PAUL Quiambao, the official photographer of the UST Quadricentennial in 2011, has turned his lens lately to another event of millennial importance—the destruction wrought by supertyphoon “Yolanda-Haiyan” in the Visayas last year.

His photos on the aftermath of the event, touted by meteorologists and climatologists to be one of the strongest typhoons in history, were exhibited in Dear Yolanda, which was mounted at the Quadricentennial Park February 13-28.

Quiambao took the shots when he accompanied UST Simbahayan for an ocular site inspection of affected communities in Aklan, Tacloban, Leyte and Samar to document the University’s response to the disaster.

The exhibit was put up to prod Thomasians to continue supporting the relief and rehabilitation of the Visayas.

“We want to show the survivors that they are not alone in this quest and that there are people who will continue to support them,” Quiambao said.

There were initially no plans of staging an exhibit. Quiambao said the idea came about after he had constructed a story out of the photos he took from his coverage.

He met Paul John, a seven-year-old survivor from Baybay, Capiz, whose experience formed the narrative of the exhibit.

“I made Paul John the sender of the would-be letter to Yolanda, thus, the title of the exhibit,” Quiambao said about his namesake.

One of the photos in the exhibit shows a young boy, sitting atop stacked relief goods. Another photo shows a group of friends bathing using a makeshift shower hose in the middle of the day amid the wreckage. Most of the photos showed the tremendous damage left by the typhoon.

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Quiambao emphasized the blissful spirit of the Filipinos with the vibrant smiles of the survivors amid the aftermath during his documentation. In a Church in Palo, Leyte, he met children belonging to a choir, who sang a Christmas song to him, leaving him speechless and reducing him to tears.

His encounter with Rubi Anne Chicobo, a seven-year-old survivor from Guiuan, Eastern Samar, also affected Quiambao.

“When I asked her what she wanted for Christmas, she answered me, ‘salamat po.’ I wondered why she answered that and asked her again but she still answered the same thing,” he said. “I realized that the message behind her ‘salamat po’ was simple—to have a normal life again.”

Quiambao was authorized by the UST administration to document the Quadricentennial celebration of the University and was a former photography editor of the Varsitarian. Juan Carlos D. Moreno

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