Yolanda left Nico a big scar on his left cheek. A piece of steel roofing struck his face as he was fighting for his life in the swirling water. It gave him an indelible reminder of the tragedy.
"Nagtakbuhan po kami d’un po sa may likod ng CR,” he said. “Doon kami humawak sa may puno. Paghawak sa may puno lumalaki na ang tubig. ‘Pag alon po n’un, natangay po kaming pamilya. ‘Di ko na po sila nakita uli.”
But his scars appeared to go deeper.
"Umiyak po ako n’un,” he said. “Hindi ko matanggap na wala sila. Pero hindi ko na po sila masyadong iniisip, kasi lalo lang akong umiiyak. Lalo ko lang silang naaalala."
Nico now lives with his grandmother Asela Villegas, who takes care of him and eight other grandchildren orphaned in the typhoon.
Villegas said Nico has become a problem of late, something she attributed to his age.
"Marami akong problema sa kanya,” she said.
“Nadadala ‘yan sa barkada. Minsan nga hindi ‘yan umuuwi dito. Hinahanap ko ‘yan hanggang sa may computeran. Alam niyo naman ‘yung ganyang edad. Kaya ako nabubuwisit. Sabi nga, ‘pag ayaw maraming dahilan, ‘pag gusto may paraan. Ngayon ko lang nalaman na hindi pala maganda record niya sa eskwelahan."
But looking at figures from the Department of Education Regional Office 8, it was clear that more students like Nico have been struggling with school in Yolanda-affected areas.
Results of the National Achievement Test scores have generally fallen between 5 percent-37 percent in School Year 2014-2015, compared to SY 2012-2013 in the most devastated cities and municipalities like Tacloban, Ormoc, Tanauan, Manlurip, Basey, Hernani, Marabut. The NAT was not administered in these schools for SY-2013-2014.
The worst dip was observed at the Manlurip Elementary School in Leyte, where NAT scores fell from 92.20 to 55.86.
To be fair, NAT scores from a few schools in these critical areas also improved.
But the figures still worry newly appointed DepEd Region 8 Director Ramyr Uytico. Using a data-driven approach, Uytico said he was empowering his superintendents across the region to design programs seeking to improve key performance indicators.
But addressing possible trauma, depression, and the psychosocial development of students was not something the DepEd could do alone.
"As a leader, siyempre we are alarmed,” Uytico said. “But we always believe in the Department of Education that it takes a village to educate a child. Kaya kung ako ang principal, talagang i-scout ko ‘yung stakeholders in the community na makakatulong sa akin to achieve the goals of the school."
Social Welfare Secretary Judy Taguiwalo agreed, saying that it would take a joint effort of different agencies, civil society, and humanitarian organizations, to address the specific needs of children.
Still, one of the lessons of typhoon Yolanda was that there should be a particular awareness and emphasis on child protection during times of crisis.
Otherwise, their plight will get lost in the chaos of the aftermath.
"Ang mga bata naman talaga ang pinaka-vulnerable kapag may disaster,” Taguiwalo said.
“During and right after the disaster strikes, all forces come into play to help in providing relief, immediate reconstruction ng physical and community areas, but the social cost, the psychosocial impact of the disaster in terms of individuals, in terms of families, kailangan mapag-aralan, at tuluy-tuloy ang efforts."
The lingering effects of typhoon Yolanda might be alarming, but there were success stories in these communities too that demonstrated the remarkable resilience of children, despite unimaginable trauma.