Note: Below is the eyewitness account of my brother regarding his journey to the typhoon-ravaged city of Tacloban, Leyte. I find it so heartwarming that’s why I asked his permission to write here the experiences he have encountered during his two-day visitation. Here, I will be using the first person point of view so it will feel like my brother is the one narrating.
Its been 17 days after super typhoon Yolanda devastated Visayas region. I remember how my friends and I booked a flight days before the tragedy. It would really be a heart wrecking event for Filipinos especially for the victims, lost loved ones and survivors of the said typhoon.
Two weeks after the tragic fate, I decided to continue my flight not for pleasurable purposes but for one noble mission: to become a volunteer for Red Cross (though I haven’t registered yet to the agency to become such).
I decided to fly alone in Tacloban, Leyte (after my friends refused to go because of some unexpected personal matters), November 28. The night before, I let myself buy the things I thought will be important to the victims (those things that they really need). I packed my bag with some biscuits, sweets (for kids), candles, mini flashlights and some cash.
On Thursday morning, except for the belongings I brought along with me, I really don’t know what lies ahead of me as I stepped down the city. I don’t have any idea as to where I will sleep or walk, in short I really don’t even know where will I start because I am not that sure if I will be permitted to be a Red Cross volunteer.
As I took the airplane, there was this woman who mistakenly sat on the chair I supposed to be (right beside the window). So I told her that it was my seat and then she humbly asked me if we can exchanged seats and I nodded. That was the beginning of my long, sad journey.
It was really fate that brought me here. I was blessed to know someone who resides to the place that I am going and it was in the persona of the woman I sat beside with.
Mrs. Marla, a 60-year old retired DILG employee offered me to live with her for sometime as I told her that I am finding my luck to be a volunteer of Red Cross. On the other hand, she will be just taking some belongings which can still be used so it can be transported to Manila; the place they decided to live now.
Together, we traversed the devastated city, she led me the way towards her wealthy house ( I thought she only lives in a small house). There, I saw how rich she was. She lives in a big bungalow house with different set of rooms, a garden, two golden retriever and two cars. She lives with her 80-year old husband (a retired nurse) and a graduating HRM daughter (studying in Leyte State University). Luckily, they survived the killer Yolanda after they hide in their rooftop. She left both of them in Manila and traveled back alone for the last time.
She narrated how gruesome and fearful they felt as the typhoon hit the city. It was a total disaster. This is the very reason they decided to live far away now. I saw the destruction the typhoon affected her house. The typhoon left her house like a bald person (a house without a roof). Even though it is not raining anymore, the water keeps falling in the house, that’s why I slept with a big umbrella. All parts of the house has a big umbrella (so maybe I can call it “Umbrella House”). She let me slept with two kids she also helped. She, on the other hand decided to sleep in her neighbor. Why? Because she can’t stand the fact that all the efforts she invested to build the said house was now put to waste. She can’t stand to live now to the house she once dreamt.
In the morning, we traversed the sad city using her wrecked car. She let me see the devastation they experience. I was able to give the relief goods I brought to the people I encountered. I saw kids without clothes and slippers roaming around. Once, I encountered a family and there I gave some of the candles and the man asked me, “Libre ba yan? (Is it free?). I affirmed. Right there, he accepted the candles with teary-eyes. He repeatedly thanked me and that’s the time I really feel the sad realization of a needy Visayan citizen.
I was able to live in Tacloban for only two days. I saw the tragedy left by Yolanda right in front of me. Buildings have been collapsed, churches too. House wrecked. The most of which is that the town smelled of dead people. Goosebumps it would be, but I can feel the weight of emotion the victims feel. I was able to see it right in their eyes.
I was bitten by mosquitoes. I bought softdrinks which costs three times more than its original price. I ate only the relief goods I just bought myself. These are my personal dilemma on the said place. But I think I am more fortunate that these were the only thing I have experience compared to the big loss Tacloban has suffered. The night before I left Tacloban, I had a nightmare. It says there that the flight back to Manila was cancelled. Good thing, I woke up.
I may not be able to help all the victims during my two-day stay in Leyte, but I think I’ve done a personal satisfaction with my courageous act even in my small deed. I was alone but that does not hinder me to give the aid I could offer. I was able to go back to Manila with hope. Hope for the thousands or may be millions of the people who suffered from Yolanda.
I am now living the normal life with my family. But what I have experienced in Leyte will be forever etched in my mind and heart. They will always be in my prayer.