Never Gone, Never Hopeless

Posted: December 24, 2013 in Events, Photography, Running
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Never Gone

Everyone here in Leyte has problems to solve. The biggest one is of course  figuring out ways to live and how to rebuild each of our broken lives. The world saw what happened to this island when super typhoon Yolanda wrecked havoc and leaving behind an unspeakable amount of devastation. But I got some problems too as a runner:

I think I lost my running haven in the storm.

But I’m determined not to buy the notion that Running is also dead along with the thousands who perished in Tacloban City. For me, it just went into exodus somewhere or just taking a break after a successful year. It has to come back. And Last Sunday, in God’s will, it came back with an awesome show of force.

Two weeks ago was an accident when a few of us, the remaining runners in Tacloban, decided to run again exactly a month after Yolanda. But  that was different; this time it was a deliberate and planned running event. It was bigger, meaner and more powerful run. We call it “Tindog Tacloban: A Unity Run for Hope.” It’s the first official post-Yolanda running event in Tacloban.

I helped organized the event. My friend and fellow Tenderfoot Organization of Enthusiastic Striders (TOES) member Jake Bramida is the organizer because it was his crazy idea of hosting an unprecedented running event only weeks after Yolanda. As a resident organizer, Jake lost a couple of races to the storm. I just handled the publicity because I’m the one with electricity and an internet connection. It was not an easy undertaking especially in the preparations because: a. we have no money b. I’m 130 kilometers away from Tacloban c. Jake and I have day jobs to fulfill d. everything’s a mess in Tacloban City and e. we only got a week to prepare. It was nothing but an abnormal undertaking in an abnormal time of our lives. WE know we got our faces up against the wall. But we took on the challenge and proceed with reckless abandon. It was tough.

Thankfully donations poured in even though we never ask for it. Sun.Star provided the much-needed publicity, ate Rose Buenconsejo of Aktib.ph & Runroo.com poured in money for the tarpaulin and race bibs and my former boss in Crown Regency gave us some money for the other expenses. LNU helped in housing the Cebu runners for free!

The event is absolutely free. There’s just no point of collecting money from the runners who themselves are victims of the storm. Life is pretty tough financially out there already for the survivors. And these people deserve to run regardless of their affiliation, political colors (Aquino o Romualdez?) and financial capacity. We want to let them run for free because they love running even though it would mean there will be no singlets, no medals, no official time, no hydration station, not even marshals to escort us.  There are two categories  in this event: a 5k and a 10k. But later we decided to extend the 10k to 18k because we have to consider that most runners are on training for CCM and we can’t break their training schedule. Besides, we wanted to make sure that the Cebu runners get to see the devastated areas. They need to see it and let them know this is where their donations and generosity goes. This is why we run today fellas.

The Unity Run’s starting and finish line is in Tacloban City Hall. It’s the only place where we could host the event because there are lights and electricity out there. The rest of the city is still in the dark since Yolanda. We have to borrow the sound system and transportation equipments from Leyte Normal University (good thing its current president Dr. Jude Duarte is my former boss and I volunteered to clean up that campus). The publicity was done mostly through word of mouth and a few help from my connections in social media. The Sun.Star Cebu who ran a series columns about our first run two weeks ago. and it really helped The radio stations also aired the event like wild fire (we have running buddies there). It’s really a good thing to have friends; you just don’t know when you are going to need them.

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Coming into the event, I only wanted to see my friends from TOES again. Kahit sikwenta lang ang dumating magpapainom ako! But by some stroke of luck and good faith a unexpectedly big crowd showed up. The TOES group is there of course noisy as ever and proudly wearing our uniform. I can sense their hunger to run again. There are also runners from the Bureau of Fire Protection, the PNP and other running groups in Leyte. Then there are kids and students. And most importantly the Cebu runners showed up!

The A Runners Circle – Cebu (ARC)  running club team was led by sir Jidan Jakosalem who I bumped last weekend at his store in Cebu. He was very instrumental in forming the event because I was after his relief assistance. I told him that if you can bring even a quarter of what donation you can give we will make the event happen for free. The other Cebu group was Toledo Adik sa Dagan (TAD) runners headed by doctor Willie Estepa. They joined the crowd around the halfway mark at the airport because of their tight travel schedule. Just to seeing those great runners from Cebu is a huge morale booster to the running community of Tacloban.

