To Tacloban with Love

Remember Typhoon Haiyan? The supertyphoon that ravaged some parts of the Philippines on November 2013 and claimed the lives of more than 6000 people?

The above photo shows a ship washed ashore by the storm surge, flattening the houses along its way. I could not imagine the trauma that these people experienced during that time, but in my heart, I wanted to help in any way that I can.

Luckily, our company had CSR activities planned to help the victims of Haiyan.

Days after the typhoon hit the Philippines, and during the time that the government and other countries were flying survivors out of Leyte, I joined the team welcoming the survivors and distributing relief goods to them. It was one moment that I will never forget as I’ve seen how devastated these people were – imagine they just wanted to get out of the hell they were in, without any idea where they’re going to.

That’s me handing out packs of goods to the survivors.

Almost Three Years After

So when the company announced that they will be flying out volunteers to Tacloban, I immediately signed up. Of course, I had to pay my own fare, but it’s nothing compared to what these people went to. I just wanted to be there, even if the tragedy struck two-three years ago.

20+ volunteers went out to Tacloban, boarding the first flight (we were in the airport as early as 2am, all coming from work the previous day); and despite the lack of sleep, went on a day filled with activities – mural painting on a newly constructed school building, visits to Leyte’s historical sites, and packing of school supplies to be distributed the following day.

Mural Painting

The bank flew an artist the day before so he’d be the one to create the design inside the four rooms of the new building. We chose the “under the sea” room because it gave us more freedom to choose the colors of the fishes lol.

I’m not a poser, but I’m not an expert as well. I actually enjoyed doing this. I enjoyed mixing the colors and coming up with different shades.

The finished product – I know it’s weird to have a purple whale, but our expat volunteer wanted to pay homage to Prince so that’s why we chose that color. I mixed the paint for the whale’s upper body. I also painted some of the fishes, the stones, the hairs of the divers, the oxygen tank, the divers’ outfits, the octopus, the jellyfish… Haha. I did a lot actually.

We were all so proud of our work 🙂

We were the first group to finish. After this, we also helped out in painting the other rooms.

Some of my co-volunteers.

The San Juanico Bridge

We also visited the longest bridge (over water) in the Philippines. It connects the island provinces of Samar and Leyte.

I feel very happy visiting places I only encountered in History/Geography books in school. So yeah, I also did one of my jump shots here.

#Travel #TravelPh #Philippines

The Boat

The boat above was turned into a landmark by the people of Tacloban, to remind them of the tragedy that struck their province. It looks like this now:

What’s surprising is there are still people who built houses near the shore. Doesn’t really come as a surprise because these people earn a living from fishing, or doing activities near the sea.

School kits packing and distribution

After a long day painting murals and visiting some places, we packed school supplies for the kids. Each pack contained pens, papers, notebooks, eraser, pencil, sharpener and a pair of scissors.

We put the packed supplies inside colorful bags, also donated by the bank.

Packing supplies

600plus packs

Given that there were only a few male volunteers, I was given the unholy task of carrying and boxing the packed goodies. See the sweat in my shirt? I was really tired that day haha.

Distributuion of school bags and packed supplies

We were recognized for our good deeds!!!

It was a heartwarming experience. While driving around Tacloban, you can see a city that’s still recovering. There are a lot of houses and buildings that are still under construction.

However, you can no longer see a sign of the tragedy that once hit them. It just shows how positive most Filipinos are.

MacArthur Park

A visit to Tacloban wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the historic Douglas Macarthur landing site. This was where the General fulfilled a promise to return to Philippine soil.

And of course, another jumpshot. At the back, you can see the beautiful sea, but believe it or not; this is the same sea that wreaked havoc into the city.

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