Witnessing Haiyan’s devastation: ‘The Filipino spirit is alive among us’

Story highlights

An expat Filipino, Armie Jarin-Bennett returned to her native land after Typhoon Haiyan

"To deal with this difficult assignment in my own backyard, I had to shut down."

She was struck by the resilience of her countrymen despite the challenges

Many chose not to heed warnings to evacuate, thinking the storm would not be as severe

Tacloban, Philippines CNN  — 

In 17 years working at CNN I’ve worked on countless breaking news stories, from earthquakes and hurricanes to the 2011 tsunami that devastated Japan. But nothing prepared me for what I’ve seen in the past few days in my own country – the Philippines.

As Super Typhoon Haiyan weaved its destructive path across the east of the country more than a week ago, I was drafted in to help with our coverage as the network scrambled into action.

It had only been nine months since I’d left my newsroom job in the United States to join our corporate offices in Hong Kong, but I quickly found myself in the city of Tacloban, one of the hardest hit areas, with my CNN colleagues. I am not used to being in the field, so to deal with this difficult assignment in my own backyard, I had to shut down.

Offering all they have

We wasted no time. We walked to a village nearby where we met Juanito Martinez. He was gathered with two of his friends in a shack, not far from the city’s battered airport. Juanito looked at me with a smile and asked, “Have you eaten yet? Come eat!” I was astonished that his first words to me were to find out if I was hungry – despite all that was happening around us.

Juanito and his friends were squatting under a few pieces of overlapping corr