It’s been more than 10 days since Yolanda came and left us with an unspeakable path of destruction. In short, we survived. Thanks to your prayers and concern. Lapiskamay is still alive but with no internet and electricity. That’s OK. I was lucky.
I wrote this essay below for the Philippine Daily Inquirer‘s Youngblood, of course it will never see the light out there.I just wanted to share this anyway…
Memories of Tacloban City
By the time you read this, you’ve probably heard of what happened to us here in the Leyte island. We were hit by a typhoon of unprecedented strength leaving us with unspeakable devastation. I am from Southern Leyte; born, educated and now working here in this humble province. This weekend, I only knew one thing: We were lucky. But only a hundred kilometers up north, in Tacloban City, lays the darkest stories we will ever tell to our grandchildren.
Truth be told, we were sufficiently warned of the coming super typhoon. But still the tragedy stuck. I guess, there’s nothing that could ever prepare us for that awesome and frightening force of nature.
Our terrible week started when a weaker typhoon called ‘Wilma’ dropped by on Monday, the alarm was raised at Signal Number 1. On Tuesday we heard about ‘Yolanda’ lurking on the Pacific. Its size dwarfed the great island of Mindanao. By Wednesday, the storm’s coming was confirmed in the morning and by afternoon we started to tie down our roofs, trimmed the branches of our trees, brought our basic provisions and charged our gadgets. A running buddy texted me they were evacuating way ahead of the storm’s arrival. By Thursday morning, classes and offices were suspended after Pag-asa raised signal number 4 in Leyte and Samar provinces. By Friday at 4:00 AM electricity broke down. And an hour later, she texted me “all hell is breaking loose”.
That was the last time I heard from my friends in Tacloban.
Tacloban, Tacloban, I spent so many weekends out there running their races, drinking coffees and hanging out with their people. I was never able to understand their Waray-waray dialect but somehow people from that city found a way to learn the Cebuano dialect. Perhaps it’s their gesture of saying you are welcome there and they got you covered ‘padi’. It’s the city that connects Samar and Leyte, as in literally through the spectacular San Juanico Bridge. In history, it’s the place that once saved the country during the last World War. Tacloban has always been that crowning glory of Eastern Visayas, a city where the past, present and the seemingly bright future come to a standstill on perfect harmony.
But what makes me fall in love with Tacloban City is their running scene. As one of the very few running enthusiasts from Southern Leyte, a weekend trip to Tacloban City always feels like heaven. The city and its sole running organization Tenderfoot Organization of Enthusiastic Striders (TOES) have embraced me as one of their own with no conditions and initiations. “As long as you run, we will be your running buddy forever” says one of the members. The spirit of camaraderie among runners sometimes feel overwhelming, I guess that’s what friends and support group are for. I took up running as an exercise in Cebu three years ago, made it a habit when I worked in Boracay and made it a lifestyle because I discovered Tacloban City.
They said memories are measured with moments, but for me the memories I have with Tacloban City are measured by the kilometers I’ve run there. For 2013, the accountant in me is counting five official races divided into two 10 kilometer races, one 18k, and two half-marathons. All of these races I finished and rejoiced the glory with my buddies. I never dare measure the travelling cost and registration fees because I knew every centavos is all worth it. So by the time I will cross my first full marathon in next year, I can proudly announce to the world, “I am a runner from Tacloban City!”
A week before the typhoon Yolanda came, my running buddies planned for a free 32 kilometer simulation run in the 10th of November. As usual they will take care of my accommodation, split the cost of the food, and I’ll handle the race review and whatever publicity we could come up. I guess they just want me to show up and run with them. It could have been the longest distance I will cover but I guess we all knew what happened on the 8th day of November. There won’t be another fun runs and marathons in Tacloban for this year and for the foreseeable future. That’s the easy part.
The hard part is the realization that I am once again alone in my little world of running. As of this writing, only two running buddies have managed to confirm their safety. Hundreds of runners remain unaccounted. Tens of thousands of residents lost their homes. Millions of people now in shock of what happened to Tacloban City, my foster city.
Even here in Southern Leyte our supplies of food, gasoline and basic commodities are dwindling low. But we know we cant complain. Our brothers in the northern part of the island lost everything.
It’s just three weeks ago since my last getaway to Tacloban City. I can still remember the city being so alive, it was a half-marathon weekend for me and ranked 8th place in my age-group category. Out there I have friends who call me ‘idol’ (that is Tacloban runners’s term of endearment), and raise high fives at the finish lines and grab you for a quick selfie for Instagram purpose. I have so many moment with that city, and I’ve seen the better side of it, the side of the city with genuine smiles from people who changes dialects to accommodate travellers. Yes, Taclobanons are indeed palaban in general but they are of gentle natured community. They are a proud and confident community because they love their city.
I just can’t believe that in one fateful morning, everything turned upside down. Decades of hard work turned into ruins with dead bodies piling up the streets. Some survivors turned into savages and looters, if not some walking zombies wandering not knowing what to do. The city was just starting blossom economically with buildings and business establishments sprouting one after the other. But now all of them bowed and fell down to the awesome power of Yolanda. “Pulbos” that was my officemate said y after surviving the storm “Back to zero na sad kami”.
For the past few nights I’ve been having trouble sleeping thinking of the fates my friends have to go through out there in Tacloban. The people, the streets, the memories, and those glory days of running; these are the things I lost in the storm. It’s been a long while since the last time I cried until I broke down to tears on the road yesterday afternoon. It should have been a 32 kilometers of fun but instead I can only see shattered dreams and loneliness.I could barely finish eight k.
But for those who were spared from the wrath of Yolanda, we need you to hope again. Yes, Tacloban will rise again. Help is coming to our great island. You, me, and the rest of the world will rebuild this place. And when that day comes, we can run out and there take back what we’ve lost.