Using music to overcome storm trauma

Social worker Evelyn Mae Maceda trembles in panic whenever she hears news of a coming typhoon. Even a drizzle will agitate her 1-year-old son, Khyrone Breve.

The 25-year-old mother and her toddler are still haunted eight months after Supertyphoon "Yolanda" unleashed its wrath on Tacloban City, Leyte province, on Nov. 8, 2013. They lost their house in Barangay 88 in San Jose District, one of the worst-hit areas.

"I am a social worker so supposedly, I know what to do during a disaster. But I have a baby, making me just panic. The trauma caused by Yolanda could not simply be put into words, and we needed an outlet to overcome it," Evelyn said.

She brought Khyrone to a school where music is used not just to learn but also to heal. They were among the first to enroll at Musikgarten when it opened a branch in Tacloban on June 28 at Marasbaras Area.

So far, the music therapy has been good for Evelyn and Khyrone.

"When we are here, it gives us some relief if not help us overcome the trauma caused by Yolanda," Evelyn said.

Therapy sessions

According to its owner, Michelle Niki Junia, Musikgarten uses a music-based therapy programme to help children and adults overcome trauma.

"The reason we opened [a branch] here is because of what had happened. We want to use music as a therapy," said Junia, a graduate of University of Santo Tomas' Conservatory of Music .

"If you go to a therapist, music is being played while therapy is taking place. It is similar here in Musikgarten," she added.

Junia cited studies that showed music's therapeutic effects on people suffering from physical and psychological trauma.

Playing the different instruments at Musikgarten also serves as bonding time for parents and their children, she said. Among these are the saxophone, xylophone, violin, clarinet, piano, flute and ukulele.

While they are busy playing, soothing music echoes through the walls of the 75-square-meter room.

When children play an instrument, their brain development is being stimulated, Junia said.

Vocal exercise

Music also has health benefits since vocal exercise, which is part of the programme, can strengthen the lungs, she said.

"Music is a tool for so many things. Here, we use music to educate our children and at the same time, give them some therapy, especially for the older ones," Junia said.

Three teachers have been trained to handle the programme. One of them is Joy Ann Vivero, 31, who also lost her house in Barangay San Roque in Tanauan town, Leyte, during the typhoon.

Vivero, a registered nurse, used to work as a school nurse at STI, which stopped operating after Yolanda.

Since the facility can accommodate only a few people, Junia said she was willing to go to the barangays and provide the same programme to the disaster-stricken villagers.

Enrolling at Musikgarten may be costly, especially to those who have yet to find a stable job after the typhoon, she said. Tuition costs P5,000 for a 90-minute session, twice a week for four months.


Junia's father, Ray, said it was a gamble to open a branch in Tacloban, which had yet to fully recover from the devastation.

Some of his friends in Tacloban, however, encouraged him and his daughter to come and put up a branch.

The first Musikgarten opened in Manila in 2013. When the venture became successful, a branch was opened in Baguio City and another in Laguna province early this year.

Ray, whose family has roots in Tacloban, said he was pleasantly surprised that just minutes after the branch opened, they received several inquiries from parents.

"This is very encouraging. You don't have to be rich to have a proper education in music. Besides, parents will really sacrifice for the sake of their children [getting good training in music]," he said.

The Junias hope that through their facility, they could somehow provide relief to the people of Tacloban and nearby areas. They remain steadfast to that aim.