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Tamis ng Unang Halik

At the tarmac, Reina points to the newly replaced glass windows and the repainted walls of the terminal. Seemingly, Tacloban was back on its feet, the only traces of Yolanda were the cargo containers and tents that remained.  A loud cheer and clapping by a row of men in blue eager to be of service welcomed us, “Porter po ma’am.” Normally I carry my own luggage, living up to the rule, bring only what you can carry. But today was no ordinary day, almost a year after Yolanda, I found myself for the first time availing porter service. For 10 pesos a bag, in my own sense of giving back, I was providing livelihood.

My Yolanda tour began long before we arrived. At the check-in counter in Manila, airline staff informed us that there was a chance our luggage may not arrive with us. The runway, destroyed last November still could not accommodate bigger planes. Inflight, we had crackers and water, and a game of ‘Guess My Name’ with a group of American tourists on their way to a friend’s wedding in Guian. Ah love, love in the time of Yolanda.

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The green ejeepney stood out amidst the sea of air-conditioned white vans waiting for the fresh set of tourists, volunteers, humanitarian workers. Tata Butch, the local ejeepney head warrior, gave me a curt smile and quietly nodded when Reina introduced us. I wanted to hug him, but I held back. It wasn’t time yet.

On the way to the Re-Charge facility in downtown Tacloban, we passed through the remains of Barangay San Jose – the brave structures left standing, tents from international humanitarian group, second hand pedicabs from the livelihood program of some Manila-based foundation, gates refurbished with Haiyan debris, reshaped fences, (makeshift) homes decked with tarpaulin banners filled with logos of all shapes and colors in the No Build Zones, people walking, waiting.

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If only the structures could speak.

Barely an hour in Tacloban and I was ready to burst.

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