Christopher Nolan once asked “What’s the most resilient parasite?“. Unless you’re dreaming or have not watched his film Inception, the answer is “an idea“. Since the super typhoon Yolanda struck my province of Leyte (technically I’m from Southern, which was miraculously spared by the typhoon), I had this patriotic idea to get the heck out of my comfort zone and start helping up north. Unfortunately
strict ang parents, my office work is a mess, sideline jobs a bitch and money is hard to come by (with no ATMs at all). So two weeks after the storm, I still have not visited my beloved Tacloban City, my running haven, and Yolanda’s ground zero.
All these days I’m left with ideas, ideas and ideas. There are good ones, and there are bad ones. They are not basic needs for a person to survive, but given the right kind of timing, efforts and sheer luck the results can be enormous. Great people are not remembered by the number of chikababes they had but by the results of their ideas. But in times like this, only one kind of idea matters: the idea to HELP. Whether it’d be donating, volunteering, or crusading for help in social media. It all matters down to the very last centavos, last drop of sweat and last bit of mobile data.
Last Thursday, I woke up with an idea. But not really as a light bulb moment, my boss actually woke me up at my house at 5AM! It was raining so it wasn’t a training day. But there they were the big shots of the agency all prepped up on a van heading for Tacloban. I remembered about the relief goods we’ve packed the day before. But there’s mountain of work in the office to finish so I have no choice but to stay and dream on when I’ll ever get a crack at helping that dear city. Hours later in I saw my friends and colleagues. And I dropped them this crazy idea.
“Mangadto ta’g Tacloban karong Sabado. Manabang ta.”
In English, let’s go to Tacloban this weekend to help. Despite having a notorious convincing power, I managed to convinced them easily to come with me. The Idea then became a plan. One man became seven. And all of a sudden I’ve had myself a relief team. One accountant, one instructor, five senior students and, oh yeah, I’ll be dead if something bad happens to them. After all I’m the mastermind. Fair deal.
Our mission is not to deliver relief goods, or to heal the sick, or pick dead bodies, not even to chase cameramen. Our mission, believe it or not, is to help rebuild a school. I’m a fan of the academics and it’s importance to the society, sort of. We picked the Leyte Normal University in Tacloban City. Its new University President, Dr. Jude Duarte, happens to be our former boss from our university so visiting there is like paying our belated “we miss you sir” greetings and to show support that they are not abandoned out there. Well that’s my idea. Sue me.
Now, for a breather, let’s do a little accounting. The cost Ma’am Rose will cost me for writing this article = P500. Riding a van from Sogod to Tacloban City = P150. Riding a pedicab from Tacloban Terminal to LNU = P200 (holy s**t!). Missing an important long run in my marathon training = priceless. Sharing meals with the biggest officials of a prestigious university in the region = you bet, freaking priceless!
LNU was also hit by the typhoon. It was just three weeks since they hosted the SCUAA meet, the one which I’ve snatched the 8th place in the half marathon category. Now the campus’ a mess. Many classrooms and building were damaged if not destroyed, but trust me they are lucky. UP-Tacloban not so lucky, so there goes my Graduate school aspiration next year (shit!). But two weeks after the beating from Yolanda, LNU still got a lot of grounds (and buildings) to cover and repair. Dr. Duarte, graciously gave us the Brillo Hall to cleanup, it’s the oldest structure in the campus proudly standing since 1927. And he sure let us know up front that this building already lost a grade school teacher in the typhoon. Her room was the only one cleaned up. The other seven were a complete
fucking mess that the expression “ewwww..” is an understatement. And ewww we went through two days of cleaning rotten papers and classroom bruhaha props from whatever the gradeschool teachers come up nowadays.
But through team work and good humor from the team. We managed to clean the whole building up. Yeah baby! We came up with our own way of relieving the Bayanihan spirit in those gorgeous Amorsolo paintings. But in our bayanihan there’s nothing gorgeous carrying shitloads of trash and rotten stuffs. But for this city to rise again, it must be done.
It was fun and marathon-like-tiresome weekend. “One building down, 42 rooms to go” says the wife of Dr. Duarte, Maam Aa, who happens to be my accounting teacher in college. My God, we should go back next week! But seriously, it was a great experience to eat meals with a University President and be treated as guests even in these trying times. I know all our efforts are just very minimal compared to the scale of the recovery that needs to be done. But still it’s an idea well executive to its purest purpose.
We came not to expect anything in return, not even a gratitude from LNU. Truth be told, the team feels we owe Sir Jude for taking care of us especially in our accommodation and the hearty meals. We ate relief goods, by the way. And as the one in-charge, it did cost me a lot bring the team there like our fares, the foods we have to bring and sporting that confident figure to face to those distinguish persons hosting our stay. But nothing beats the emotional toll seeing the city on its knees. Out there in Tacloban I’m the coolest runners with lots of fans and supporters, right here at home I’m just a freak running the town before it wakes up. I love running in Tacloban City.. I want running back in Tacloban.. I want to see my running buddies again.. I want to join happy races again in this great city. But at the end, it’s the little things that matters.
The little things like Hope and Brotherhood and Kindness. That is my Ground Zero Initiative.
Epilogue. We went home with a great sense of achievement. And that’s when we started to cry. We saw the devastation. Tacloban City might be ground zero of the Typhoon, but the neighboring coastal towns namely PALO, TANAUAN, TOLOSA, DULAG, MAYORGA are in great danger of not rising up again. If the government and us people, will not do something immediate and drastic to these town we might consider asking the logistics to cross out these places off the map. The degree of devastation was so severe, possibly even beyond repair. Tacloban City will rise again, that’s a promise. But what the media seems to forge there are towns who suffered much much worse than the ground zero where strong winds, strong waves, storm surge and a murderous rage of nature reduced them to complete ruins. There are still starving and suffering people out there THEY NEED YOUR HELP. Give till it really fucking hurts.