Tacloban Diary, Part Two Life-changing decisions

LIVE FEED - Bibsy M. Carballo - The Philippine Star

Nothing in our many trips to foreign countries, as well as the length and breadth of the Philippines, will compare with the experience of visiting Tacloban for three days early this February.

The time we spent with the victims, many of whom had lost their homes and families, will stay with us forever haunting our dreams. When we got to our campsite in Tacloban, it had already been three months since Typhoon Yolanda’s rampage in November. The dead had been buried and much of the debris collected. Donations from National Capital Region (NCR) as well as abroad were visible to us in the huge tents, bicycles and chairs that occupied the area facing the small classroom we had occupied and turned into the women’s dorm.

Here, in the middle of the night, on a space between school desks on the floor, we listened as Jessica Corpus related what she had experienced. We soon felt a bond with her, would wake her up in the middle of the night for a trip to the comfort room in another building without lights we both were convinced were inhabited by “mumu.” Soon, we felt comfortable enough to ask Jessica for a more complete blow-by-blow account of what her family underwent and what was in store for the future.

Jessica was in third year at the College of Arts and Sciences in Tacloban when Yolanda happened. She was active in school, joining leadership training sessions, before she became president of the Association of Students for the Preservation of the Visayan Language (Kapisanan ng mga Estudyanteng Maka-Wika). Her training included that of keeping calm in the face of danger, which she believes helped her tremendously that day when Yolanda struck.

Jessica and family were awakened at 5 a.m. by a strong wind, and what sounded like galvanized iron sheets flying around their home. Water started seeping in and from the second floor of their home, they moved to the neighbor’s house which had already been vacated and waited. When the water started going down, Jessica led them inland away from the center. Slowly, gradually, guiding those who couldn’t swim, until all members of the family numbering 10 to 11 including grandma were safe. They were all spared.

But other stories did not end like theirs. There is the story of Miton Ragot, wife Rona and their two toddlers (ages one and two). They were swimming when the surge came. The last memory Miton has was Rona shouting out for him to save himself, “Iligtas mo na sarili mo.” Unable to accept the situation, Miton has left Tacloban.

There is also Nilo Baduya, another neighbor of Jessica whose entire family was not spared. There is also young Shyra whose family of 10 is either dead or missing. Efren Peñaflorida and his Kariton Classroom adopted her and she joined us in the women’s dorm.

 Amidst all the tragedy, we are impressed by the flexibility of the Filipino to face any problem with a smile. Efren has decided to add Tacloban as the second branch of the Dynamic Teen Company, after Imus Cavite as the initial branch. Emmanuel Bagual who is graduating from the College of Social Work and Community Development at UP Diliman will now concentrate on active community development in Tacloban. Many other life-changing decisions will continue for years to come.

 Even American writer Mitch Albom of Tuesdays with Morie fame has visited Tacloban after being moved by the effects of Typhoon Yolanda. In his Star column, Scott Garceau quoted Albom, “I see what happens in a country when there’s a disaster, and I see what happens when the disaster is forgotten about, and the latter is almost as bad as the former.” Albom is launching a new library, donating signed copies, including those of his writer friends. He has also made a personal donation to the Yellow Boat of Hope Foundation. He mentioned that a next book will be about a musician and music and we can bet that the Filipino, being the Italians of Asia when it comes to music, will be part of that book.

(Send your comments to [email protected]. or text 0917-8991835.)










  • Latest
  • Trending
Are you sure you want to log out?

Philstar.com is one of the most vibrant, opinionated, discerning communities of readers on cyberspace. With your meaningful insights, help shape the stories that can shape the country. Sign up now!

or sign in with