I went back to Tacloban one year after the biggest typhoon believed to ever make land struck the Visayas, the central islands of the Philippines. Typhoon Haiyan (locally known as Yolanda) left death and destruction, destroying people’s jobs, their homes, their schools and health clinics. There was so much debris on the road from the airport to the town it prevented the much needed rescue operation getting under way for several days.
I visited with the UN Humanitarian Chief Valerie Amos, flying over the city and it was like as if somebody had tossed their toys out of a pram. Masts were mangled, cars and motorcycle taxis strewn around, ships gone aground and everywhere the corrugated tin roofs and houses blown to shreds.
A tidal wave caused by the storm killed many hundred of people living along the shoreline in shanty towns. One aid worker travelling to a meeting…
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This is how our street looked like right after Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda. Around this time, the neighborhood had cleaned up the debris. Each household clearing up the clutter at the front of their respective houses. Neighbors would also help each other out by sharing food and other supplies.
Around this time, too, some relief goods (mostly from international groups) finally reached the survivors. Apparently there was a problem transporting them from neighboring islands since air and land routes had to be cleared first.
And as I felt the warmth of the lantern on my palms and released it to the skies, I whispered to the heavens a silent prayer of hope for us who survived, of justice for the oppressed and often neglected Yolanda victims, of compassion for those who have perished, and of thanksgiving for the outpouring of support when we needed them the most.
One year ago today I finally got on a Bachelor bus after hitchhiking and walking all the way to the terminal. Onboard were other “refugees” hoping to start anew after losing almost everything to Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda. Along the way, we saw how the typhoon had leveled houses and structures all the way down south. The farther we got from my town, the more I felt guilty for leaving my parents and sibling behind. But I had to leave so I could go back with supplies.
Borrowing the first paragraph, Chapter 1, Book 1 of the Dickensian Tale of Two Cities for the subheadings was clever, and references to Reuters, UNOCHA, OPARR and NDRRMC was an attempt to come across as factual. Some of the thoughts presented are thoughtless though. Is it a question of forcing the facts to fit Dickens? Or is it a case of using Dickens to twist facts?
Indeed, it was the worst of times, and the best of times. And then Tacloban Mayor Alfred Romualdez is slammed for being a fool, not knowing what a storm surge is, among other things. The attempt to be factual was in citing a survey by a certain Dr. Doracie Zoleta-Nantes from the Australian National University, which found out that the people of Tacloban were not given sufficient information or logistical support to move to higher and safer ground. There is no doubting the result…
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The night before the storm came, the birds stopped singing.
“Nothing made a sound,” she says.
“It was like the earth itself had stopped breathing.”
She told the tribe to prepare. That night, she climbed the mountain behind them to pray.
Divina Padecio, Chieftainess of the Manobo tribe, has lived in this forest for almost thirty years – long enough to know every sound by heart, she says. But on the first week of November last year, the trees and animals sounded different.
“They were different sounds to anything we had ever heard before,” she says, “So we listened.”
Isolated from the world without television, internet or electricity, news had not reached the tribe of the super-typhoon building itself into a fury out in the South China Sea.
Below the hills, in the city of Tacloban, the government had…
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