The Measure of Strength

When you think of a 74 year old woman, one thinks of someone sitting at home resting a tired body after years of work and accomplishments, one may imagine her enjoying her grandchildren and telling stories with nostalgia. No one would believe that a woman of that age would survive a typhoon by herself, facing wind and rain in a roofless home, waiting out the storm to check on her 9 children not worrying about herself or finding food to eat. Veronica Nuervarez makes the latter true, a resident of Palacio, Dagami (Leyte) this solitary elderly woman is stronger than most.

A rice farmer for decades, she saw how her children grew up and made their own families. She realized she was alone, but never minding much she kept on working for and by herself. Not wanting to be a nuisance to her children, she always has provided for herself and let her children worry about their family needs. A strong independent woman, she faced many hardships but always found a way forward.

Having lived in Palacio for almost 60 years, she never encountered a more difficult time than during Typhoon Yolanda. When she decided to stay in her house, she didn’t expect things to be as bad as they were, she was hungry and preoccupied. Most people would fear falling coconut trees, yet she welcomed them because then she had something to eat during the night. No matter how strong Super Typhoon Yolanda was, Veronica was strong enough to survive it by herself.

A God fearing woman, she had accepted God’s plan for her. She didn’t worry when the storm came or when in the aftermath she saw that her rice harvest had been destroyed, she trusted that God had a plan for her. She believes that God challenges come for a reason, and that they will always make us stronger.

A week after the typhoon the government and NGOs brought help to the area, they provided everyone with shelter and food to eat. Regardless, Veronica knew that this help wouldn’t always be there, she wondered how she could start farming again.  When she heard that ADRA Philippines had a livelihood recovery project in the area, she prayed that she would be selected to become one of the beneficiaries. The Economic Recovery in Leyte Project’s purpose is to work with communities to help recover their livelihoods and to make them better prepared for future disasters.

It was easy for her to decide on rice planting, it was the only livelihood she knows and she has land available for farming. When Veronica received the grants, she immediately started clearing her land to plant her crop and on October 29, 2016 she received the new harvest. She planned that half of her harvest will be saved as capital for the next season, a quarter of the gain is for her food security and the other quarter she will save for her health. According to her, she is not that strong anymore “I’m not getting younger, that’s why I need to save for my health because I don’t want to give problems to my children.’’ Veronica said with teary eyes.

We can never measure how strong every (wo)man is until we deeply know their experiences and the huge challenges that they survived. Strength disregards gender, age or physical limitations. The strength of a (wo)man is to be measured not by how powerful problems diminish them, but with the power they diminish their problems. That’s why when you measure Veronica Nuervarez strength, it’s off the charts.