it benign; the weather forecast on TV


had promised safety. Still, my mother prays

& prays as the rain comes with a holy vengeance.


Hours later, when the rain stops, we are ushered

downstairs. There goes the TV, shivering


in the water. Our chairs float, but my mother’s sobs

keep my childish hands from riding them. I am five, & the water


is still friendly, the TV always empty

of the numbered dead. In America, I tell my classmates


about the floods & laugh at the memory, preferring not

to let them know of their hellish weight. How they could drag


a five-year-old down under, provide homes

for malaria-infected mosquitoes. An American friend


tells me she drinks water straight from the tap, so I return home

to stare at our dripping faucet, remembering my mother’s warnings about how


the Manila Bay is gagging with trash,

how tap water is not as clean


as we’d wish it to be. I am again five

& listening to my mother tell me it wasn’t


always like this. That the water was clean once. That we could trust

the forecast once. In America, I look for photos of the original


Manila Bay before its waters turned

sluggish with human waste. Instead I find hordes


of people facing a flotsam shore of garbage, trash pickers

in hand. I must be five again with this newborn belief


that there is still time for the TV to find itself empty

of lost lives & homes to report, for us to remember


that the water is not too far gone. Yes, when the Manila Bay swells

with fish & carefree beachgoers, the floods flushed of its greed, I will be five again,


relearning to drink tap water, to dance

at the sight of rain, to trust


freely, safely.


Yvanna Vien Tica

Yvanna Vien Tica, 17

Quezon City, Philippines

Gold Award, 2021 Ocean Awareness Contest

One of my earliest memories involves a typhoon that hit our home especially hard; the flood reaching almost five feet. Many die from typhoon-related disasters and water-borne diseases each year. I see the connection between climate change and the growing frequency of extreme weather in the Philippines. While there’s still time, we must take care of available resources and invest in climate change initiatives. In Tagalog, “pag-asa” means “hope.” I believe that to stand united against climate change means continuing to choose hope. After all, the world is long due for a typhoon of hope to crash against every shore.

typhoon pag-asa

yvanna vien tica