Travel By Heart: Day 04 – To reminisce a tragedy 02/03

Honda CRF 250 Patrol Motorcycles

Honda CRF 250 Patrol Motorcycles

I woke up the next morning unsure of what I’m going to do first. There’s just a lot of things that I feel that i need to accomplish in this place not entirely sure where to start. “Breakfast!” that would help me get my mind straight.

Chores… yes even when you are traveling there are still some chores. Like washing your clothes, cleaning your gear, backing up your data, checking up on your footages and making sure everything is running smoothly back home. It’s a struggle to juggle everything and still focus on traveling, but somehow I need to make this work. I will not be riding my motorcycle today instead I will try to accomplish all my chores just by walking, just like how it was when I last went here.

After listing all the things that I needed to do for that day I packed up my camera and started to walk around, it was like going back in time. Some of the damages are still evident, signs that this city hasn’t fully recovered yet. One of the things that I noticed when I got here was the presence of policemen, there were a lot of them. In my mind, I guess it’s a good thing. The presence of a people in uniform somehow gives you that secure feeling and security is what this place really needs.

From a far, I saw three CRF 250’s, due to my poor eyesight I thought they were just regular riders but as I came close that’s when I realized that these are not just ordinary motorcycles, these are police patrol motorcycles. That’s when I noticed 3 tall policemen talking to each other. I approached one of them and asked if I could take photos of their rides, they said go on and asked if I ride as well. I said “Yes, I do. I actually came from Manila”, that’s always an ice-breaker. That’s when the conversation started to get interesting, they then asked me what I use to travel. I told them just a Honda XR 125 then they told me to get a CRF as its way better, I agreed but I told them that it was out of my budget.

Thoughts about the rehabilitation of Tacloban.

Thoughts about the rehabilitation of Tacloban.

I then told them that I was here when Yolanda happened and that I’m actually here to revisit the place and find out if anything has improved. He then told me that “It’s really hard for Tacloban to recover even though a lot of help has poured in, corruption is the main hurdle.” I was surprised to hear this from him so candidly, but I guess it’s true as looking around not much has changed.

Flashback:

I was not able to patch myself up, I can blame it on the meager first-aid but really I was just in mild shock. I thought that was the strongest part of the storm apparently, it was just warming up. The wind was getting stronger and stronger, the lobby was not a safe place anymore, we can’t go to our rooms as the passageway to get there is acting like a funnel for the wind. The glasses started shattering again, I was not sure where they are actually located but you can hear them crashing one after the other. Good thing there was some sort of tunnel going to what seemed like a kitchen and that’s where everyone went. I just followed them but given I was one of the last people to enter it became crowded to the point that there were almost 3 of us that were still outside of it. The wind grew stronger and stronger to the point that we need to squeeze in or else we might get hit with the debris, that’s when I decided to yell “Go deeper so we can squeeze in”, then a voice from the back replied “There’s no more space!”. We then just squeezed ourselves to what little space it allowed.We waited for until the storm calmed down, it felt like forever. At this point I was not scared anymore, there really was no point to it. What was going through my mind was the steps that I need to take to deal with the aftermath, once the storm has passed reality will set in and I will need every ounce of strength, courage, skill that I have to make it through this.

After more or less 20 minutes everything has seemed to calmed down, then I saw members of our group going around wearing motorcycle helmets and vests try to check if everyone was ok. I also found out that the kitchen tunnel goes farther, whoever said that there was no more space available was completely lying. I asked them what’s the state on the lobby and they told me that its clear to pass and one by one we started going out of the tunnel to see how others were doing.

 

I then proceeded to go to our room to check if my team mates were ok, something happened to me that I would never forget. A man held me in the shoulders and looked directly in to my eyes and told me, “Can you get my family?”. At the back of my mind all I can think of was “Why me? I don’t know shit.” But this is not the time for those kinds of reply for some unknown reason I asked “Where are they?” he then told me that they were in one of the cottages. His eyes were watering, he was on the verge of breaking down, he had wounds in his face, he was trembling, he was scared and he was a big man clearly capable of handling himself, but he is humbly asking for help, any help. Saddest thing was I was not sure if he came to the right person, because I’m not sure if I can help him. I asked where they are so he would feel calm as if I’m going to do something about it, but deep inside I don’t if I can.I got to our room, the glass sliding doors were boarded up with mattresses and everyone was safe. Then I heard some of the guys from our group that people from the cottages need help and they are planning to go get them. I had to go inside the room to ask myself if I can do it, we are on survival mode right now risking yourself to get them isn’t exactly increasing your chance of survival but not acting on it lessens the chances of their survival.

“Fuck it!” I got my helmet and my reflective vest and got out of the room. What made me go out was that teary eyed man, I asked myself. If you were in his situation you would want someone to help you out, besides I’m not really bothered by the idea of death or dying. The wind was still strong and rain was still pouring but clearly it was not as bad as it was 30 mins ago.

We started going through the cottages one by one, knocking on doors asking if there was anyone there or if they need any help. We managed to get a couple of families out, while some decided to stay on their cottages because it was intact and didn’t seem to mind the storm.

I’m getting teary eyed as I’m writing this part.

We passed by this cottage that was devastated, you can see the insides of the cottage, it was that bad. You would immediately assume that there was no one there, but then at the corner of my eye I think I saw something move like someone or something passed by quickly. That made me want to ask if there was anyone there, then I heard crying. The only intact part of the cottage was the toilet and there was a mother, her daughter, and a baby inside. They then asked us for help, I then proceeded to try and get to them when I got inside the cottage the first thing I heard was a crack. I was stepping on broken glass, good thing I decided to wear my motorcycle boots so it wasn’t much of an issue. Apparently it was the daughter that I saw eariler she was the main reason we were able to find them. We had to carry them one by one so that they will not step on the glass, we were able to bring them all back to the building safe but not sound.

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