We didn’t have a race gun to start our race, so we just used our watches and counted down loudly for everyone to hear that we were starting. We let the ARC team to do the honor of bringing the Tindog Tacloban banner (it’s borrowed) to lead the 18k pack. The 5k followed right after. Again the Unity Run is not a race, it’s a running event that promotes solidarity and support to the community. Nobody is getting a PR that day haha. We start together, we run together, we walk together and we cross that finish line together.

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The running experience was simply priceless. It was a solemn run as we ran in silence amid the breathtaking yet heartbreaking backdrop of the devastation. We ran together as one in the dark daybreak at Real Street. We walked and waived to the evacuees staying at the Tacloban Astrodome. We passed the Rotonda near the Coca-cola when the sun rose up. The clouds covered the sky with gloom and dread as we passed by the barangays of San Jose. We took a short rest when reached the Tacloban airport. Everyone noticed with a smile the huge concert facility installed at the parking area. Willie Revillame is in town.

We ran, still together, towards the City Hall for the second half of the run. Some were tired, but the pack is nowhere near from giving up. Everyone wanted to finish. From the Astrodome, we did not take the Real St. highway we passed by but rather took on the narrow road of Magallanes towards the City Hall. The community there was flatten beyond recognition. Everybody went into complete silence that I can actually hear their breathing. It was a show of respect to the community as we fight to hold on from breaking into tears. We passed by a boy waiving at us as he helped his father create a giant palor with colors resembling the Philippine flag. It was an image of Hope, in its purest and most innocent form!

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Photo courtesy: GMA News

We all reached the finish line. And the sky fell down crying. It was amazing how God has given us a clear weather all thoughout  for us to prepare and run together in the devastated streets of Tacloban. Yes, only then after we finished that it rained, perhaps as a symbol of cleaning ourselves from these dark chapters of our lives. God works in mysterious ways…

The event was a success the moment I saw the eyes of the participants all wearing those bright shades of satisfaction and fulfillment. I’m so proud of these guys, these are not your ordinary runners these are Yolanda survivors and against all odds they showed up to run and let the world know how strong the Filipino spirit is! I wanted to hug every single one of them and congratulate their achievement. It was an honor to be with them. I could only hope that Unity Run that I help create brought some sense of normalcy to the survivors. That run certainly gave more Hope to the runners than us bringing Hope to the community. Tindog Tacloban: A Unity Run for HOPE is my Christmas gift to the all of them.

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I counted the amount of donations in kind the event was able to gather. Cash donations amounted to P5,030.00. We received 200 pieces of badly needed mosquito nets coming from the ARC team, 5 sacks full of barely used clothing, cartoons of canned goods, bags of medicines, bags of rice and a whole lot more! To be honest I did not expect any donations at all (I was only after the nets from the ARC team). As I browsed through the registration master list I learned that each runner brought something no matter how little for our cause. Some filled up:  1 can goods, 1 kilo rice, P20, 2 pieces clothing, 1 pair new slippers, 1 jacket. It’s inspiring to know of their generosity despite the fact that they themselves could have used it for themselves.

Together with the runners from Cebu  we dropped the two van loads of donations in kind to our chosen beneficiary (Brgy. 90, San Jose, Tacloban City) right after the run.  The place used to be a coastal suburbia, now it’s a tent city. I’m very glad we were able to raise and give something from our event, even though we got no budget at all. Not bad.

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Runners from ARC drops the event proceeds to the Brgy 90, San Jose Tacloban

Once again, we gave out blank race bibs to the runners for them to put their message of hope to Tacloban (it’s free). It’s our specialty and too bad only prepared a hundred bibs so we were not able to provide for all. Runners put on their heartfelt message of hope, unity and faith like “More Power Tacloban” from a BFP cadet. “United We Stand” from sir Jidan. “Thank You World for Helping Us,” say a TOES buddy. Doc Willie of TAD wrote “To Leyte runners, we are one with you in spirit. Tindog Tacloban! – Cebu running community.”

And for me, I wrote something a bit personal and completely irrelevant message, to my crush. LOL. “@intsikchic: Dalagan ta dri TAC!!!” Hai nako bistohan na, I’m dead meat LOL. She’s a standout youth from Tacloban who finished her full marry at CCM last January before studying abroad for her masters degree. Hey even a fanboy can hope, too.

Tindog Tacloban! Wait, this image below looks weird.. That’s us! My event on the front page!!! Mapapansin kaya… hahaha

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