Students Fast in Solidarity


Students gather outside of Mead Chapel on Thursday Nov. 14 at dusk to mourn the thousands of victims lost to Typhoon Haiyan (Campus/Rachel Frank).

By Emily Singer

Students gathered outside Mead Chapel for a candlelight vigil on Thursday, Nov. 14 to mourn the devastation and damage caused by Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines and Southeast Asia and to call attention to climate change. Mourning at the vigil, which was hosted by Divest Midd, was furthered by a number of students electing to fast in solidarity with Filipino climate delegate to the U.N., Naderev “Yeb” Sano.

At the start of the U.N.’s two-week-long climate talks, Sano announced his fast.

“In solidarity with my countrymen who are struggling to find food back home … I will now commence a voluntary fasting for the climate. This means I will voluntarily refrain from eating food during this [conference] until a meaningful outcome is in sight,” he said.

Gabbie Santos ’17 is from Cavite, an hour north of Manila in the Philippines and spoke at the vigil with sadness in regard to the current situation and cautious optimism for the future.

“In the face of adversity, one after another, let it be known to the world that, as we Filipinos like to say … ‘the Filipino spirit is waterproof,’ the Filipino people are a resilient people. But this does not mean that we are willing to place more and more lives on the line in the face of future, potentially more devastating disasters and calamities,” she said.

Santos also spoke at the vigil on behalf of Oliver Wijayapala ’17, who is from the affected area of Leyte in the Philippines. Leyte was among the areas hit hardest by Typhoon Haiyan, which left nearly 3,000 dead and approximately 920,000 displaced.

Reading Wijayapala’s words, Santos said, “My family’s hometown in southern Leyte was in the direct path of the typhoon. It’s difficult to get in contact with my family members there, but I believe and hope they are all okay. There is a lot of damage and debris, though … Please keep in your thoughts and prayers my family and all those affected by this disaster.”

Members of Divest Midd recited Sano’s speech from the Climate Summit at Thursday’s vigil as both a call to action and a means of mourning the destruction. In further solidarity, Adrian Leong ’16, Ellie Ng ’14, Greta Neubauer ’14.5, Ashley Babcock ’17 and Virginia Wiltshire-Gordon ’16 fasted on Thursday. A number of other students participated in fasts over the weekend and into this week.

“I am choosing to refrain from eating on Thursday because I treat his [Sano’s] countrymen as my countrymen, his brother as my brother and I want to reflect deeply on the dire state of our climate, as well as [the] social justice system and bring them to more people’s attention,” Leong wrote in a post on Facebook.

Leong created a Facebook event for his fast, encouraging others to join him. Over 40 friends listed themselves as “going,” thereby implying participation. Leong said that word of his fast spread rapidly to friends at other schools.

“Many who fasted alongside with me told me that my action inspired them to reflect on their responsibilities to the world in this time of great change,” Leong wrote in an email, calling the response to his actions “overwhelmingly positive.”

The purpose of Sano’s and students’ fast is twofold — to mourn the loss of life and destruction and to recognize the gravity of the ongoing climate crisis.

“Whether we accept it or not, Climate Change does not lie in the distant future,” Leong wrote in his Facebook event. “It is now, and it is right here. I have a few friends from the Philippines who also have family members there, as I know that many [others] do, too. Even if this is not the case, you may well know other friends that do. Thus, it is utterly impossible to deny how closely our lives are linked to the lost lives and survivors of the strongest typhoon to have ever hit land.”