|The journey wasn't as smooth as this. San Juanico Bridge. Nov 6, 2014.|
The weather en route was sunny and all I could see from the window were just a few patches of white cottony clouds, the green landscape of Luzon , and an endless stretch of blue called sky. I was thankful that the ground crew gave me a window seat. I had an opportunity to have a first glimpse of a place that was once battered by torrential rains on an apocalyptic level, strong winds that toppled even the sturdiest structures, and a two-storey high wall of black water that took several properties and lives regardless of social status, gender, and age. As we started our initial descent, the weather started to change. Looking out, I was only seeing a gray void. It made me think what was really in store for me in the next few months. Eventually the clouds fled and from above, everything became clearer. Tree trunks were scattered like matchsticks as if they were haphazardly scattered by a toddler. Clusters of white tents were placed randomly on a flattened area that used to be a village.
It was drizzling and the sky was overcast the moment I stepped outside the plane. I will never forget how Tacloban City welcomed me on that gloomy and melancholic second day of March. The airport terminal, albeit still standing from its foundations, was literally torn apart. There were wires strewed randomly at the ceiling. Some hung loosely, while others were taken out for safety reasons.
On the 8th of November 2013, Tacloban City became a city of ruins. Thirteen months later, nothing had really changed, except for some establishments that have reopened for business. But it had somehow changed me on how I view things around me; a paradigm shift.
Living in Tacloban City for almost a year had allowed me to understand the Taclobanon’s way of life. The city is so small that even a kid won’t have a hard time navigating the innards of the downtown area. Commuting isn’t really a problem because the jeepney routes aren’t that intricate compared to Manila, Cebu, and Davao. Most locals go home right after school or work. Only a few people choose to stay in local milk tea houses, coffee shops, restaurants, and bars after work or school. As a person who loves to go out with his family or friends at night and goes home at one or two in the morning, it’s really hard to adjust on this new lifestyle. By 9 in the evening, only a few people roam the streets, and only a few jeeps and tricycle ply the major thoroughfares of the city. Since I reside near the airport, I should be home before 8PM or else I’d be walking all the way from downtown.
The political game in this city is even more intriguing than the Game of Thrones. I may not have a full knowledge about how politics works (in the first place, politics is never made to be understood, unless you know how to bend the rules of this game) but the city and provincial government aren’t in good terms. Bottom line is: There are more issues to discuss and to settle other than their personal grudges. Where were they when their constituents needed them the most during the lowest points of their lives? It seems like the city is still shrouded by a dark cloud, inhibiting the city from attaining a brighter future.
|Sun and rain.|
|First time in Tacloban|
Two days before the anniversary of Yolanda tragedy, I accompanied two of my media friends in Anibong, Tacloban. It is an urban poor district and rose to fame days after Yolanda after two big ships were carried by the storm surge and rammed several shanties of the area. It has been there since after Yolanda's onslaught. Today, the residents of Anibong had rebuilt their homes using the salvaged parts of the ships, debris, and some light materials that can still be used to construct their new homes.
We assessed the location for their shoot and interviewed some residents. We asked them this particular question: Why did you choose to stay in Anibong wherein the local government had already imposed a 40-meter no-build zone from the shoreline? They had one answer whether they’re young or old, a father of eight, or a widow: We don’t have a choice. It really was a heartbreaking scenario. The residents are still waiting for their relocation sites. They also didn’t have direct access to clean water and proper sanitation. Children were not properly fed and some have chosen not to go to school and resort to helping their parents to look for extra income. It made me realize that I am indeed blessed; that I shouldn’t be complaining even the littlest things that made me uncomfortable. Despite their impoverished lifestyle, they still managed to smile. As long as their family members are there, as long as they still have one pack of instant noodles, and as long as Mano still has two to three cigarettes to consume, everything will be okay. Tomorrow, they shall face another set of challenges.
As a person who isn’t used to strong typhoons and storm surges, there’s this rational fear that keeps on circulating my system most especially if there’s an impending disaster. But whatever it takes, I am ready to face those challenges. I guess visiting the coastal shanty town of Anibong, their resilience, and living in a place where I only know a few people were an eye-opener. They made me realize that there’s more to life than those material things you possess. They motivated me to push myself beyond my limits and to step out of my comfort zone. Being stationed far from my hometown was somehow a blessing in disguise.
I know that it will take time for the people to recover financially and emotionally. One thing's for sure, Tacloban City will rise again and the dark cloud that once shrouded it for the longest time will soon be gone.
A new hope arises.