Sunday, Dec. 8th – A month after super typhoon Yolanda struck Tacloban City and Leyte.
I was back in Tacloban City for another round of volunteer mission at Leyte Normal University. This time I brought a bigger group of volunteers including the badly needed chainsaw team. And this time I brought my running gears. I decided I have to run because I miss running out there (and I’m way way behind my marathon training program).
I informed a couple of Tacloban runners that I’ll be there to volunteer over the weekend and maybe take a run in between. But when I arrived at the agreed time and place set by fellow TOES member Miss Pie, I was surprise to see a few other runners waiting. Soon others came one at a time until it was already a pack of hungry wolves. That was totally unexpected to be with a group for the run. And that’s only the beginning of a completely unforgettable running experience in my whole life.
By the time I arrived I noticed that some runners brought on pieces of tarpaulin the size of short bond papers. It was meant to be our race bibs, it was blank so they started writing messages of hope and gratitude and sentiments to the national government. Some are of the inscribe words are “Wag mawawalan ng Pag-asa“, “Thank You World“, “Thank You Paul Walker“, “DTI what happened to the Price Freeze” and me, I wrote “Anderson 360 for President (Thank U CNN)“. I believe we owe a lot from Anderson Cooper for making the world cry and bravely said the shit, when shit did happen. It’s my little way of thaking the white guy.
It was meant to be just a comeback run for us since most of the Tacloban runners who showed up are only having their first run since Yolanda. But it suddenly transformed into a fun run the moment we agreed to steal that “Tindog Tacloban” tarpaulin near the City Hall. We made it as our banner for that hope rally. I believe it was a spontaneous turn of events that led to us running not only for ourselves and our goals but also for the city and its people. We wanted to show them Hope through running. We wanted the Taclobanons to see us running back again to tell them “We are stronger than Yolanda“. That is the goal of our instant fun run. No registration fees, no singlets, no water stations, no marshals. Only Hope.
And the race for Hope started! We waved our (stolen) banner proudly in front of the group with two runners holding it. We took turns holding the banner through the whole 10 kilometer course. Our meeting place was at the front of DYVL (where two brave journalists died) so we picked to start at the Romualdez Street, then to Imelda Street, Real Street and all the way to Coca-cola to make up the first half of the route. These are the major streets of downtown Tacloban City, where the most number of people can see us. The second half of the race started from Coke, to hardest hit barangays of San Jose and all the way to the Tacloban airport, our finish line.
Out there on the road we are bunch of badass people taking over the city. Shouting our chants “Tindog Tacloban!” in unison the people can’t help but notice and be amazed, and inspired. People were clapping at us, waving at us saying back “Tindog Tacloban”, taking pictures of us, and all of them smiling with their teeth bearing that other four letter word: HOPE. It was such an amazing experience, like something taken out of those sports movies. Magical.
It was a great feeling for us to finally be able to run after a month of hardships and heartbreaks. Tacloban runners could hardly run before that day because they were shocked and freaked out of dead bodies lying in the streets. Most of them lost their houses and members of the family. I think some showed up wearing borrowed shoes and running gears. And it broke my heart later on when I learned that a close running buddy of mine was not able to run because he lost his running shoes and all his belonging in the flood. Nightmares, regrets, desperation, and helplessness; these are the harsh realities these runners have to go through (and overcame) coming into the event. I hope running in the streets in that fateful day brought back a sense of normalcy to them. These are good people trying their best to be strong for each other.
That fateful Sunday was the 1st month anniversary since Yolanda devastated our city. It was the day we decided to move on and run once again. Tindog Tacloban!
Photography by: Mr. Bobbie Alota of DILG Region 8, a friend, a runner.