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Typhoon Survivor Joshua Cator

Photographer: Dennis M. Sabangan


With his first photograph Joshua gained notoriety. Instead of fame though, he would rather his mother and sister could come back. Only 11 years old, Joshua Cator has seen and experienced more than most people do in their lifetimes. The boy is among those who survived Super Typhoon Haiyan after it crossed the Philippines on 08 November 2013, leaving thousands dead in its wake.


A portrait of Joshua taken two days after the disaster was used by local and international non-government organizations to solicit help for typhoon victims. His picture looked like a cry for help and here is Joshua’s story:


Leyte Island, where Joshua lives, is prone to typhoons and tropical depressions all year round. Storm surges, however, are unusual for the inhabitants. This is one of the reasons some residents chose to stay at home, despite storm warnings on the eve of Haiyan’s landfall. Joshua’s family was one of those who stayed.


Joshua recalls how a huge surge of water separated him from his father, Sulpicio Jr. He floated among the debris of broken houses and other buildings, clinging to tree branches and other structures within his reach. Joshua said he fought for his life, all the while thinking about his family. He prayed hard and shouted his parents’ names repeatedly, in the hopes that he would be heard. When the storm surge finally subsided, Joshua found himself nearly 1.5 kilometers away from his home. Left only wearing his underwear, he retraced his steps home, hoping his family was alive. But only his father survived the disaster. His mother, Raquel, and younger sister, Jamyca, 6, were both gone. Until now, Joshua’s mother remains missing. As for his sister, they received word that her body was found, but are still unable to locate where she was buried. Joshua lost 23 relatives altogether.


The boy is now under the care of his grandfather, Sulpicio Sr. They are staying in a damaged house where six other family members were trapped and died.


The tragedy, however, has not changed Joshua’s plans for the future. He says he wants to finish school and help rebuild what was lost in the disaster. Joshua’s portrait is a picture of strength and despite his ordeal, he can still smile.