On one of our Sunday’s off, we took the 2-hour journey with some friends to Tacloban, the costal city that bore much of the brunt of Typhoon Yolanda. Our friend on the project, Alix, had met two ladies on her ferry ride to Ormoc who were from the city, and they very generously offered to meet up and show us around for the day.
We asked what there was to see around the city and they told there was nothing to see, the storm had destroyed everything. We wanted to see the damage Yolanda had inflicted, but none of us knew how to say that is actually what we wanted to see.
Driving through town, it was honestly sometimes difficult to tell whether what we were seeing was storm damage and recovery or just a tired, run-dow city. You couldn’t miss, however, the bright blue tarps on many houses, the line outside an aid agency for rice, tents in place of school rooms, and of course the huge ships that the storm surge had brought ashore. There were families around and even under the ships living on top of the rubble. It was hard to tell if they were simply rebuilding where they lived previously, or if they chose to move there after the storm.
In all honestly, it felt a little vouyeristic and maybe even a little disrespectful to be walking through this destruction, taking pictures. We wanted to understand what had happened to this community, what they were still dealing with, what we had come to help with, yet it somehow felt like we were only there to take our “token” disaster pictures and then move on.
A family piled out of a car and stood in front of one of the ships, snapping pictures. They asked us to take a picture with them, “to remember,” they said. They said they were from Tacloban but had not been to see the ships yet because they were rebuilding their own homes. We told them we were working in Kananga and they thanked us.
There is still much work to be done. It is estimated that 4 million people have been displaced. Many livelihoods are gone as fishermen have lost their boats and nets, and farmers have had their crops damaged or destroyed.
Amid all this destruction and loss, though, life continued on. Some children flew kites among the rubble while others collected rebar to sell. Men carried groceries back home. Laundry was hung out to dry. Pigs were fed slop, unaware they would soon become dinner. A little girl smiled and giggled as she showed us the puppies their dog recently had. Life goes on.